Olivia Archibald

Professor, English

Fields: Creative nonfiction, essay theory, composition theory, early medieval literature, literary criticism, and contemplative pedagogy.
Ph.D., University of Iowa; M.A. English, Marshall University; B.A. ibid.
Center for Scholarship and Teaching

O'Grady Library U-3
5000 Abbey Way SE
Lacey, WA 98503


I have been faculty in the English Department at Saint Martin’s University since 2000.  Before coming to Saint Martin’s, I taught at Clarke College in Dubuque Iowa (1989-1996) and Evergreen State College (1996-2000), also small liberal arts colleges. My teaching has always been influenced by my commitment to the idea of liberal arts. Students who leave educational institutions with a well-rounded education and multi-dimensional strategies for problem-solving have rich resources to tap into the remainder of their lives. 

If I were asked to list my reasons for becoming a teacher, on top of the list always would be this: I see within educational institutions the hope for humanity.  Yet, for schools to be change agents, pedagogical practices must affirm difference and provide a wide spectrum of perspectives. My work in teaching has focused on developing strategies that allow for students’ differences and create conceptually-based and student-centered classrooms -- spaces that make student voices the centerpiece of instruction. In every course I have taught, whether its setting was high school, prison, or college classroom, I have consistently drawn on my background in American and English literature to incorporate narrative, place, and metaphor into my curricula; literature has become for me a rich, interdisciplinary companion to theory, theme, and active learning. In all of my courses, I consistently draw on my background in writing pedagogy. I see writing assignments as places that continue the discussion about ideas and practices begun in the classroom; offer practice for problem solving; and provide possibilities for reflection, critical thinking, evaluation, and insight.

During my years at Saint Martin’s, I have served as director of faculty development, chaired for three years the English Department, started with John Hopkins the Faculty Diversity Institute, and initiated the student-written book One Rule, Many Men: The Monks at Saint Martin’s Abbey (eds. Stacey Larson and Katie Hawkins, Gorham, 2009). My scholarship is underpinned by doctoral work in the essay, both creative and academic. In the last decade I have expanded this interest into research and teaching areas such as contemplative pedagogy, reflective writing, creative writing, and Pacific Northwest Literature.  

I teach an array of English courses that include literary criticism, creative and academic writing, “language and culture,” and core literature.

Select publications, presentations, and leadership roles

  • Project Director, Saint Martin’s University’s First Summer Creative Writing Institute featuring internationally acclaimed novelist Jim Lynch. June 12-18, 2016.
  • “Reconsidering the Essay’s Imagination in the University Classroom: Writing, Disjunction, and Active Nature of Thought.” Invited chapter in Creativity and Discovery in the University Writing Class: A Teacher's Guide, (Eds. Chik, Costley, and Pennington, London: Equinox, 2015, pp. 159-184). O’Grady Library PE1404 C734 2015
  • New Books Editor, Writing & Pedagogy, London, UK.  January 2015-ongoing.
  • “Deepening Our Understanding of Reflective Writing’s Contemplative Dimensions: Revisiting Dewey with an Eye toward Assessment.”  Presentation and paper at the National Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, Seattle. October 2014.
  • “Moving from Objective to Personalized, Reflective Essays” Invited presentation at the Creativity and Discovery in the University Essay Symposium, Hong Kong City University, Hong Kong.  June 2013.
  • “The Personal Essay as a Tool to Teach Academic Writing.” Invited chapter in The College Toolkit: Tried and Tested Ideas for Teaching College Writing. (Eds. Pennington and Burton, London: Equinox, 2011, pp. 21-39.) O’Grady Library PE1404 .C614 2011
  • Representation, Ideology, and the Form of the Essay.” Featured essay in inaugural Writing & Pedagogy 1.1 (2009): 11-36.
  • Writing from the Inside: The Power of Reflective Writing in the Classroom. Lead author with co-author Maureen Hall.  London: Equinox, forthcoming.
  • Consistency and Change in the Repeated Narratives of Holocaust Survivors.” Co-author with Brian Schiff, Heather Skillingstead, Alex Arasim and Jenny Peterson. Narrative Inquiry 16:2 (2006): 349-377.
  • “Montaignian and Baconian Writing Forms: Using Fictional Letters in Self-Study.” Presentation and workshop at the AERA SIG International Conference on Self-Study, East Sussex, England.  June 2004.
  • “Resisting the Thesis:  The Disjunctive Essay.”  Paper presented at the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication, New York City. March 2003.

Areas of interest

Much of Dr. Archibald's current research and writing focuses on reflective practice and creative forms of essay in higher education, and she is currently working on a book about the essay genre while co-authoring Writing from the Inside: The Power of Reflective Writing in the Classroom (Equinox, coauthor Maureen P. Hall). Alongside her teaching and research, Dr. Archibald directs faculty development activities at Saint Martin's.