Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Williams, Bronwyn T.

Author's Keywords

First-year composition; Working-class; Adult and nontraditional students; Urban universities; Educational access


Nontraditional college students--Kentucky--Louisville; English language--Rhetoric--Study and teaching (Higher); College freshmen--Kentucky--Louisville


This dissertation explores the role first-year composition (FYC) courses play in the academic lives of working-class adult students in the University of Louisville, an institution that, during portions of its long history, has been a valuable educational resource for working adults in the Louisville area. A confluence of political and administrative pressures from both within and outside the institution have been working to shift U of L's focus away from being an access-oriented metropolitan university and toward the standard research university model, which has meant raising minimum standardized test scores, increasing tuition on an annual basis, and reducing the number of evening classes available. All of these factors have dramatically decreased the percentage of nontraditional-age students at U of L-both across the curriculum and in FYC courses specifically. Those nontraditional students who do remain rely heavily on the literacy sponsorship of their families, employers, instructors, and (sometimes) their fellow students. While working-class adults are frequently among the diligent students in FYC classes, they are also likely to experience some feelings of isolation and alienation that stem from being the only older student in class, which in turn might reduce their contributions to classroom discussions. And yet working-class adults enrich our classes immeasurably by being both exemplary students and a complicating and enriching presence, requiring instructors to interrogate composition pedagogies often designed by default for a classroom full of 18-year-old freshmen.