RIP: Genevieve Critel, PhD

May 30, 2012
Genevieve Critel.


In late May, the Department of English experienced a great loss at the unexpected death of Genevieve Critel, a graduate student in our Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy program. She will be sorely missed not only by her many good friends and colleagues here at OSU, but also by those at other institutions around the country where she had already established a strong professional network. People knew Genevieve as a skilled and innovative teacher, a keenly perceptive scholar and incisive researcher, and a most generous friend and colleague. As Krista Bryson, a fellow graduate student noted, “Gen had an amazing spirit. She was the first person I met from OSU, before I had even applied, and she immediately made me feel welcome and like I deserved to be here. She was always an inspiration to me and, as I'm sure others will say, to everyone else in the program.”

Genevieve Critel completed her Ph.D. at The Ohio State University in May of 2012, authoring a dissertation entitled, “Investigating The Rhetoric of Student Participation: Uncovering and Historicizing Commonplaces in Composition Studies.” On her committee were Professors Cynthia L. Selfe (Chair), Scott Lloyd DeWitt, Beverly Moss, and Wendy Hesford. Genevieve received her MA in English Composition, with an emphasis in Rhetoric & Literacy, from the University of Oklahoma in May of 2007.  She received her MEd in Secondary Education, with an emphasis in English, from East Central University in May of 2004 and her BA in English Studies, with a minor in Women’s Studies, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in May of 2002.

Genevieve Critel’s dissertation research focused on the historical and contemporary notion of student participation in the writing classroom.  Participation, while discussed particularly in informal settings, has not been extensively studied in composition and rhetoric. Given this context, Genevieve’s dissertation offers a deeper understanding of where participation comes from, why it is valued by writing teachers, and how it can be a more effective curricular element. This work provides a critical exploration of four commonplace assumptions about participation: that participation helps build community in a classroom and prepare students as democratic citizens, that participation must be assessed, that participation is embodied in a conventional set of classroom behaviors, and that the use of digital networks helps encourage participation. In describing Genevieve’s contributions in this work, Professor Wendy Hesford remarked, “Genevieve’s dissertation not only demonstrates her rhetorical agility and analytical dexterity but it also marks a marks a significant contribution to our understanding of student participation in the history of the discipline.” 

Even before she graduated from our Ph.D. program, Genevieve’s commitment to excellence in the larger field of rhetoric and composition studies and the more focused field of digital media studies had garnered widespread recognition at OSU and in a national arena. In 2011 and 2009, Genevieve won the Eric Walborn Award for Excellence in Digital Media Instruction at Ohio State. In 2010, she won a national Award for Teaching from the online journal Kairos. In 2008, she was awarded a research grant from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives; and in 2007, she was awarded the Dr. Edward Clark Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Research from the University of Oklahoma.


Genevieve’s teachers and friends remember her as a gifted teacher and scholar.  As Professor Beverly Moss writes, “As smart as Genevieve is was, she was kinder, generous with her encouraging words and praise for colleagues, professors, and friends.  Her smile was so engaging and contagious.  She always recognized the best in everyone, and her best was always what we got.  I feel truly blessed to have spent the short time with her that I did.” Jennifer Herman, also an RCL graduate student observed, “The stress and challenges of graduate school can cause many students to become cynical and bogged down in negativity or anxiety. Genevieve Critel was both the antithesis and the antidote to this kind of thinking and behavior.  She was a constant source of positivity, kindness, and generosity.  If she was present for a conversation about “dealing” with freshmen in English 110, the amount of time demanded for grading papers, or a class’s difficult reading assignments, she could always offer a healthy dose of realism or helpful advice, both always tempered with warmth and grace.”

The extent of Genevieve’s skills and a teacher and generosity as a friend is remembered by Lauren Obermark, another RCL graduate student, who tells the following story:

Just at the beginning of this quarter, I inexplicably (and stupidly) accepted a teaching assignment of 110.01 for days of the week when I did not have daycare available for my infant son. I didn't realize my mistake until I missed my first day of teaching the course! I was, of course, mortified on every level, and I immediately began to try and recover from this mistake. I emailed some of my close friends, Gen among them, to see if anyone could babysit my son during the times I would now be teaching. Gen replied almost instantly, assuring me she'd be happy to watch him, but wouldn't it be easier if she and I just swapped courses? (I should note she was teaching 367.01, so it wasn't even a direct switch.) I went on and on about how unfair that would be to her, how she would have already missed a day, how she'd have to reorganize her syllabus, all of which she shrugged off as "no big deal." As I berated myself, she also kept reminding me that everyone makes mistakes, and it wasn't the end of the world. In the end, we did indeed switch courses, and my life this quarter has been that much smoother because of her generosity and support. It ended up being a happy accident of sorts, as Gen loved being back in the 110 classroom and really embraced this teaching experience; I am confident her students were pretty thrilled with having her, as well. I hurt so much now, knowing that Gen's kind, loving friendship will be absent from my life. 

Other memories of Gen, many of which were shared at her memorial service, can be read on Gen's facebook page or at: Friends are encouraged to continue to add pictures and memories.

Watch a "teaser" Gen created in preparation for her CCCC 2011 presentation on "student participation" in composition classrooms.

Also, "What You Wanted," a moving tribute to her father.


The Genevieve M. Critel Fund (314097) has been established in honor of Gen's longstanding commitment to teaching writing and her dedication to undergraduate student writers. The funds will be used to support undergraduate students in the first year writing courses at The Ohio State University, and to provide awards to students’ submissions in undergraduate writing journals. The Genevieve M. Critel Fund (314097) has been set up as a development fund, so any gifts (cash) contributed to the Genevieve M. Critel Fund are fully deductible for federal income tax purposes, provided deductions are itemized.

Donors may make a gift by mailing their payment to:


Genevieve M. Critel Fund
Dept. of English
421 Denney Hall
164 W. 17th Ave
Columbus OH 43210

All checks should be made payable to The Ohio State University Genevieve M. Critel Fund