Russell Helms teaches scientific writing, technical writing, composition, and creative writing. He holds graduate degrees in fiction and public health. Academic interests include online learning, the rhetoric of health care, and the works of Jorge Luis Borges. His artistic bends include the design and production of literary books and journals and writing fiction. He has published numerous stories in a variety of journals, including Versal (Amsterdam), Sand (Berlin), and Litro (London).

Degrees

  • MFA in Creative Writing from Bluegrass Writers Studio
  • MPH in Public Health from Yale University
  • BA in History from Auburn University
  • AS in Nursing from Jefferson State Community College

Research and/or Creative Interests  

In regard to the rhetoric of healthcare, I am especially interested in the language of mental health, its diagnosis and treatment. Creatively, I am especially drawn to the works of Jorge Luis Borges and Flannery O'Connor.

 

Teaching Interests

I enjoy teaching the application of persuasive writing to scientific and technical ends, as well as the craft of fiction, especially in regard to magical realism. The two pursuits perhaps marry in a more specific interest in the rhetoric of healthcare, which at times can be laced with as much magic as medicine.

Teaching Approach

As a former healthcare professional, I tend to view individuals in terms of what they need to optimize well­ being. I think that this translates well into my fundamental approach to teaching English. What does this student need from me in order to achieve academic excellence? The class will require a textbook and a syllabus but individual needs must be tailored.

Why did you become an English professor?

Ultimately, it's because I love writing. If you love something enough, it is inevitable that you will wind up teaching that something to someone else. There is a level of learning while teaching that is not attainable by any other means.

Why teach X?

I teach scientific writing to meld my science and writing backgrounds into a coherent whole. Here, I am fulfilled. I teach fiction to satisfy that basic urge to tell a story well. Here. I am satisfied.

Outside of being a professor, what do you do for fun and/or relaxation?
I enjoy designing and producing books. I have a small press, GreencupBooks, and produce a literary journal. Everything I do is related to writing in some way. Naturally, I love to read. For exercise, I really love jogging, and when my legs revolt, walking.

What are your expectations of students?  

With any writing course, whether composition or scientific writing, the first priority is the ability to think and write critically in relation to a given audience. What is it that you the student need from the audience? How do you persuade the Parking Office that you were ticketed inappropriately? How do you announce that you’ve discovered a new bacteria that lives in the stomach, a finding that will shock your colleagues and possibly cast doubt on your ethos should you not infiltrate your writing with cautionary notes? What is it that you want? And thus, to measure the objective: did you get what you want? Was your ticket overturned? Did you break the news of Helicobacter pylori convincingly based on data and observation but with the required dose of “further study is warranted?” Did your colleagues nod with wonder or did they dismiss your findings as quackery? 

 

What's something about you that might surprise your students?
I have a displaced radial artery on my right wrist, thus no pulse where it should be. If you should happen to find me apparently lifeless, check my carotids before making a final decision.