Experts on "English"

Christie J. Curtis

  • Graduate Chair, School of Education
  • Associate Professor

A native Californian, Christie Curtis specializes in grammar and writing curriculum development. Her most recent book, Grammar and Writing 3 (piloted in 2015–16), was co-authored with Mary Hake and is one of six grammar and writing textbooks in their series. Utilizing her experiences as a former public and private school teacher, she has authored student editions, teacher editions and supplementary workbooks for Grammar and Writing 3, Grammar and Writing 4, Grammar and Writing 5, Grammar and Writing 6, Grammar and Writing 7 and Grammar and Writing 8. She has written weekly "Grammar Gems" for Biola University's Inside Story, and has provided teaching seminars for Biola's staff and faculty in her areas of expertise: grammar, sentence structure, spelling, proofreading, editing, revising and communication (both oral and written). Professor Curtis has spoken on a variety of topics at the conventions of the Association of Christian Schools International in Anaheim. Her passion for grammar infects those who enroll in her professional writing course. She believes that everyone should know the reasons for their word choices and sentence structures. Mentoring her students provides personal joy as she finds ways to relate to her students at a deeper level. Professor Curtis has been married for 44 years and enjoys spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren. Their family activities include weekly surfing trips, excursions to national parks and an annual week of camp with the entire family at Forest Home Christian Conference Center.

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Christopher Davidson

  • Associate Professor of English

Chris Davidson is associate professor of English and co-director of first-year writing at Biola. He teaches courses in critical thinking and writing, writing for competency, and creative writing. He has a bachelor's degree in English from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from University of California, Irvine. His work has appeared in several journals and anthologies, including Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman. A chapbook, Poems, appeared in 2012.

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Shelley Garcia

  • Assistant Professor of English

Shelley Garcia received her bachelor's degree in English and sociology at Vanguard University, and went on to do graduate work at the University of California, Riverside. She specializes in contemporary American literature, gender and minority discourses and has taught courses such as "Race and Ethnicity in American Literature," "American Literature Since 1865," "Contemporary Women Writers and Feminist Theory," "Modernism and Masculinity" and "Landmark Texts of the 20th Century by U.S. Ethnic Writers."

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Joe Henderson

  • Associate Professor

Joe Henderson teaches Bible, literature, and hermeneutics. In his doctoral work at Fuller Theological Seminary, he studied hermeneutics and Old Testament literature. His dissertation on the poetry of the book of Jeremiah is the fruit of his interest in the relationship between the history of biblical interpretation and the history of literary criticism. His other interests include Robert Louis Stevenson's novels, Paul's theology, Milton's Prose, Brevard Childs' hermeneutics, Flannery O'Connor's stories, Charles Wesley's hymns and Francis of Assisi's life. Joe is a graduate of Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky and Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya. He and his wife Conchie served at Rift Valley Academy as dorm parents for fifth and sixth-grade girls. Now they are the grateful parents of Kip, William and Laurel.

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Todd Pickett

  • Dean of Spiritual Development

Education: Stanford, BA (Classics); Trinity College, Ireland, M.Litt. (Classics); Talbot, MA (Spiritual Formation); UC Irvine, Ph.D. (English).
At Biola since: 1996
• Chair, department of English, 2002–05
• Dean of Humanities & Social Sciences, 2005–08
• Associate Dean of Spiritual Development, 2008–11
• Dean of Spiritual Development, 2011–present.
My StrengthsFinder top five: Connectedness, Learner, Intellection, Ideation, Input.

1. What do you do in your job (briefly)? I get to think about and facilitate how we can discern the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and cooperate with it.

2. The five (or so) most influential books you've read: Besides the Scriptures, of course… can I do authors instead?
• Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Notes from Underground
• Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island; Ascent to Truth
• Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens; Truthfulness and Tragedy
• Jean-Pierre DeCaussade, Self Abandonment to Divine Providence; The Sacrament of the Present Moment
• Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, The Jesus Way.
• Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow, Essays & Poems

3. An influential person in your life or best example of love? I’m thinking of two friends who are pastors, both characterized chiefly by humility and obedience.

4. Why are you at Biola? Because the university is committed to biblical integration and spiritual development.

5. Your testimony in 200 words or less?
I came to Christ as a junior higher, drawn by how brilliantly the Scriptures threw light on the human condition. Filled with the Holy Spirit, I was also filled quite a bit with myself and how church/bible study/teaching could be a place for over-achievement. For much of my Christian life, God has been calling and drawing me away from an identity based in what I can do for Him (really, myself) and into an identity based on what He’s done for me. Still trying to open to that.

6. If God put you completely in charge of creating Heaven, what would it be like? Lots of time to read, and then lots of time to talk about reading with others over meals.

7. What is the most difficult choice you’ve ever had to make? What made it difficult? What factors helped you make that choice? Leaving church ministry for a Ph.D. in English. It was hard to know where I would thrive more. If I recall, the chief decision-making factor was my immaturity — I hated the feeling of my inadequacy — that I couldn’t meet everyone’s needs. Someone should’ve told me that that’s how you learn humility and dependence.

8. What are five things you are most thankful for in your life right now? Dottie (my wife), Carly & Abbey (my daughters), friends, a job.

9. What job do you fantasize about having? Having my own radio show where I get to interview whomever I want (but mostly novelists and rock stars).

10. Last book you read? Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms.

11. A brush with fame or celebrity? I once carved a Thanksgiving turkey with Nicholas Cage. And yes, the rumors are true, the actress Courtney Cox is my sister-in-law. I’ve been married to her sister, Dottie, for 20 years.

12. Which fictional character do you most resemble? I can be very Eeyore-ish on bad days.

13. Who plays you in your bio-pic? Kenneth Branagh.

14. What’s your ringtone? Beck, “Walls”

15. Favorite electronic device? My Espresso Maker (you do have to plug it in)

16. What do your friends say is your best quality? Reflectiveness (is that a word?)

17. What natural talent do you wish you had? Drawing

18. What is your life theme song? “Oh How I Hate To Get Up in the Morning,” Irving Berlin

19. Do you believe in love at first sight? When applied to desserts, yes.

20. Do you think it is possible to live with no regrets? If regret means sadness, no. If regret means self-loathing, yes.

21. What is your definition of success? Abiding in God. Do you consider yourself to be successful? Sometimes.

22. How much is your self-worth and identity determined by your job and your success at it? That’s my Achilles heal. It has mattered a lot.

23. What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen? My daughters, still. After that, Boyd’s Lake Resort in Wisconsin, late July.

24. In what areas of your life is it most difficult to trust God? That what I’m able to do is enough.

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Katherine Purgason

  • Chair, Department of Applied Linguistics & TESOL
  • Program Director, Applied Linguistics & TESOL
  • Professor of TESOL

Kitty Purgason brings to her classes in TESOL methodology, curriculum, materials and intercultural communication her years of experience living, studying, serving and teaching in India, Russia, Korea, China, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Mauritania, Indonesia, Kuwait, Oman, Tajikistan, Vietnam and Spain. She has received three Fulbright fellowships and the Biola Faculty Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring. She has been a U.S. State Department English Language Specialist. Her professional interests include methodology in local context and professional ethics.

Purgason has presented on methodology and materials-related topics at more than 30 local, state and national TESOL conferences, and has spoken about TESOL at Urbana and other similar conferences. She is the author of Professional Guidelines for Christian English Teachers (2016), "Planning Lessons and Units" in Celce-Murcia, Brinton, & Snow (2013), "Classroom Guidelines for Teachers with Convictions" in Wong and Canagarajah (2009), and English Language Teaching in Theological Contexts (2010).


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Lyle H Smith, Jr

  • Professor of English

Lyle Smith grew up in Minneapolis, Minn. He attended Wheaton College, and graduated from the University of Minnesota, where he also completed post-graduate work in English Renaissance studies. His dissertation dealt with the history of English anti-clerical satire between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, culminating in the Martin Marprelate pamphlets of 1588–89. He is married to a beautiful California girl who, for ten years, was a missionary in South Africa, worked until 2004 as a psychotherapist and taught in the Human Services department at California State University, Fullerton.

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Joshua Smith

  • Assistant Professor
Dr. Joshua Smith is a literary and American studies scholar. His primary research interests center on nineteenth-century American thought and the regional and conceptual influence of the American West. As a professor at the Torrey Honors Institute, he also teaches the classics, the knowledge of which he employs to explore the intellectual influences on important American thinkers, writers and historical developments. He is most interested in the ways that American territorial expansion and frontier mythology shape antebellum writing and national identity. Looking far beyond traditional frontier themes in literature, his research on the influence of the West on American narrative has forged links between such disparate subjects as Nat Turner, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Ellison, Quentin Tarantino and Toni Morrison. The relationship between the South and the West is of particular interest to him. He pays attention to the historical interdependence of these two regions of the country, but also to the curious western trek of minstrelsy and other lampoons of southern life and culture to Hollywood.

As an accomplished alto saxophonist, he explores the relationship between music and thought. In particular, he is interested in the ways that jazz exposes a rich intellectual tradition and both parallels and informs literary production. Understanding jazz to be a way of thinking and not merely an artistic style, he employs his creative acumen to exploit the inherent musical quality of oral communication. As a public speaker, he is attuned to the same performance dynamics as an artist. His saxophone sensibilities equip him as an orator to improvise and compose words in ways that mimic musical and theatrical nuances.

Though animated, humorous, thought-provoking and explosive on stage, Dr. Smith, like many academics, is an introvert in an extrovert’s world. He’s learned how to turn the social awkward into social empowerment. The life lessons he’s picked up along the way have translated into compelling talks on leadership and emotional intelligence. Dr. Smith is a highly requested campus and conference speaker who engages audiences with both a personable and inspirational style.


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Dale Sprowl

  • Special Contract Faculty for English

Dale Sprowl teaches critical thinking, writing and literature at Biola University in La Mirada, CA. During summers she administrates the Young Writer’s Project at UCI. Her work with the UCI Writing Project began in 1981 in professional development coursework in cognition and composition. She also has contributed to the UCIWP texts on the teaching of writing. Her first chapbook, The Colors of Water, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2007. Her poems have also appeared in Pearl, Fire, A New Song, Ancient Paths, and Knowing Stones: Poems of Exotic Places. She earned her bachelors degree in humanities and in history as well as a masters degree in history from Pepperdine University. Her affiliation with the school has continued by teaching in the Graduate School of Education and Psychology and by supervising elementary and secondary student teachers. She is an Educator Associate for the American Psychoanalytic Association. She lives in Newport Beach with her husband and youngest daughter while her older daughter attends graduate school and her son works.

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