New assistant English professor at MSU receives professional accolade

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

Katherine Flowers (Submitted photo)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State faculty member is beginning her academic career with a significant research award in writing studies.

Katherine Flowers of the university’s English department is receiving the James Berlin Memorial Outstanding Dissertation Award, an international recognition of the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

Founded in 1949, the 7,000-member body is the world’s largest professional association for composition researchers and teachers. Based in Illinois—and sometimes called the Four Cs—it works to support academic investigations on communication and rhetoric and advocate for language and literacy education, among other missions.

Flowers joined MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2017. She teaches English department courses in academic, digital, public and professional writing, with language policy, literacy studies, social movements and related areas among her research specializations.

“Local Language Policy: Shifting Scales in the English-Only Movement” is the title of her award-winning 2017 doctoral dissertation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the same institution at which she earned a master’s degree. A Port Angeles, Washington, native, she also holds two bachelor’s from the University of Washington.

Dan Punday, MSU English department head, said CCCC is “the” academic organization for the career Flowers is pursuing. “This award is a recognition of the importance of her work in professional writing theory and a sign of the bright scholarly future ahead of her,” he emphasized.

Flowers said her research developed from a desire to “find out how and why people write language policies in the first place.” To find answers, she interviewed “politicians, activists and lobbyists who have first-hand experience in this area.”

The dissertation explains how “English-only language policies have long been a way to promote the English language while marginalizing other ways of communicating, often at the expense of indigenous people, immigrants and people of color.”

She said English-only policies currently are thriving because policy writers have become adept at sharing successful templates and talking points with each other. As a result, these local framings can make a policy “seem more authentic than one perceived as coming from the outside.”

Concurrently with classroom responsibilities, Flowers is completing a book about the English-only movement in the United States over the past four decades.

To formally accept the Berlin Award, she travels in early March to Kansas City, Missouri, for the 2018 CCCC convention. The occasion will mark her second significant scholarly recognition in three years.

As a doctoral student in 2015, she was selected for the Bordin Gillette Research Fellowship with the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library. Other biographical information is found at

To learn more about the Four Cs’ work and missions, visit It is part of the larger National Council of Teachers of English, with a website at

Links to MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences and its English department are, respectively, and

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at