This page contains information about preparing your biography: sample biographies  |  communication or rhetorical aspects of sample biographies

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Sample Biographies

In this section, you will find biographies for Philip Rubens and Sherry Southard. They provide a pattern for you to adapt as you write your biography, and they tell you a bit about persons who may be your instructor.

Philip Rubens came to East Carolina University after nearly twenty years of service to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. At RPI he developed many unique academic programs that relied on the impact of emerging technologies on the communication process; he also served as the Director of the Technical Writers' Institute and the Director of Graduate Studies. Before joining the RPI faculty he directed undergraduate and associate degrees at Michigan Technological University and William Rainey Harper College. He is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, as well as a former board member and director-sponsor, and has received numerous awards for his contributions to the profession. His Science and Technical Writing: A Manual of Style will soon be released in a 2nd edition from Routledge.

His professional career outside of academia includes writing for the Wall Street Journal, the Democratic National Committee, LTV Aerospace, Braniff International, Woodall Publishing, and various government agencies, as well as a considerable career in freelance writing. He has applied this combination of practical and academic experience to a variety of consultancies for major corporations and political agencies throughout the world. These professional efforts have been recognized by the Society for Technical Communication and the IEEE Professional Communication Society.

He is active in a variety of civic and cultural organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Sierra Club, the Women's Philharmonic, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Outside of professional interests, he travels widely, reads, writes, sails, and enjoys living in Cary with his family and cats. 

Sherry Southard joined the ECU faculty in 1989 after nearly ten years on the graduate faculty at Oklahoma State University. Since coming to ECU, she has served on the English Department's Computer and Instructional Technology Committee for over six years and has written grant proposals collaboratively to fund computer-aided classrooms and laboratories. She currently teaches students to use electronic components in her classes in order to collaborate as well as develop information products. Together with Philip Rubens, she helped develop the post-baccalaureate online Certificate in Professional Communication. At both Oklahoma State and East Carolina University, she has served in many administrative positions.

Her advising has been recognized with an ECU 1999 Outstanding Advisor Award for Undergraduate Studies and a national 2000 Outstanding Advisor Award given by the National Academic Advising Association. A Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she received the Jay R. Gould Award for Excellence in Teaching Technical Communication. In addition to serving actively in STC activities, she has participated in the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing and Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication.

 Her professional career outside of academia includes writing and editing for employers such as NASA (Langley Research Center), Fire Protection Publications ("redbooks" for firefighters), and Carolinas Association of General Contractors.

An important aspect of her life is family -- her husband (another academic in linguistics and Teaching English as a Second Language), two sons (both studying psychology and philosophy, one a gourmet cook and the other a disc golf champion player), and four cats.

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Discussion of communication or rhetorical aspects of sample biographies

In this section, in bold at the left-hand margin, you find the name of the rhetorical aspect being discussed. Then in a salmon (or peach) boxes following the names are discussions of the rhetorical aspects with references to the sample biographies (what your instructor would say to you in class). You do not have to pattern your biography EXACTLY as the samples are written, especially in terms of content.

Audience & purpose

Whom are you directing this biography to? You've not been told directly, but probably are assuming that the audience is your instructor. Is there anyone else who might read this biography? ... possibly other member of your class??

What is the purpose of this biography? Above you are told that the sample biographies "provide a pattern for you to adapt as you write your biography, and they tell you a bit about persons who may be your instructor." The other side of the coin then--you are indicating that you can write a biography that adapts the pattern provided and that tells your instructor a bit about yourself.


Look at the sample biographies paragraph by paragraph. 

  1. Describes work experiences and roles in those work environments. For both instructors, you learn about where they have taught and related experiences. Dr. Southards first paragraph is really two paragraphs. If you've not worked full time in your field, then your "work experiences" may translate as your educational experiences. You should also note that the work experiences are presented in reverse chronological order with current ones first.
  2. Describes experiences related to their experiences as teachers, but completed outside the academy. You learn about their work as technical communicators for employers outside the university. 
  3. Describes a few personal items about them, although no names are given. The information is person but somewhat sanitized.


First, you learn about their credentials, very important to you as a student in their classes. Then you learn how their credentials include practical application of what they teach. And finally you learn some personal items which are not that important is demonstrating their ability to teach the course that you are taking, but which flesh them out as persons.

Style (words and sentences among other matters)

The biography is written in third person: he or she. Precise words are used. For example, you are told that he "served" as a director, not that he "was" one, and she "received" an award, not that she "got" the award. The style is not a slangy or particularly conversational one.


No visuals are used, only text. However, photographs could have been use to show them teaching and with their families and cats.

Format & layout & design

The biographies are present here as part of a website. If the biographies were printed, they would be paragraphed text similar to what essays look like. The biographies could have been presented in columns with headings. Design elements could have been included. 

As is, the layout is sparse with only the names bolded. The paragraphs are single-spaced with double-spacing between paragraphs. Remember the directions you have been given in the syllabus about spacing as well as size and type of font to be used.

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