As Director of First-Year Writing at Duke University, Denise supervises and administers the Thompson Writing Program: hiring, training, and reviewing faculty, developing and assessing curriculum and course goals and practices, and forging connections around campus and nationally. Her teaching includes a postdoctoral summer seminar in teaching writing, themed sections of academic writing, and an upper-division online writing course for students engaged in an internship or other work experience. She has also taught for several semesters a developmental-level writing course. In 2014 she received the Duke University Teaching with Technology Award.

In 2012 she earned a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a writing-based MOOC: offered in partnership between Duke University and Coursera, English Composition I, the first-ever composition MOOC. Currently in its third iteration, it has enrolled over 210,000 people from around the world. Denise is also a successful applicant of a competitive grant competition run by Athabasca University (Principal Investigator: George Siemens). Through this grant, Comer and her colleague (Dorian Canelas, Chemistry) researched peer-to-peer interaction in introductory-level MOOCs. She is currently developing another MOOC with several colleagues, one that carries a specialization certificate: “Reasoning, Data Analysis, and Writing” (with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Ram Neta, and Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel).

Writing 270, “Composing the Internship Experience.”

In this fully online course, piloted during summer 2014, Duke students currently engaged in internship or other work experiences around the world learn about social media writing as they reflect meaningfully on their work experiences through such forms of digital writing as blogs, microblogs, digital storytelling, and website development. Students developed and curated a collaborative website, “The Art of the Internship.”


Writing 101, Academic Writing:

A theme-based, one-semester first-year writing course designed to offer students practice in the critical thinking, research, and writing they will be engaging with throughout their academic experiences and beyond. Comer’s seminar topics have included:

  • When Cultures Clash
  • Identity and Nationalism(s) in American Autobiography
  • The Origins of Darwinism
  • Making Amends: The Uses and Limits of Public Apology
  • “Oh! The places You’ll Go!”: Interrogating the Culture of Travel
  • Illness Narratives
  • Crime, Guilt, and Knowledge: The Emergence of Detective Fiction
  • Nuances of Nature Writing
  • Philanthropy: Contexts and Challenges
  • Power, Privilege, and Politics in Travel Narratives
  • “Wish you were here!”: Travel and Postcards
  • Postcards, Frommer’s and Travelocity: The Many Texts of Tourism
  • Money Matters: The Joy of Grant Writing
  • Voluntarism: Contexts and Challenges
  • Social Media, Learning, and Writing


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