2003 – Deborah Brandt

A Midwestern professor’s look at life, learning and literacy earned her one of the largest awards in the field of education. Deborah Brandt, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, won the $200,000 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education for 2003 for her book “Literacy in American Lives.”

“Literacy in American Lives” explains how generations of Americans have made sense of and coped with increased pressure to improve their ability to read and write. Brandt advocates in the book that every American citizen has a civil right to be literate.

About Deborah Brandt

Deborah Brandt is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a research associate with the National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement. She has been a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 1983.

Brandt holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Rutgers University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Indiana University. As a faculty member in composition and rhetoric, Brandt teaches graduate courses in literacy, writing studies, and qualitative research methods as well as several undergraduate writing courses. Her recent research focuses on social and economic histories of mass literacy and the changing status of writing within late 20th and early 21st century American culture. She also focuses on issues of equity and access in literacy learning.

Brandt’s first book, “Literacy as Involvement: The Acts of Writers, Readers and Texts” (Southern Illinois University Press, 1990) won the 1993 David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English. Her most recent book, “Literacy in American Lives,” (Cambridge University Press, 2001) won the 2002 Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize from the Modern Language Association.

In 1998-99 Brandt was a Visiting Scholar at the U.S. Department of Education National Institute on Post-Secondary Education, Libraries, and Lifelong Learning. She also has received research grants from the American Council of Learning Societies (ACLS) and the National Council of Teachers of English. Much of the research support for the writing of “Literacy in American Lives” came through a grant to the National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement (CELA) from the U.S. Department of Education Office on Educational Research and Improvement.

Brandt holds several teaching honors, including a University of Wisconsin Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, awarded in 1993. She has served on executive committees of the Conference on College Composition and Communication and the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy. She was a longtime volunteer with the Madison Urban League and is currently a member of the Education Committee on the Madison Branch of the NAACP. She also is co-chair of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Diversity Plan Oversight Committee.