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Rob Spirko

Rob Spirko

Rob Spirko

Senior Lecturer

1202 McClung Tower


  • Disability Studies
  • Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Poetry
  • Speculative Fiction


Dr. Rob Spirko teaches Chancellor’s Honors writing courses, Introduction to Poetry, and American Literature. His focus is on disability studies; he regularly teaches English 254: Disability and Deafness in Literature. He has also directed independent studies (English 498) in disability-related topics. Extra-curricularly, he is active at the local, state and national levels in the Unitarian Universalist church.

Professional Service

  • Chancellor’s Commission on Disability Co-Chair, 2020-2021
  • Director of Communications, English Department, 2019-2021
  • Faculty Senate Communications Officer, 2015-2021
  • Faculty Senate Library and Information Technology Committee, 2012-2018, 2019-2021
  • OIT Faculty Fellow, 2016-2018
  • Associate Director of Composition, 2010-2013


  • “In Appalachia, Disability Stigma Has Dangerous Effects.” Rooted in Rights. September, 2018.
  • “‘Better Me than You’: Children of a Lesser God, Deaf Education, and Paternalism.”  in Peering Behind the Curtain: Disability and the Extraordinary Body in Contemporary Theater.  eds. Thomas Fahy and Kimball King.  New York: Routledge, 2002.

Conference Presentations

  • Invited speaker. Public Affairs Conference, Missouri State University. Springfield: September 2018.
  • Panels: The fact of pluralism: How much unity, how much diversity?
  • “The Fragmented Public Sphere and the Necessity for Diversity”
  • The arts as the heart of utopia.
  • “From Plato to Parton.”
  • Building community through storytelling.
  • “What is a story and who gets to tell it? Disability and Appalachia.”
  • “Implementing Universal Design in a University Environment.” Universal Design for Learning Implementation and Research Network Summit. Orlando: April 2018.
  • “Dismantling Able-Bodied Systems.” Roundtable. Nexus Graduate Conference. Knoxville: March 2018.
  • “Oree-cular Visions: Disability in N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.”  International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts.  Orlando: March 2017.
  • Universal Design for Learning Implementation and Research Network Summit.  Orlando: March 2017.
  • “What We Talk About When We Talk About Accessibility: Information Session for FYC Instructors.” University of Tennessee Writing Program, February 2017.
  • “Universal Design for Learning.”  Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center Workshop.  April 2015.
  • “Eugenics vs. Eutopia: Disability and Identification in X-Men: Days of Future Past.” PCA/ACA Conference.  New Orleans: April 2015.
  • “The Element of Surprise: Storytelling in Class.” Invited talk. College of Veterinary Science Pedagogy Series.  November 2014.
  • “Course Design and Teaching About Disability: Engaging Our Students.”  Uncommon Teaching and Learning Series. Tennessee TLC Workshop.  October 2014.
  • “’You’re So Inspiring!’: The Affective Dynamics of Inspiration Porn.”  Disability Issues and Advocacy Conference.  Knoxville, TN: April 2014.