Alyssa O'Brien

Contact Information:

Office Phone: 650- 723-3802
Office Location:
Sweet Hall 3rd Floor, Rm 319a, 590 Escondido Mall, Stanford, CA 94024

Office Hours:

M 03:30pm-05:00pm


Alyssa J. O'Brien is a Lecturer at Stanford University and the former Assistant Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric. She currently serves as the Coordinator for the Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Project, an international collaboration connecting Stanford students with students at world-class universities across five continents. (see This project is close to her heart, as she grew up moving back and forth between Europe and the USA, and she continues to travel extensively. In the past four years, Alyssa has given presentations at many universities across the globe, speaking on visual or cross-cultural rhetoric at places such as Switzerland, Sweden, Egypt, Australia, Korea, China, France, and Russia.

Since arriving at Stanford in 2001, she has written or co-authored fourteen books on writing: the Envision Series - Envision and Envision in Depth (Pearson Publishers, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010), co-authored with her friend and colleague Dr. Christine Alfano, the "Instructors' Guide to the Bedford St. Martin's Handbook" with Professor Andrea Lunsford (Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010). She's also written five Instructor's Manuals on teaching writing, visual rhetoric, research, and multimedia literacy. She loves giving workshops to new teachers around the country.

In addition, Alyssa has published scholarly articles on cross-cultural rhetoric, intercultural competencies, writing pedagogy, visual texts, James Joyce's manuscripts, visual argument in French film, and representations of breast cancer activism. She's currently working on scholarly articles in collaboration with international partners in Singapore, Sweden, and Egypt.

On a personal note, Alyssa recently published a collection of her mother's writing, called, The Quilt of My Life. Her mother wrote courageously about battling breast cancer for 14 years and learning to live with gratitude every day. The book is available for preview on the companion Website,

Alyssa is a creative writer herself; she has read her poetry in San Francisco and enjoys teaching creative writing through the Stanford Continuing Studies program and at the Stanford Alumni Write Retreat in Lake Tahoe. She also often writes monthly contributions for her local paper, Coastviews Magazine.

Her dissertation work, completed at the University of Rochester, focused on the writing strategies of modernist writers, Joyce, Woolf, and Larsen, examining their literature as a feminist / postcolonial challenge to 1920s political rhetoric. During this time, her research interests centered on gendered images across Dublin, London, and Harlem in the 1920s. While in Rochester, she taught literature, creative writing, and humanities courses at the University of Rochester and the Eastman School of Music. She also taught business writing at the Simon School of Business.

Subsequently, Alyssa took her first academic position at Cornell University, where her research branched into the areas of creativity and pedagogy; she continued her interest in visual culture, literature, politics, and activism. Today, her scholarly interests encompass the fields of visual rhetoric, cross-cultural communication, intercultural theory, and multimedia literacies.

But her true passion is teaching. She loves teaches courses to Stanford students and in her Continuing Studies courses on "Communicating with Creativity" and "Getting Started in Creative Writing." She admires her students for their enthusiasm, hard work, and risk-taking over the years, and she is grateful that so many former students keep in close touch.

In 2006, she was awarded the Phi Beta Kappa Award for outstanding teaching, and what she enjoys most is helping writers find their voices.

In her free time, Alyssa writes, reads, surfs, yogas, travels, and shares quality time with family and friends.


Check out the Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Project

Here's a Previous Course I have taught on Visual Persuasion:

This is my Continuing Studies Course -- Communicating with Creativity: Strategies for Effective Writing and Speaking

Follow this link to the Websites for Envision: