Experience and Interests
- Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor of English, UWSP (1990-2020)
- Courses included: Literature and Ecology, Introduction to and Advanced Environmental and Science Writing, Science Literature, Biomedical Writing
- SSTS: Semiotics, General Systems Theory & Sustainability
- Qualitative, hypothesis/idea-driven research within a semiotic and a General System Theory framework.
- Environmental & Sustainability Education for the following: K-12, college and university, general public, & the corporate boardroom (the latter being the focus of my Mitchell Prize co-authored essay–see below).
- Cognitive semiotics, Semiotics of Sustainability (SOS), Biosemiotic Literary Criticism, Marketing & Branding Semiotics, Forensic Semiotics, “Trendinc” (Semiotics of Investment)
- System Fellow, Center for 21st Century Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2010-2011)
- Coordinator and Co-coordinator of the Environmental Studies minor at UWSP (1995-2020)
- President, Semiotic Society of America (October 2009-October 2010)
- Vice President, Semiotic Society of America (October 2008-October 2009)
- Member, Editorial Board, The American Journal of Semiotics (Fall 2012-present)
- Winner of a Mitchell Prize (an international sustainability-essay award). I co-authored (with Dr. Edward T. Clark, of the Institute for Environmental Awareness, George Williams College) one of eight $5,000 second place Mitchell-Prize-winning essays. (The Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich’s essay won first prize that year.)
- Peer-Reviewer for the following academic journals:
- The American Journal of Semiotics
- ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment
- Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies
Presentations and Publications
- “Coletta, W. John (2021). [Book] Biosemiotic Literary Criticism: Genesis and Prospectus. London/Berlin: Springer International Publishing (Volume 24 in Biosemiotics Series). 271 pgs. ISBN: 978-3-030-72494-8. https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783030724948. [This book contains theoretical frameworks (models and tools) for applying semiotics and Modeling Systems Theory in the context of researching, studying, and teaching about sustainability and semioethics.]
Last book you read?
The Overstory, published in 2018 by Richard Powers, the best environmental- / sustainability-education novel ever written! (It did win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2019.)
Best advice you ever received?
My dad telling me that for success one needs a “diversity of preparation.” While training in-depth in one field is very valuable, one should also be sure to add to one’s disciplinary expertise complementary, diverse disciplinary perspectives and training. The reason that I was able to help invent the field of “biosemiotic literary criticism” in the field of English literature study is because, in addition to a Ph.D. in English, I had two earlier degrees in Environmental Eduction Administration (an M.S.) and Recreation Education Administration (a B.S), with an emphasis in outdoor education. When I would read literature as I worked on my Ph.D. in English, I would read it from the point of view of an environmental educator, which is to say from the point of view of someone who could not only appreciate lovely images of nature in poetry and novels but who could also judge the ecological integrity of those images and the extent to which different writers in different places and time periods actually used those images to represent and anticipate ecological ideas–even before those ideas were, in some cases, codified by the science community.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
“Union differentiates,” wrote Pierre Theilhard de Chardin. The meaning is that, counter-intuitively, as systems become more integrated, they become more diverse!
One thing about your department that you are most proud of?
We seek always to empower every student!
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Learning from the students!
A piece of advice to students pursuing education in your department
I’d have to echo what my dad told me and what I share in depth in question bove: prefer a “diversity of preparation.”