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Todd Robert Petersen - Southern Utah University. Cedar City, UT, US

Todd Robert Petersen

Professor of English | Southern Utah University


Specializing in formal structures of visual storytelling, creative writing, film theory, and aesthetics


Dr. Todd Petersen has worked as a YMCA assistant program director, literary journal editor, and English professor. Currently, he teaches creative writing and film studies courses for the English Department at Southern Utah University. He is also a member of the Author’s Guild.

Dr. Petersen’s research focuses on screen aesthetics, visual narrative theory, heist and superhero films, as well as film adaptation. He has published a book of short stories and three novels. His fourth work of fiction, “Picnic in the Ruins,” was released in early 2021. Library Journal calls it "An edgy black comedy examining crucial issues of appropriation and antiquities theft in America."

Petersen has a bachelor of arts degree in telecommunications and film from University of Oregon, a master’s degree in English from Northern Arizona University, and a Ph.D. in English with emphasis in fictional rhetoric and critical theory from Oklahoma State University.





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Experiential Learning Award for the SUU EDGE Program loading image project based learning director loading image Todd Peterson loading image  Commencement 2021 loading image



Industry Expertise (3)



Writing and Editing

Areas of Expertise (15)

Traditional and Contemporary Models of Successful Writing

Creative Writing Techniques

Coming-of-Age Storytelling

Project-Based Learning in HIgher Education

Project Management

Fictional Rhetoric

Film Adaptation

Experiential Education

Visual Narrative Theory

Creative Writing


Project Based Learning

Creative Writing in Higher Education

Religious and Inspiration Fiction

Formal Structures of Visual Storytelling

Education (3)

University of Oregon: B.A., Telecommunications & Film

Northern Arizona University: M.A., English

Oklahoma State University: Ph.D., English

Accomplishments (13)

Storytelling for Influence Certification


Experiential Education Academy Certification

National Society of Experiential Education, 2016

Experiential Education Program of the Year

National Society of Experiential Education, 2016

Award of Excellence

SUU Board of Trustee's, 2015

Change Leader Certification

Utah Division of Art and Museums, 2014

Book Published: Rift

Jens Thorsen's retirement is not what his wife, Lila, was expecting. Rather than tending to things around the house, Thorsen has thrown himself into a life of charity: visiting the sick, the widowed, and the incarcerated. Between these acts of service, Thorsen finds the time to nurse his feud with local bishop Darrell Bunker. The two have hated each other for as long as anyone in Sanpete, Utah, can remember. Zarahemla Books, 2009.

Novel of the Year

Marilyn Brown Unpublished Novel Award, 2009

Outstanding Scholar

Southern Utah University, 2008

Book Published: Long After Dark

A man struggles--literally--with his dead father. A housewife suffers from post-calling depression. The son of a polygamist comes to terms with the damage done by his upbringing. An unwed teen mother faces down her father. In these award-winning stories and a new novella, Todd Robert Petersen takes the reader on expeditions to Utah, Arizona, Brazil, Rwanda, and into the souls of twenty-first-century Mormons caught between their humanity, faith, and church. Zarahemla Books, 2007.

Artys Award

Salt Lake Weekly, 2007

Distinguished Educator

Southern Utah University, 2007

Fiction Award

Oregon State University, 2001

AWP Intro Award

Association of Writers & Writing Program, 1998

Affiliations (3)

  • National Society of Experiential Education
  • Author's Guild
  • Nat Sobel at Sobel/Weber

Media Appearances (10)

Episode 292: New Releases and More for January 5, 2021

Book Riot  online


This week, Liberty and Danika discuss Outlawed, The Heiress, Black Buck, and more great books. Petersen's book is discussed at 14:27.

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How national parks, cultural artifacts and the wilds of the West inspired a crime romp

The Orange County Register  online


“I wanted to try something I hadn’t seen before, but more than anything I just wanted people to read a crime novel they can have fun with,” says Todd Robert Petersen, referring to his new book, “Picnic in the Ruins” out now from Counterpoint Press.

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10 New Books Coming Out This Week

Crime Reads  online


“Petersen’s tightly written mystery plays out over the vast, unforgiving terrain on the Utah-Arizona border with a lineup of unforgettable characters.”

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This is a list for everyone who said their resolution was to read more.

Lit Hub  online


“A fast-paced, highly entertaining hybrid of Tony Hillerman and Edward Abbey.”

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SUU Professor Publishes New Novel

SUU News  online


Dr. Todd Petersen, a professor of English and the director of Southern Utah University’s project-based learning program, recently published his third novel, It Needs to Look Like We Tried. The novel explores the ways in which our failures work on the lives of others, weaving an intricate web of interconnected stories.

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English professor Todd Petersen publishes 3rd novel

St George News  online


Todd Petersen, an English professor at Southern Utah University, recently published his third novel, “It Needs to Look Like We Tried,” which explores the ways in which our failures work on the lives of others, weaving an intricate web of interconnected stories.

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SUU has the EDGE

USA Today  online


In the EDGE program, the sky’s the limit and the options are as boundless as students’ imaginations. SUU is garnering more and more positive attention for the EDGE program, with other universities looking to imitate the university’s success, ever more in need of that kind of dedication. That’s a credit, as well, to the leadership of SUU professors Todd Petersen and Patrick Clark, who administer the program.

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The cutting Edge: Innovations at SUU gaining notice

Deseret News  online


Edge is one of SUU's goals to bring students to the school, give them an innovative and comprehensive education, and build up the school's graduation rates, Wyatt said. For the educators who guide the program day-to-day, SUU hopes to steer students beyond memorization and lecture-based learning into deliberate and practical self-discovery, developing skills and curiosity that will benefit them throughout their lives.

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Professors Work Toward More Inviting Office Hours

Southern Utah University  online


Todd Petersen, co-founder of the idea and current EDGE director, said that he and other staff wanted to use one of their required office hours spent in the Rotunda, located within the Sharwan Smith Student Center, because they believed that more interaction would happen between students and staff in a commons area.

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A Novel Professor: Todd Petersen's Latest Work hits Store Shelves

Southern Utah University  online


SUU Professor Todd Robert Petersen closed a nine-year chapter of his life recently when his second novel, Rift, was added to store bookshelves. Petersen, associate professor of English, says he is happy to finally see his hard work in print. And considering that his latest novel has already won the Marilyn Brown Unpublished Novel award in 2008, and with positive reviews from state and local media, Petersen’s efforts seem well worth his labors.

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Research Grants (1)

Centennial Initiatives Grant

National Park Service $68,000


Courses (10)

ENGL 2020 Introduction to Creative Writing

A process based approach to understanding the craft, tools, and techniques that inform successful Creative Writing. Students will read traditional and contemporary models of successful writing, compose works of their own, and participate in peer workshops that allow comment and feedback.

ENGL 2023 Screen Aesthetics

An introduction to the study of the formal structures of visual storytelling, an exploration of the various media used to tell these stories, and a guide to the major modes of screen analysis and criticism.

ENGL 3030 Intermediate Fiction Writing

A creative writing workshop focused on the forms of short fiction. Reading in the tradition and in matters of craft is central to this course.

ENGL 4020 Advanced Fiction Writing

An advanced course in long-form fiction projects. Students complete 50+ pages of either a novel or novella. Extensive close reading and analysis of touchstone works are required.

EDGE 3020 Creativity Project Proposal and Planning

An on-line eight-week workshop that guides students through the process of creating an EDGE Project proposal and plan tuned specifically to the Creativity Engagement Center.

EDGE 4020 Creativity Project Reporting and Reflection

An on-line eight-week course that guides students through the process of verifying, reporting, and reflecting on their EDGE Project, which is tuned specifically to the Creativity Engagement Center. Students will create a portfolio featuring their project and complete a professional development module prepared by SUU’s Career and Professional Development staff.

HONR 1040 Honors Foundations

Students will be introduced to and explore the fundamental skill-sets required to succeed as students at Southern Utah University and in the SUU Honors Program by developing an understanding of the complete student experience at college and the interdisciplinary nature of an Honors education. The class will emphasize seminar-style discussions and teamwork, develop students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills, and explore issues related to holistic student heath and well being.

ENGL 1523 - Storytelling

A formal exploration and analysis of the fundamental structures of stories and the elements of storytelling. Students also explore the impact of storytelling on culture and history across a variety of media. Students create and share original stories in a variety of modes and mediums. Central to the course is the study of the history and function of storytelling across Western and non-Western cultures.

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ENGL 3023 - Film Theory

A survey of the major theoretical lenses and methodological approaches used in the academic criticism and scholarship of film, television, and other streaming media.

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ENGL 4150 - Topics in Cinema

An in-depth seminar in a special topic in cinema, film, or screen studies. Topics may include a cinematic genre, a major director, or a related theme, topic, or period.

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