Tuesday 15 December 2015

Three, Two...

The fall 2015 semester has come to a close! That means that now is the time for editing, reflection, and getting ready for next semester. This semester was the semester of "threes," while I see next semester being the semester of "twos," which will then hopefully lead to the one thing: the dissertation!

Fall 2015

This semester, I taught three different classes. At ASU, I taught the upper division (meant for sophomores and above) courses ENG 217:
ENG 301 students working at the board.
Writing Personal Essays and ENG 301: Professional Writing. At Chandler-Gilbert Community College I taught an ENG 102: First Year Writing class that was comprised of non-traditional students. The variety in classes, schedules, and focuses was a bit challenging to balance at times, but I can really say that I had some of the best students. This is the first semester that I have not taught any 18 years olds. This happened by coincidence, but I noticed the difference in some marked ways:
  1. My students were very articulate about their needs from the very beginning of the semester. Many first time college students are not sure what they will need from a professor or a class in order to be successful, but I would say the vast majority of my students this semester approached me within the first couple weeks of the semester to tell me their learning needs or ask me very specific questions. 
  2. The students were also able to stake their ground in issues more readily and firmly, most likely because they had already had class discussions and interactions that enabled them to form opinions prior to entering my classroom. 
  3. My students this semester were less willing or ready to adapt to new styles of learning. As my teaching is heavily informed by the genre studies model, I have noticed that 18 year olds can understand and adapt readily to that style of instruction and composition. Some of my older students struggled a bit more to grasp the reasoning behind the model or the shift in thinking. 
I really like teaching 18 year olds, but I appreciated the differences in the students populations this semester. Of course, the classes were also very different, and the teaching persona that I had to enact in each class shifted as well, due to the institution, course content, and student goals.

The cover of a children's book composed
by an ENG 217 student for their
final course project.
One last note about teaching this semester is that I can really say how thankful I am to have been initially taught how to teach in a genre studies model. I really struggled with the concepts at first, but once I got on board, I can say it has revolutionized every class that I have taught and taken. Stemming from scholars like Anis Bawarshi, Mary Jo Reiff, and Elizabeth Wardle, the genre studies model states that genres are not just static categories, they are dynamic compositions that are created for a purpose and a specific audience. In the classroom, that means that I don't teach essays (except for the first assignment in my ENG 101 class), I teach white papers, professional letters, memos, advocacy proposals, blogs, memoir chapters, podcast scripts, research reports, and the list goes on and on. This makes my time teaching and grading so much more enjoyable, and it makes the students take aways from the class so much more tangible and rewarding. Here are just three student comments on genre use in the classroom from this semester:
  • ENG 102: "I'm glad that in your class you had different assignments done in different formats. I think before this class I only knew one, but now I know a few more that will help in the future." 
  • ENG 217: "I never would want to be an English teacher unless it was teaching the stuff you taught us, real life writing." 
  • ENG 301: "I really appreciated [learning] how to construct with memos and how to use genres. I am already using it in my job now when speaking with other companies or prospective employees."
This semester I also took three classes. Well, really, I took two classes and completed an internship. I took a class on how to teach professional writing from Dr. Mark Hannah, which obviously helped me teach ENG 301. I took a class on feminist and composition theory from Dr. Trish Boyd, and that helped me to prepare for my dissertation work. Finally, I completed an internship with Dr. Ellie Long that was eye opening in terms of institutional communication and opportunities. The logs from the internship as well as the final products of this work can be found under the "Internship" tab on this blog.

I also submitted three documents towards the completion of my doctoral degree this semester. In a simplification of the requirements, my Ph.D. will be completed in five steps:
  1. Course work 
  2. Two portfolio papers & a bibliography submission
  3. A comprehensive exam based on the bibliography
  4. A dissertation prospectus setting up my dissertation work
  5. Writing and defending the dissertation work. 
I plan to have steps 1, 3, and 4 completed by May, but I was able to submit step 2 at the end of last semester! The portfolios and bibliography can be tough to get approval on, but I have a wonderful committee who gave me feedback and approved my work for submission. The above elements, as well as three cross country trips, a trip to Europe, my participation at Fem/Rhet, and planning for SWES has made this semester a busy one. Glad it's done, but I had a lot of fun.

Spring 2016

In a preview for spring 2016, I see things slowing down at least a little bit and coming in set of twos instead of threes:
Abby and awesome SWES committee
members sending proposal responses and
mapping sessions. 
  • I am taking two research methods courses, both outside of the English department, but I hope that both will very helpful to me in coding and using data collected from my ENG 217 class in my dissertation. 
  • I will be teaching two hybrid courses. I have never taught hybrid courses before, so I am looking forward to that change. I will again be teaching ENG 301 at ASU and ENG 102 at CGCC. 
  • I will be attending two conferences. The first is obviously the Southwest English Symposium, which my co-chair, Abby Oakley, and I have been making good progress towards, and the second is the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in Houston, TX in April. I am presenting work with my ISU colleague, Laurenn York, which I am really looking forward to. 
  • I also plan to complete at least two, and hopefully three, of the steps towards degree completion listed above. Fingers crossed! 
Starting a week from today, I plan to take a two week break. Breaks are important, even if there is still a lingering guilty conscious saying "you should be working!" But I will break. And eat. And breathe. And laugh. My parents will be spending Christmas with us in the desert, and then I will be going to the mountains with friends for New Years. I don't think it gets much better than that.

I will conclude with a quote and a photo of, what I think, is one of the most beautiful places on earth: a small portion of the San Juan Mountains in Durango, CO, that I can't wait to visit again soon.

I opened each of my classes with this quote this semester, and then in a round table reading that concluded my ENG 217 class, a student read it again. I believe that it beautifully and honestly encapsulates the work and struggle of a Ph.D. student, as well as the hope and purpose of the work we do:

“And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know.” ~ Amy Poehler
Wishing all a truly happy and restful Christmas season and start to the new year. Cheers.

Monday 9 November 2015

Making Moments: A Reflection on the Feminism and Rhetorics 2015 Conference

Fem/Rhet 2015, hosted at ASU and co-chaired by Maureen Daly Goggin and Shirley Rose, was truly a wonderful conference. The theme of the conference was “Women’s Ways of Making,” a play on the well-known feminist discussion of women’s ways of knowing. For this blog title, I played on that theme a bit to highlight the making of moments. Moments may seem to just happen, but I think that there is a constructing of moments that is really important to recognize- especially as it pertains to conference participation.

Because Maureen and Shirley co-chaired the conference and it was held on my campus, I think that the opportunity to make moments was especially viable at this conference. I was part of the volunteer committee, and I was able to help prepare for the conference by consolidating all of the attendees email addresses into one group and compiling a list of local events for the weekend, serve as an attendant at the registration table, usher a concert, and chair for a panel session. I also helped in other areas as I could, answering questions or directing people to locations or locating the right people to get answers from. I enjoyed being on the committee, and I think that manning the registration desk on the first day was probably one of my favorite tasks. It may seem a bit menial, but I was glad to welcome people to the conference and be one of the first faces they saw while giving them a swag bag filled with awesome stuff!

I chaired a session entitled “Recipe Rhetorics: Cookbooks as Arguments” on Thursday, the second day of the conference. There were three women on the panel, and they each presented on cookbooks through a feminist lens. The presentations, as well as the discussion following the presentations, were interesting and informative. Although, I was concerned with some of the essentializing that I heard in two of the presentations in relationship to authorship identity and assumptions of agency. I recognize the complexity of analyzing historical texts that are embedded with personal and cultural meaning for the authors, readers, and analyzers of the cookbooks, but I also think that in food work it is important to not make assumptions or essentialist statements, as is true in any study within the field of rhetoric and composition, and English more generally.

Sitting at the registration desk and chairing the panel were two opportunities that I was able to glean from at the conference. Within those larger opportunities, though, I was able to make smaller moments by introducing myself to attendees at the registration table, or bring up one of my concerns to a presenter regarding the assumptions of agency of women slaves about whom the cookbook was written that she was discussing. While some moments may not have been particularly impactful for all involved, I think that that intentionality is important.

The one drawback about having the conference on my own campus was that there were still everyday responsibilities that needed attention. Since my husband was in CA attending a conference, I was in charge of the dogs and had to keep their needs in mind in deciding how many hours to be away, etc. Also, though I canceled the majority of my classes, I did still need to teach some, which split my attention between the conference and the work that needed to be done to prepare and then teach those classes. As is a common joke in academia, the work-life balance does not always seem like such a balance, but it is a reality that many of us must face.

I was able to make more moments in the following ways at Fem/Rhet:
  • I attended a session on feminist pedagogy and was surprised to hear about feminist pedagogies being used in a professional writing classroom. I am teaching my first professional writing class this semester, and I have been contemplating how to bring feminist ideals into the classroom curriculum and discussion. I was happy to hear a discussion of this work in practice, and I was able to ask the presenter a question I had at the end of the session about enacting feminist pedagogy in a professional writing class.
  • While I didn’t introduce myself to Gesa Kirsch and Jacqueline Jones Royster, I did attend a collaborative/interactive session that they led in the main ballroom. As a group, we examined texts that they are currently studying and we were able to talk amongst ourselves, but also with them about this work. It was fun to sit at a table with Jackie Royster and hear her take on this developing and important work.
  • I participated in a mentorship session with Barbara L’Eplattenier from the University of Arkansas Little Rock and presented my ideas for dissertation work to her. Her colleague Lisa Mastrangelo from Centenary College of New Jersey joined our session, and the two of them asked pointed and insightful questions about my work. It was very helpful to get feedback from two women who are interested in my work but who are not familiar with my research interests. They asked important questions about the framing of the work I am proposing to do.
  • My friend Casey helped organize a performance of the 5-time award winning Scottsdale Chorus on the Friday night of the conference. I helped her usher the attendees to the performance, and then I got to watch the concert! It was really a fun evening and a great way to think about women making in a fresh and lively way.
  • I attended a plenary talk by Angela Haas during a lunch session. She is a professor at Illinois State University, where I graduate with my MA from in 2014, however, I never got the chance to take a course with her while I was there. I was enthralled by her discussion of feminism as intertwined with cultural and geographical rhetorics. I took over a page of notes at the plenary session, and I look forward to going back over them and further exploring her sources, metaphors, and inventive discussions of feminism and rhetoric.
  • I presented my paper, “Motive to Movement: A Feminist Rhetorical Intervention Through Food Memoirs” on a panel entitled “Making Meaning in Constructed Spaces: Women in Comic Books, Food Memoirs, and Professional Writing Classrooms” with my friends and colleagues Casey Moreland and Jessica Boykin on the last day of the conference. Though we had a small audience, they were very engaged in the work and we got to talk about emerging topics related to feminism and rhetoric that I think are pretty exciting.
Feminisms and Rhetorics may be my favorite conference that I have attended to date. The people who were there, the ideas that were expressed, and the attitude of inclusivity and openness that was adopted by the majority of the attendees was energizing and inspiring. The full conference program is a good encapsulation of the variety of discussions and interests represented at this conference. Also, my colleague Stephen Hopkins put together a short video showing a variety of the moments of making that were presented at this conference, including some of the ones I mentioned above. I look forward to attending again in two years in Ohio to make more moments!

Wordle made by Allegra Smith from the compilation of conference tweets hash tagged #FemRhet2015

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Slowly but Surely

Hoping that that adage holds up for this Ph.D. journey...

This semester started out as strong as I now have a full doctoral committee! Dr. Maureen Goggin agreed to chair my doctoral work last semester. I am already so grateful for her consistent, tough, and accurate feedback and appraisal of my work and my progress. This semester Dr. Patricia Boyd and Dr. Elenore Long have also agreed to serve on my doctoral committee and offer their feedback and comments on my work, as well as serve to assess my comprehensive exams, dissertation prospectus, and dissertation defense. I have taken classes from each of them, and I have benefited greatly from their willingness to work with me and mentor me, even prior to agreeing to serve on my committee. Having my committee decided has been a weight off my chest, and I am so happy to be moving forward with these three professors.

I have been trying to consciously choose to celebrate the small victories in life lately, as the Ph.D. journey can be quite overwhelming and tedious. One small victory came in a recent "revise and resubmit" on an essay that I have been hoping to get published for quite some time. I have some work to do, but when that work requires reading more food memoirs, it doesn't seem to burdensome!

Another small victory comes in the form of a former student gaining acceptance to a study abroad internship program! This student was in both my ENG 101 and my ENG 102 classes last school year, so they repeatedly heard my mantra of: Study abroad! It will open your horizons! It will change your life! The student seemed to take that to heart, and they recently asked me to fill out a recommendation form for entry into the program. They emailed me today saying they were accepted and are "very excited for this opportunity." I'm very excited for them.

One other small victory happened at the end of one of my ENG 217 classes this semester. A student stopped me on the way out the door and said: "You are always smiling! It seems like you have really found what you are meant to do." I sincerely thanked them for the compliment and was happy to agree that I believe that teaching really is what I was truly meant to do. They said that they really love my class and they aren't "even a writer."

Affirmations like that, especially mid semester, are very encouraging. Octobers really are wonderful, but Octobers in grad school are hard. They are a middle ground that can be difficult to get through health, motivation, and energy wise. But it's October 27th, so I'm nearing the end and Feminisms & Rhetorics 2015 starts tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to this conference. It will be the first time I am attending, but I know that it will be enlightening and energizing. I will post an update soon.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

I Have A Draft

The title of this blog was the refrain of the second half of my summer of 2015. Far from bragging, though, this summer has been a true testament of how important community and support are in getting meaningful work done and feeling productive.

The first part of my summer was spent teaching for the Institute of Reading Development, a company based out of Novato, CA that employs teachers to teach reading classes to four year olds through adults all over the country. I completed a three week online training course to be prepared to teach each of the eight reading classes at the variety of levels. I taught six of the eight classes during the first five week summer session. I taught four year olds to adults, and it was quite a different experience than teaching college students! I was really excited by the books I got to teach, which included Cat in the Hat, Banner in the Sky, and one of my favorite novels ever- The Fellowship of the Ring. I read a lot of fun books and I did learn a lot about learning milestones, reading expectations in schools, and the variance between reading levels at different ages. I learned, too, that I am in the exact right career path. As much as I enjoyed my reading students, I missed working with college students. Their level of knowledge, confidence, and expectations are exactly where I enjoy teaching most and feel most useful.

I spent the second half of the summer working on three writing and research projects- two essays that I plan to use for the portfolio requirement for my Ph.D. program and an article manuscript that my ISU colleague, Laurenn York, and I have been working on for a couple years. I worked with a writing group, Casie, Jess, and Abby mainly (pictured on the left), for about four weeks before the start of the new school year, and though we were all working on different projects, the accountability, support, and resourcefulness of this group was such a help to me. The most marked difference between the first half of my summer and the second was that in the first half the work was quite markedly isolated (although, I much appreciated the support of my IRD supervisor and fellow teachers) and the second half of my summer was significantly aided by the writing group. Due to this concentrated work, I actually submitted three manuscripts to the publishers and/or to the editors to whom the work was due.

This summer was trying, tiring, inspiring, and edifying. I loved having some time off to spend with my dogs, cruise with my Dad's family in Caribbean, attend my cousin's baby shower in Albuquerque, NM, spend the 4th of July with friends in Durango, CO, and (though it coincided with the semester) attend another cousin's wedding in Italy. I'm ready, now, to jump back into the semester full force. I am teaching two classes that I have never taught before, and another class in a brand new setting; I am also taking a feminism & composition course (yay!), a teaching practicum, and completing an internship. Here we go!

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Cheers to Year One!

One year of my Ph.D. is now under my belt! I'm glad to see it gone, but I had a lot of really great opportunities and milestones in the year for which I am so thankful. Here is a look back over the past semester and a glance at what is to come this summer and next school year.


My teaching was a big focus of my school year. In my everyday plans I have found that I spend about two weeks focusing hard core on teaching- lesson planning, research, grading, etc. while keeping up with my course work. Then, I have to switch and spend the next two weeks or so with intense focus on my course work- reading, researching, writing, etc. while keeping up with my teaching responsibilities.

If you ever wanted to see more of my work inside of the classroom, then the VITA videos that I have mentioned in the last two blogs are a great way to do so! I will post the links to all three videos here, as well as a final project that served as the culmination for a lot of the work I discussed in the second video.

VITA Video One
VITA Video Two
VITA Video Three

Multimodal Assessment Culmination Report 

This pedagogical work paired well with my own scholarly research as I looked at course design through the lenses of composition theory and professional and technical writing theory in two of my classes. In my third course, I wrote a seminar paper focused on social justice issues in my hometown of Madison, WI and constructed an argument for the power of memoir writing by black women to help combat some of the racist and sexist ideologies that are present in the city. I am excited to see the future of this work because I believe it could have a positive impact in a place that I hold very dear.

My second semester started with conference activity at SWPACA and SWES (as discussed in my last post) and ended with a trip to Menomonie, WI for the annual Computers & Writing Conference. This was my first time attending C&W and I found it to be an extremely friendly, helpful, and informative conference. It was an exciting opportunity to gather with these scholars who are passionate about the future of technology in the field of rhetoric and composition.

I presented on an ongoing project at the Graduate Research Network (my abstract found on page 5). The feedback and suggestions were so helpful, as was the afternoon session of the network focused on job preparation, interviewing, and negotiation. The conversations in both parts of the network were so informative and will have an impact on my future decisions. This conference in (chilly) Wisconsin was a great way to wrap up my first year and second semester.


This summer I will be teaching for the Institute of Reading Development. I will teach two five week sessions with ten reading classes in each session. I will teach ages four through adults in these classes. I am really looking forward to engaging with some of the middle school through adult students specifically as we will be reading some really fascinating literature and nonfiction (my speciality). If you want to know more about the institute or the specific programs I will teaching, check out my CV for the full list, or the site for more information.

This summer I will also, of course, be working on my own projects for submission to journals, edited collections, and as the portfolio paper component of my degree requirements. I hope to have completed these papers by the time the new semester starts... if I don't melt in the desert heat first. If only someone would have told me that it is hot here before I moved ;)


I think that one of the highlights of the fall 2015 semester will be attending and presenting at the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference held at ASU! The preliminary schedule is stacked full of amazing speakers in the field talking about really important issues. Just based on what I have read and heard so far, I think this conference may be my favorite conference of the year.

I am also very excited about the teaching opportunities that I have in the fall. I am scheduled to teach ENG 217: Writing Reflective Essays and ENG 301: Writing for the Professions, as well as the possibility of some community college work. I am looking forward to every teaching class but specifically to ENG 217, as I hope to base dissertation work on the texts and activities that my students produce and participate in in the class. The flyers for these two classes are linked here:

ENG 217
ENG 301

Looking forward even further to spring 2016, my co-chair, Abigail Oakley, and I are already planning and brainstorming and cementing details for SWES 2016. Excited to have scholars converge in Tempe for Fem/Rhet and SWES next year!

Here's to what the summer and year two of my Ph.D. will bring!

Sunday 15 February 2015

The second semester is heating up

... quite literally! January in the desert is probably the most beautiful weather that anyone could ever ask for. Warm and sunny during the day, cool and dry at night. That weather made the transition to a new semester a bit easier. Now mid-February is starting to bring some mid-70s to 80s days!

Visiting the Sedona Desert

This semester I am taking three classes, plus a one credit practicum, and teaching two ENG 102 classes. I am pretty busy, but I am enjoying the work I am doing. Here are a few highlights:

Last semester I interviewed Dr. Jacqueline Wernimont, who is a new faculty member at ASU. I enjoyed sitting down and talking with her, and then the interview was published in Accents on English fall 2014/winter 2015 department newsletter. Read the interview to see what we talked about!

As I talked about before, I was featured in a series of video vignettes for Visualizing Teaching in Action. Steven Hopkins completed the second video vignette earlier this semester. I am especially excited about the subject matter of this video because assessing multimodal work is something that is difficult but very important. I am excited to see where this work will go.

I attended two conferences this semester: I served as a volunteer and panel chair at the Southwest English Symposium (SWES) hosted here at ASU, and I just returned from presenting at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

SWES was a busy weekend, but I really enjoyed working the registration desk, hearing Dr. James Gee talk about the future of the university (although it wasn't a bright picture!), participating in the attendee banquet, and chairing a popular culture pedagogy panel. I am also very much looking forward to next year's SWES conference. The call for papers is asking presenters to think about objects and commodities. Please check out our website to find more/ updated information for SWES 2016!

The entryway to SWES 2015

SWPACA was a fun, busy weekend in Albuquerque. I heard there were about 800 people in attendance, and there were lots of great panels to choose from to attend. One of my favorite panels that I attended was focused on teaching with a food theme in composition classrooms. The presenters gave a lot of great ideas, and then the conversation after the presentations was enlightening and inspiring.

I presented on a panel called "Food and Culture: From Fried Dough to Chili Queens" and I gave a presentation entitled "Identity, Culture, and Border Crossing: The Language of Baklava & Popular Literacy." Check out the presentation abstract or feel free to ask if you would like more information about this presentation! I was awarded the 2015 Heldrich-Dvorak Travel Fellowship based on this abstract, which was very appreciated and exciting. It was a great weekend in Albuquerque, and I'm ready to jump back into teaching and attending my own classes.

The Heldrich-Dvork Travel Fellowship Award