Wednesday 14 December 2016

Cultural Rhetorics & Concluding the Semester

This semester has seemed to go by more quickly than any of my previous semesters in graduate school. I'm sure that that is due to a variety of factors, including my teaching schedule, not taking any classes (hallelujah!), dissertation deadlines, but perhaps mostly to the fact that I didn't actually want it to go by as quickly. I will discuss these components of the semester a bit more, but I want to begin by posting a delayed update about the 2016 Cultural Rhetorics Conference that I attended and presented at on October 1st and 2nd, 2016.

The conference was held at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. I had not spent time in Michigan for several years, so it was nice to go back. The campus was lovely, and the leaves were changing all around the city. A good friend from my MA program, Lisa, lives close to MSU, so my friend Jessica and I stayed with her. I also got to visit with friends and colleagues from both my MA and Ph.D. programs at the conference. The conference in general was welcoming, engaging, and invigorating to my studies. I was only able to attend one panel on food studies, but it was probably the highlight of my conference experience. I listened to three presenters tell food stories that involved family, history, and culture. The discussion following the presentations was just as engaging with audience members also sharing food stories, swapping experiences, and asking to hear more about food traditions. In the session I posed a question to the group that I have been wrestling with since. The question is: what is a food pedagogy? I taught a food memoir in the course that I am writing my dissertation on, but I taught the class using a feminist pedagogy. I am very interested to specifically explore food pedagogy in the future.

My panel was on the last day of the conference in the second to last time slot, but the presenters were very engaging and the audience members were interested and asked insightful questions. The panel topic was online communication. I discussed the internship that I completed with Ellie Long, and I talked about how I researched, composed, and then defended the genre of a listicle on Buzzfeed. My co-presenters talked about online advice columns, audio books, and Amazon commenters. As this is panel topic was not focused on my specific area of study, I learned a lot about how and why people study online communication and the various stakeholders that are represented in this research. I very much enjoyed my time at Cultural Rhetorics, and I look forward to attending again next time that it is held. 

My semester otherwise has gone well, but as I mentioned, it has gone by very, very quickly. In November, my husband and I took a short trip to Arizona, and I met with my chair, Maureen Goggin, and my committee member, Trish Boyd. They both gave me constructive, helpful feedback on my dissertation thus far. The most encouraging but also most terrifying development was that Maureen said that I should have my dissertation ready to defend by May. This was encouraging, as I was glad to know that I was on the right track with my writing and revisions, but it was also very scary because May is not very many months away. It is amazing to me how quickly the days can go by and how little can get done in that time. I currently have three chapters of my dissertation drafted, two chapters revised, and one chapter in the beginning stages of a draft. My most pressing concern right now is fully analyzing the data that I collected from my student work and composing a chapter based on those findings. That will be my primary task in the upcoming month. It was lovely, though, to go back to the desert. I had missed, and still do miss, the sun, the mountains, the friends, the food, and the supportive academic community there. I'm glad to know that I can go back when I need to. 

And, as usual, the other main component of my semester was teaching my classes. I taught two sections of ENG 301: Writing for the Professions for ASU, and I taught one section of Written Communications for Madison College. I have finished teaching all three classes, and I can say that I enjoyed and learned from each experience. I had never taught online before this semester, and I found the key to successful online teaching is organization. I needed to stay at least one, if not two, weeks ahead of my students at all times in order for us all to feel comfortable. This set me up well, then, to teach the course at Madison College because I was teaching a simplified version of my 301 curriculum, and the Madison College schedule was set about two weeks behind ASU. I found the range of student experiences, opinions, and goals that I encountered this semester to push me to develop more concrete pedagogical deliverables, and I enjoyed this challenge and believe it was beneficial for all involved. I will teach ENG 301 for ASU online again in the spring, and I am glad to have this first semester of online teaching under my belt. 

Though it is very, very cold here right now, I have been enjoying the transition back to the midwest. I have been practicing yoga daily, settling into our new home, working in an online writing group with my wonderful ASU friend Casie, and spending time with family and old and new friends. I am looking forward to a trip to South America over the new year, and then (with a significant amount of trepidation) to the spring 2017 semester. I wish you all a blessed and happy holiday season! 

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