Monday 18 December 2017

An Instagram Story

I received this email from a student in my English 1 class after the end of the semester. So kind! 

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Conference, Conference, Class

This semester seemed to fly past. It feels like yesterday that I was writing my example blog post for my students, "Three Pieces of My Puzzle," and publishing it here. All in all, it was actually a great semester. I was able to work with about 60 pretty awesome students, attend two really inspiring conferences, and even apply myself pretty fully to the job market. Being on the market is almost a full time job in and of itself, and I plan to write a full blog entry detailing my experience in the spring. In this blog entry, I want to talk about the two fall conferences that I attended (one academic and one non) and review my experience teaching three sections of English 1 at Madison College.

Feminisms & Rhetorics 2017

In October of this year, I traveled to Dayton, OH to present at the 11th Biennial Feminisms & Rhetorics conference. I stayed and presented with my awesome writing group, Casie Moreland and Jessica Boykin. The conference was hosted at the University of Dayton from October 4th to 7th. I was there from October 3rd to 6th and then flew home early to attend the other conference.

Like my time at Fem/Rhet in Tempe in 2015, I thoroughly enjoyed this conference. Casie, Jess, and I presented early in the conference at 1:45PM on Wednesday, Oct. 4th, the first official day presentations. We had three attendees at our panel, and after we each presented our material, we had a good conversation with those who attended about our work and future research possibilities. Our panel was called What is Past is Prologue: Women's Contributions to Rhetorics of Social Justice. On this panel, my presentation was called "'We Remain a Complex People:' Accounting for Feminist Rhetorical Practices in a Black Feminist Food Memoir." I discussed Ntozake Shange's 1998 food memoir If I Can Cook/ You Know God Can. I discussed the power of the intricacies of Shange's work, and I talked about how her work contributes to a larger group of African-American women fighting for social justice.

At the conference, I attended several other panels, including the keynote by poet Claudia Rankine. I saw friends and colleagues from Arizona State and Illinois State, as well as other conference friends. It's always a treat to reconnect with those people at conferences across the country. Casie, Jess, and I also explored Dayton a bit in our free time. I can't say it's my favorite city, but we enjoyed our time together writing, talking, and presenting. Always glad to spend time with these special friends.

Bloom Women's Retreat: A Story Unwritten

I left Feminisms & Rhetorics slightly early because I was expected back in Wisconsin for Ridgeway Church's annual Bloom women's retreat. The retreat actually ran from October 5th to 7th, but I was able to be there from the 6th to 7th. I heard the Friday evening keynote speaker Cheri Milton, and I stayed through the Saturday morning session to hear Bethany Peterson speak and then helped clean up. What I saw of the retreat and what I heard from others about it before I got there was so exciting. As part of the leadership team, I helped to plan the Friday afternoon breakout session where we asked women to share parts of their stories with each other. We had leaders positioned at every table to facilitate the conversations, and in our debrief following the retreat the team said that the women responded readily and openly in the sessions, which was so exciting to hear.

The retreat took place at Chula Vista Resort in the WI Dells, and it was cozy setting for our meetings and rooms. Even though I was only able to be part of the retreat for less than 24 hours, I knew all the work that went into the planning with my fellow leadership team members Debbie, Brittany, Bethany, Brianna, Martha, and Melissa, and I was glad to see the retreat was such a success. It was worth skipping out on the last part of Fem/Rhet, a delayed flight, running through O'Hare airport to get my connection, lost luggage, a drive through the rain, and an almost sleepless night to be there! We are already gearing up and planning for next year's retreat!

English 1 Classes

Other than that action packed week of conferencing in October, I have also been able to travel to Indiana couple times this semester and spent some time in Chicago and other parts of Illinois. Otherwise, I have been in Madison teaching my classes and job marketing. I hadn't taught the equivalent of an English 1 course since teaching at English 101 in the fall 2014 semester at Arizona State. I totally revamped the class from when I taught it at ASU, which was definitely beneficial but created extra work for me because I didn't have any previous examples of the projects to show my students. We started the semester with a fairly basic summary essay, so I wrote the example project "Surfer Girls and Sunset Memories" for my students to use as a model for the project. The next project was the rhetorical analysis blog project, which I posted here under "Three Pieces of My Puzzle." We then spent the second half of the semester focusing on the final project, which was an opinion editorial. The editorials were focused around a specific food documentary that I asked the students to watch as a group. I created an editorial called "My Dreams of Sushi" based on the 2011 food documentary Jiro Dreams of SushiOther than the final editorial, my students also composed annotated bibliographies (documents citing and discussing sources) and a group presentation.

From the end of the course survey, I was able to gauge my students' reactions to these three major projects, as well as the other various components of the course. Of the 53 students who filled out the survey, 23% said they liked the summary essay the best, 45% said they liked the rhetorical blog the best, and 32% said they liked the opinion editorial the best. I started the semester with 75 students, and I ended the semester with 61 students. At a community college, this is a pretty good retention rate, and I'm glad that over 80% of my students were able to stick with the course.

I ended the semester by asking each student to bring in a quote, lyric, or saying that they liked to our last class. I told them it was a chance to get some easy points as well as an opportunity to leave the course on an inspiring note. I was happily surprised by the range of readings my students brought and how they seemed to actually enjoy the activity. They brought in quotes from Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Einstein, Forrest Gump, Chance the Rapper, the Dalai Lama, Picasso, Bernie Sanders, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Will Smith, Calvin and Hobbes, J.F.K., and three ladies read excerpts of Maya Angelou poems.

For my reading, I chose one of my all time favorite quotes. It is a conversation between Sam and Frodo, characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy series The Lord of the Rings. This conversation takes place as Sam and Frodo journey with the creature Smeagol/ Gollum in the middle of the three books, The Two Towers. In the book, this conversation takes place on pages 362-364, but I like the movie quote (included right) even better because it's a bit more succinct and ends with such a powerful message. I told my students if they remember nothing else from the semester that I hope they remember that "there's some good in this world... and it's worth fighting for."

I need to finish grading 25 final projects, 60 reflection letters, and submit the final grades in Blackboard, but this semester is almost all wrapped up! I plan to send the following graphic with my final email to my students, and I will leave it here as a conclusion as well.

I wish you joy and peace in this holiday season.

Monday 25 September 2017

Three Pieces of My Puzzle

Like a puzzle, individual people are made up of lots of different pieces. Some pieces fit well together and some pieces stand out, like the valued corner pieces. Three pieces that make up parts of my overall life puzzle have the common element of empowered women. I like to spend my time researching, reading about, and trying to emulate the examples of strong women that I see in my life. In this blog entry, I discuss an empowering a song, a memoir, and a yoga video, and then I rhetorically analyze those elements through the lenses of ethos, pathos, and kairos respectively.


Single Cover
The 2015 Andra Day song "Rise Up" on her album Cheers to the Fall has been a favorite of mine lately. The song has been an inspiring song in our national landscape. The song was used in a Serena Williams video, and Day sang the song at the White House, and she sang the song with Nick Jonas at the live benefit concert hosted on A&E Networks called Shine a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America. The official music video for the song was directed by M. Night Shyamalan and depicts the relationship between a young woman caring for her partner who was injured in the line of duty. As Day sings the lyrics, "I'll rise unafraid/ I'll rise up/ I'll do it a thousand times again" the video depicts a beautiful story of love, commitment, and strength.

This song has meant a lot to me in this period of my life, but I especially like it because it is reminiscent of the powerful poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou, a well-known, influential, feminist poet. In the last stanza of her poem Angelou says, "leaving behind nights of terror and fear/ I rise/ into a daybreak that's wonderfully clear/ I rise." Though I cannot find proof of intentional similarities, Day's repeated lyrics of "rise up" speak to the same power of women rising above dark histories and difficult situations.

The rhetorical element that I see being especially pertinent to this material element is ethos. According to our course definition, ethos "is a means of convincing someone of the character or credibility of the persuader." Ethos plays an interesting role in my analysis of this song, though, part of the ethos that I am attributing to the lyrics is not officially documented. I really like this song for what it is-- a powerful anthem about the ability to rise above difficult circumstances. I do believe that this song at least draws on ideas represented in Angelou's poem. I personally attribute ethos to this song that is undocumented, yet it still influences my reception of this song in a very positive way. In addition, the moral character that Andra Day displays in her performances of this song contributes a strong ethos for any outside viewer. As mentioned, she sang this song in the White House for an event hosted by Michelle Obama, as well as for the benefit concert. Her public persona is obviously strong and kind, and the words of the song reflect that ethos.


Memoir Cover
In 2008 author Diana Abu-Jaber published her first memoir, A Language of Baklava. Prior to publishing this memoir, Abu-Jaber was a fiction writer. Her published novels were highly acclaimed, but her memoir was her most personal and revealing work. This memoir is food memoir, which means that the nonfiction narratives are focused around food experiences. This includes stories about food, as well as recipes for the food she discusses. In the introduction to her memoir, Abu-Jaber writes, "each of us has the right to tell our stories, to be truthful to our own memories, no matter how flawed, private, embellished, idiosyncratic, or improved they may" (1). Basically, she is saying that her memoir is true to her, memory, which may or may not be entirely accurate to the actual events that she lived.

The food experiences that Abu-Jaber discusses in her memoir reminded me very much of food experiences that I have had in my life. Abu-Jaber's mother is American, but her father is from Jordan. Likewise, my mother comes from primarily American dissent while my father is half Lebanese and half Spanish. The food that I grew up eating with my dad's family were considered weird by some friends. We ate hummus, pita, and baklava at almost every family event. At the fancier events we would eat lamb skewers, rolled grape leaves, and kibbeh. I always knew those foods were a little different, but it wasn't until I read Abu-Jaber's memoir that I read about family and food stories like my own. On top of that shared food experience, I really appreciate Abu-Jaber's narrative voice and empowering messages for women. In a family where her dad expected her and sisters to only marry and have babies, Abu-Jaber pushed against these expectations and forged a unique path.

The rhetorical element that I am using to better understand my relationship with this text is pathos. The first time that I read this memoir I had a very emotional reaction. I laughed and cried reading stories that sounded so much like my own. Pathos is an "appeal to emotion" and this memoir appealed to my emotions in particular because I could relate to the experiences of the author. In addition, Abu-Jaber's narrative style is very inviting and easy to read. The recipes that she includes look very tantalizing and invite the reader into the text, literally, if they choose to try the recipes. The emotional range that Abu-Jaber displays in this text reflects the many ways that a variety of readers could find something valuable and tasty in this memoir.


Video Cover
I love to practice yoga. I started practicing close to five years ago now, and while I have taken classes at yoga studios I most often practice yoga at home because it's cheaper and easier to fit into my schedule. When I first started to practice yoga I followed random YouTube channels to find good yoga classes. During that search, I found Bad Yogi. Bad Yogi is a yoga program developed by Erin Motz. Her overall philosophy is to "redefine yoga culture" by removing "the snobbery, pretense, and endless 'prerequisites'" ("The Bad Yogi Story") that are often ascribed to the yoga community. Motz runs the business out of her home, and she has a great sixteen week yoga program called Perfect Body Yoga Program (though she stresses it is about having the perfect version of whatever body you have), and she often sends free classes to her email chain.

On June 19, 2017 Motz put out a free class called the "Wonder Woman Yoga Workout." I had just seen the movie Wonder Woman the weekend before, so I was excited to see this class title in my inbox. I did the class in my home office and realized I loved even more than I thought I would. All of Motz's classes are empowering and effective, but this class was special. In the video, Motz says that she loves all the "powerful, girl power energy" around the movie, and this class really channels that energy well. The class is only about 10 minutes long, so it isn't a super intense class, but the moves are all strong and intentional. I've done this class probably twenty times since she published it, and I think it's my favorite class that she's ever put out.

The rhetorical element through which I view this Wonder Woman class is kairos. Kairos is all about putting out the "right thing at the right time," and I think the timing of this class being put out is a huge part of what makes it so enjoyable. For me personally, I had become very familiar with Motz's teaching style and the typical moves that she includes in the yoga flows. This class was refreshing because it was different. Even if many of the poses were the same, she put a new twist on them in accordance to the theme. More generally, though, this class came out at the same time that the movie came out, which made it very fitting and very easy to understand. Also, it came out at a time in our American culture where some women felt defeated or undervalued, and this flow reminds women of their power and their strength. The timing of the flow had a lot to do with my love of it.

These three puzzle pieces-- the song, memoir, and video-- are just a few of many material elements that I could have chosen to represent and in discuss in relation to the rhetorical appeals. I recognize that each element contains representations of multiple appeals, however, I have focused on ethos, pathos, and kairos in relation to the three because those are the appeals that I see as being most effective in my view of the material elements.

Works Cited

Abu-Jaber, Diana. The Language of Baklava. Pantheon, 2008.

Angelou, Maya. "Still I Rise." The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, 1978,

Day, Andra. "Rise Up." Cheers to the Fall, 2015.

Motz, Erin. "10 Minute Wonder Woman Yoga Workout." Bad Yogi, 19 June 2017,

Motz, Erin. "The Bad Yogi Story." Bad Yogi,

Friday 25 August 2017

Instructor Introduction

Welcome to Class!

I am Dr. Bruce, and I will be your instructor this semester. I really love to teach, and I hope this semester will be informative and productive for you. I also hope that we all get to know each other. To begin, here are four things that I love:

Durango, Colorado

Oxford, England


Writing Quill Tattoo

Typical Workspace




Gluten Free Cinnamon Cake

Upward Facing Dog

Thursday 3 August 2017

Written Communications Wrap!

Presentation of the Proposal Project 
As of today, I have finished teaching the ten week Written Communications course at Madison College. Today was a wrap for this individual course, but it is also a wrap on my teaching of professional writing streak! Since I started teaching professional writing in the fall of 2015, I have taught at least one section of it every semester. This upcoming fall, however, I will be teaching three sections of English 1 at Madison College. I am looking forward to the change of pace, focus, and student intent, but I will miss my professional writing course work and students, as I've enjoyed teaching this course for the past couple years.

This summer's Written Communication course was a very
unique teaching experience. The course
Student & Audience Job Skills Discussion
was capped at 15 students, so I knew it wouldn't be a large class, but I was even more surprised when there were only eight students enrolled prior to the class starting. And then on the first day, only five students showed up. This third of the cap was a great starting place for this class. Over the weeks, though, two students left in order to pursue options that were better for them, so the final three students and I finished out the last half of the semester. These students were all adults, and that leant a great community feel to the course. These students also spent seven hours a day five days a week together for ten weeks. This intensive time spent together obviously caused a unique and close group dynamic. As a class, we worked through three major projects. The first project was the Employment Project that asked the students to write a resume and cover letter. Then we moved to the Report Project which focused on writing a professional report and an email. The third project was the Proposal Project, and this project asked the students to write a professional proposal as a group and individual memos. The project foci were meant to build on each other while also exposing the students to a variety of professional genres.

Title Page of the Proposal Presentation
After a course survey, there were mixed reviews on the final project of the course, the Proposal Project. This project was one student's least favorite project, another student's midrange preference, and another student's favorite project. The Proposal Project is my favorite project of this course sequence. I like it best for a variety of reasons. One reason is because it is the final project of the course, so it asks students to practice the most advanced skills. I also like that it asks students to present a final, polished product. Students think differently about projects when they know from the beginning that they will be presenting their composition. Finally, I like that this project is a group project. That does bring its share of challenges, but it also makes students negotiate, communicate, and problem solve at a higher level.

The Proposal Project in this summer class was extra
fun because I asked friends to come in to
Professional Guest Audience
watch the presentation and offer suggestions to the students both about the presentation as well as the job search in general. Originally I thought of inviting these individuals because I realized that in a class of three students there would be no audience (other than myself) for the final presentation. I felt that that would be an anticlimactic end to the project and not as beneficial to the students, as they would have no outside feedback. Asking the professional audience to come in, though, ended up being far more beneficial than just having an audience for the presentation. The audience did watch the presentation, but then they offered suggestions about both the formatting and content of the presentation. After that, we all sat in a circle for about 45 minutes and the students asked questions about interviews, job searches, and applicable professional skills, and the audience offered suggestions and advice in response to those questions. Reflecting on this course, one student said: "most of all, I enjoyed the guests that came in. Their feedback, suggestions, and comments were really inspiring. They all had great suggestions for moving forward in the working world, which is why I signed up for this academy." Having the guest audience in the class did seem to be helpful and beneficial to the students. The students' presentation on their hypothetical small business, Capitol Cafe Company, went well, and the whole class period made for a great end to a productive course.

Monday 12 June 2017

What's Next...

Well, the Ph.D. hoopla is officially over. I received my diploma in the mail today, which was very exciting, and this weekend my wonderful husband and I hosted my graduation party at our home. We had an awesome time. It was an English Garden Party theme, and we hosted over 50 friends and family members in our home with scones, fruit, cucumber sandwiches, cupcakes, and lots of drinks. When I woke up the next morning I was just so overwhelmed by the love and support of our friends and family. As I said in my last post, I never could have done this alone.

Instagram post the morning after my graduation party
One of the most common questions that I got at my graduation party, and that I get now in general is: "so, what's next?" It's a good question, as going to school for ten years and earning a doctorate hopefully leads to something else! I am currently teaching a course called Written Communication at Madison College, and it is basically an intro to professional writing course. I am teaching the course as part of the Marketing and Client Relations Academy that is part of the School of Workforce and Economic Academy. I only have five students, so that gives us a lot of time to discuss, work through kinks, and work on projects. They also ask good, detailed questions which keep me on my toes! We are two weeks into the ten week program, and I am enjoying being back in the classroom.

Instagram post after teaching my first Written Communication course

So, for now, that is what is next. I have three English One classes lined up to teach in the fall at Madison College, and I plan to go on the job market in September. Lots of fun stuff. 

Friday 12 May 2017

Thank YOU!

Dearest Family and Friends,

This is it, I think. The last time that I will be writing as a "student." Technically I am already done being a student, but I want to indulge that identity one more time. After this, I know that I need to shake of this student mindset because I need to go on the job market as a scholar, not as a student. I've written a lot throughout this journey to earn my Ph.D., and I welcome you to look at past entries on this blog to see some of the highs and lows. What I want to say here, though, is thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for being kind and supportive and funny and tough and lovely. Thank you for sometimes asking me how my work is going and thank you for sometimes not asking me how my work is going. Both are very appreciated.

I wrote my dedication and acknowledgements for my dissertation a few months before I actually finished writing my dissertation because I needed to take a break, but also because I felt like I just had so much to say and I wanted to make sure I had the time to get it right. Though I find my dissertation to be fascinating, I know that I am in the minority and that many people may not actually see the acknowledgements that I wrote about them. I wanted to offer you the opportunity to read them from here. Please know they come from the heart.

I feel both obligated and afraid to list people by name. I really want to individually recognize and thank the people who have loved me and helped me, but I am also afraid to miss people that have been important to me. You know who you are, wonderful people. Academic mentors and friends, I have listed some of you in my previous advice post as well as my acknowledgements, so please take a second to read my words there if you'd like.

Amazing #30Days Gifts
I do want to say a special thank you to the people who participated in the #30DaysofKay countdown that my mom organized. You all are so kind. Words of affirmation are my primary love language, so you can believe that I felt incredibly supported and special throughout the last month. The time, effort, and/or money that you spent congratulating me is so appreciated. Thanks Mom, for organizing this special effort. And thank you to you, Tim and Britt, Brianna, Kari, Tom and Karen, Becca, Caitlin, Brittany and Jadon, Leanne and Bill, Tony and Janelle, Uncle Scott, Josh, Sarah, Alix, Jess, Rebecca, Nana, Uncle Keith and Aunty Janet, Jennifer, Kat, Hannah, Martha, Tanja, Tim, Uncle Bill and Aunty Linda, Shannon, Isaac, Grandma Zietz, Jessica, Laura, Abby, Joel and Candace, Jehla, Bethie, Debbie, Trish and Chris, and my parents. Thanks also to the MANY other people who offered congratulations through Facebook, Instagram, text, email, or in person. You all are the best. How did I get so lucky??

Sweet #30Days Cards
In addition to all of this, I thank God. My faith in him and community found because of him have upheld me through this experience. I also have to thank Wade. He's just the best. Aside from being slightly annoying by asking me, "did you finish your dissertation today??" everyday for the past three years, he's been incredibly patient, kind, and loving as I have worked towards this degree. He's cooked dinner, taken care of the dogs, held me as I've cried, purchase lavender oil (even though he thinks I'm addicted to it), and done anything else in his power to make this journey just a little easier.

It can be easy to look back at experiences like this with rose colored glasses. I want to recognize that it hasn't been easy. That there have been (many) times that I've thought about quitting. I also have some apprehension looking forward. I don't know what's gonna happen next or what opportunities will be opened because of this degree. What I do know that is that I could not have done this alone. By being my friends and family you have supported me, whether I see you every week or every year.

One of the most influential books of my life has been The Awakening by Kate Chopin (though it is not a story I intend to emulate). I read it in Africa in 2010 while going through what I would call "an existential crisis," and Chopin's words often return to me in times of change or uncertainty. In this novel, Chopin writes, "one must possess many gifts, absolute gifts, which have not been acquired by ones own effort. And moreover, to succeed, the artist must possess the courageous soul." You have been those gifts to me. God has given me courage through you. Thank you.

All my love,

For Whatever It's Worth

I'm no life expert. For about 24 to 48 hours after finishing my dissertation, I felt like I was an expert of my subject area. I'd done all the reading. I'd formed all the conclusions. Now, though, about a month after finalizing my dissertation draft I don't even think I could claim to be an expert in that. I've seen and read and done stuff that has shown me new avenues of thought or made me think a little differently. In fact, one of the main lessons that earning a Ph.D. taught me was how much I don't know. I always say that if there was some kind of zombie apocalypse, I'd be one of the first to go. I don't know how physics work (aside from the very basics) and I am in no way handy or mechanically inclined. I cannot think like an engineer to save my life and I have never born children, so I'd be pretty much useless. However, I have been mulling over a few pieces of advice that I could offer to others about how to get through grad school. Many of these items could be applied more generally, but again, I don't claim to have experience in any areas besides this one.

Except for the school year of 2011-2012 when I was applying to MA programs, I have been a student my whole life from the day I started kindergarten until three days ago. I graduated high school in May of 2007 and now in May of 2017 I have completed three more degrees. My BA from Olivet Nazarene University took me four years (2007-2011), my MA from Illinois State University took me two (2012-2014), and my Ph.D. from Arizona State University took me three (2014-2017). I know how to student, so here is some advice from me to you. For whatever it's worth.

1) Choose Solid Mentors

With Maureen at commencement
As I look back over my degrees and my life more generally, I have come to realize how incredibly
blessed and lucky I have been to have wonderful, capable, solid men and women mentoring me my entire life. In elementary and middle school, I had a wonderful dance teacher named Debbie Grigass. She taught us to dance, and it was the only physical activity I ever loved until I found yoga as an adult, but she taught us more that that. She taught us to be kind, patient, and gracious to the people around us. In high school, I was mentored by amazing women who were leaders of my church youth group. Specifically, Angela Bougher and Melissa Borke. They spent time with me, they encouraged me, and they taught me to not take life too seriously. In college, I floundered a little bit. I was unsure of what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, who I wanted to date, etc. Around sophomore year, one of my professors, Dr. Kristy Ingram, took me under her wing and walked me through my remaining three college years. She gave me books, poems, and quotes that still make me feel confident today. She was invaluable as a friend, and I know that I would not be who or where I am today without her. Then in my MA and Ph.D. journeys, I had wonderful professional mentors that taught me and opened amazing doors for me. At ISU Dr. Joyce Walker, Dr. Amy Robillard, and Dr. Bob Broad were incredibly helpful in my learning and shaping as a scholar. At ASU Dr. Ellie Long, Dr. Trish Boyd, and Dr. Maureen Daly Goggin have been the same. They have helped me and supported me from near and far for three years. There is no way I could have finished my degree in three years without the support these three amazing mentors.

So, pick good mentors. They open doors and they provide insight that a person may never think of on their own. This is important in academia, as one can't get grants or jobs without good recommendations, but it is also important in life. As I reflect back, I can see that choosing of mentors is a reciprocal process. Some of them seemed to just happen to me, but I think that a person must also open themselves up and be willing to engage with mentors when they come along. Mentors provide stability and guidance in ways that no other person can. I am incredibly grateful for mine.

2) Make Your Work Work

This was advice that Dr. Dawn Opel gave me in my first semester at ASU. Dawn was the very first person I met from ASU, and she was kind enough to offer advice about the school and the process of completing this degree before and when I arrived at ASU. One day in her office she told me that in order to get done with the program in good time, I always had to make my work work for at least two purposes. She told me that if I was writing a seminar paper, I needed to then also submit it for a publication. If I was doing a presentation, I needed to make that work as a class project. If I was conducting research, I needed to make sure it was also going to go into my diss. This advice was so helpful to me as I worked through the program at ASU. It influenced my course choices, dissertation committee choices, and even the books I read in my leisure time.

My main dissertation text
I was lucky in that pretty much as soon as I found rhetoric, I found the specific subject area I wanted to study. My BA degree is in English, but the course work focused most heavily on literature courses, although I did also earn a minor in Creative Writing. I then applied for MA programs in literature because that was what I had known best. I was accepted into the English Studies program at ISU, and as part of that degree, courses from rhetoric and composition were also required. In my first semester at ISU I took a rhetoric course with Dr. Amy Robillard, and I realized pretty quickly that that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to look at a variety of texts about real people. I wanted the knowledge I gained to impact and inform my understanding of the world now. I wanted to teach my students how to write, analyze, and understand the texts they were seeing everyday. I will always love literature, and in the last year or so I have begun to read and really enjoy fiction books again, but I knew I wanted to study rhetoric.

Almost as soon as I realized that I wanted to do rhetoric, I met with Amy and talked to her because I wasn't really sure what area I wanted to study. I told I was interested in identity and autobiography. In that meeting in her office she said, have you ever considered food memoirs? I didn't know what those were, but I fell in love with them in a very short time. And so I started to write about them and think about them and present on them. I wrote my Master's thesis on two food memoirs that had corresponding blogs, and my committee encouraged me to keep thinking and keep writing about food memoirs. It was in my MA research that I found Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir, The Language of Baklava, that I wrote my dissertation on. So, going into my Ph.D., I knew what I wanted to do. I took Dawn's advice to heart and I worked to make every single project work together. When I was writing my diss, I went back to projects from the first semester of my Ph.D. and pulled sources and snippets from them. I even went back to MA work and pulled from it. I made my work work, and I would offer that as a foundational piece of advice for getting through.

3) Find Friends

Like choosing solid mentors, through my Ph.D. journey I have learned how extremely valuable friends and colleagues are to staying sane, confident, and moving forward. I was on campus for the first two years of my Ph.D. and then I lived in Madison, WI for the third year. My husband and I moved weeks after I achieved ABD status because he got a new job, and we were ready for a change. Once I moved I realized how beneficial it had been to have colleagues around me. Running into people in the hallway, seeing people in classes, or setting up study dates was all so helpful. It was beneficial not just by providing a sense of camaraderie but also in terms of idea generation. If I was stuck on a project or just trying to think through something new or difficult, chance conversations, reading suggestions, or a listening ear were often the means of getting past those glitches. My friends in the program were supportive and kind, and I so appreciate them.

#compandquills in Neskowin, OR
As I said, once I moved, I realized that I was pretty alone in the dissertation writing process. I think I would have felt similarly even if I had stayed on campus, but dissertation writing can be lonely! Luckily, before I left AZ I had been part a solid writing group. My friends Jess Boykin, Casie Moreland, and I met to write, talk, and read together throughout my second year, and then we continued that over Google Hangouts in my third year. I know that I couldn't have gotten through the writing process without those two. They are fun and funny and are able to commiserate or offer suggestions when I felt stuck. We took a writing retreat on the beach in Neskowin, OR this past March and decided we are the #compandquills writing group because of our shared interest in composition and feather quill tattoos.

There was a point in the dissertation writing process where I felt almost paralyzed. I had completed the first three dissertation chapters--my introduction, literature review, and methods chapters, but I had three chapters left to write--my rhetorical analysis, data analysis, and conclusion. It had taken me six months to reach that halfway point and I only had about three months left to complete my dissertation in order to be able to graduate in May. Despite the progress on one side and the looming deadline on the other side, I just couldn't write. I was teaching three classes at the time, one in person at Madison College and two online. The end of November/ beginning of December rush of grading, preparing final projects, and communicating with students was overwhelming. But one day I realized that if I didn't finish at least one more chapter before Christmas, I'd be screwed. That's where my #compandquills girls came in. Over Google Hangouts I was sharing how stuck I felt, and they said-- OK, we'll take a day and write all day. So Wednesday, December 21st we did just that. My husband worked from home that day to watch the dogs. I went to a coffee shop and wrote there until it closed and then came home and wrote some more. Jess and Casie wrote right alongside me on Google Hangouts. In the morning, I had a rough outline of my rhetorical analysis chapter and by 5:00 PM I had a draft that I sent off to my chair. The girls cheered me, told stories that served as needed quick breaks, and offered suggestions when I was stuck. To go back to the previous point, I was able to write the chapter that day because of my friends and because I made my work work. That day, I pulled from probably three previous projects in writing my rhetorical analysis and came up with a draft that needed very few revisions in less than 12 hours.

Abby & I after SWES 2016
Like finding mentors, finding friends has a lot to do with opening yourself up. Jess was in my cohort, but she was a second year literature student. I met Casie in my research methods class, and she was a third year student who was done with classes. Chance conversations led to a conference proposal, which led to presenting together, which led to friendship, which led to writing. I kept myself open. I said yes to possibilities. I met two ladies I really didn't know that well at several restaurants and coffee shops, and in them I found an invaluable support system and friends for life. And they weren't the only ones! Dr. Kat O'Meara was a fourth year student when I was a first, but as we were both from WI we became quick friends, and she has been SO helpful to me in this year of finishing up my Ph.D. Abby Oakley was the only other woman rhetoric student in my cohort, but I didn't really get to know her until she asked me to cochair the Southwest English Symposium with her. These friends, and many others, in the program were so helpful, as were friends who had nothing to do with academia! Skype dates and coffee dates and trips to WI with these friends were also so refreshing and reminded me that there is a lot more life outside of my academic bubble. Put yourself out there. Find your people. It's worth it.

4) Study What You Love

As I said, I was lucky. I found food memoirs early on in my graduate school career, and I really did fall in love with them. I think there is so much interest and value in studying them, and I will do it for as long as I am allowed to do so! The intersection with feminism didn't become apparent until I started taking courses at ASU but pretty quickly I began to see ways that those subject areas could speak to each other. As I said in the introduction of my dissertation, I first started learning about feminism at Olivet Nazarene University in Dr. Belcher's literary criticism course. That course was tough. It was a survey course over a multitude of literary theory. It was was difficult, but the knowledge I gleaned served me well as I moved into my MA and Ph.D. The theory that I liked best from that class was feminist theory. I remember in the the final paper I picked Virginia Woolf's feminist theory as the foundational criticism.

In my MA, I did very little feminist theory work, although Joyce, who was on my committee, does do work in feminism. When I went to ASU, however, I began to take classes from Maureen and Trish, and my interest and love for feminism and feminist theory was reawakened. One of the reasons that feminist theory makes so much sense to me is because I am a woman, and I have personally seen and experienced discrimination and marginalization due to gender. Maya Angelou once said, "I am a feminist. I've been a female for a long time now. It'd be stupid not to be on my own side." I really feel that way. I also think that feminism has a bad reputation because historically it has caused a lot of friction. As someone who identifies as a feminist, I do feel a responsibility to explain the history of the feminist waves as well as speak back to damaging opinions about feminism by pointing out what is at the core of the movement is. bell hooks, though controversial in some of her beliefs, provides my favorite definition of feminism as "a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression" (xii). I also identify as a feminist because I like men. I like all people, and I see the acceptance and enactment of feminism as being beneficial and useful everyone, especially in eras like the Trump presidency. My favorite feminist theorists, Gesa Kirsch and Jaqueline Jones Royster, talk about feminism as enacting an ethics of hope and care. This was the most central goal of my dissertation. If we can offer hope and care in any way, I see that as a success.

My GF Lemon Bundt Cake
In terms of food writing, I also look for places to identify. In October 2012 I realized that I have a very high gluten intolerance. I'm not sure why or where it came from, but when I stopped eating gluten on the first of that month I realized that it had been making me incredibly sick for about four years. Except for a few experimental bites in Italy in 2015, I have not knowingly taken a bite of gluten in almost five years. After some bad experience with meat in Africa in 2010, I also choose to no longer eat red meat or pork. And because of the misdiagnosis of the gluten intolerance as IBS for years, I continue to deal with inflammation in my stomach caused by other random foods like asparagus and peaches. All this to say, I have a somewhat complicated relationship with food. I'd say at LEAST half of the recipes that I read in the food memoirs I could never make because of my eating restrictions. And, until this year, I never particularly liked to cook or bake. I have more recently found baking to be a wonderful stress reliever, and I have taken it up with a passion since we moved to WI.

What I love, though, about food memoirs is the ways that culture and identity can be taken up and represented in food texts. When I got married, I took my husband's last name of Bruce. My maiden name is Koury, and it is a name that my grandfather and father are very proud of. My dad was my grandfather's only son, and my dad had two daughters. For that reason, my grandpa's name of Koury will not continue after my dad passes. I thought about this fact for months leading up to my wedding, but my husband and I decided to only have kids through adoption, so I wanted to have the same last name as my children as, in all likelihood, we will not have the same ethnic or cultural background. What I found in food memoirs, though, was a way to represent and discuss culture and family that transcends names. In Abu-Jaber's food memoir, I found a food tradition that is very much like my own. In reading about her relationships, cultural norms and loud, loving, and feisty family, I saw a story like my own. I found way to claim a part of my identity that I felt I had lost in my name change.

You may not find it right away, but I advise to find an area of study that you love. And not just an area that you love intellectually, but an area of study in which you can personally identity. As a feminist scholar, I recognize the importance of addressing intersectionality and the ways that identities layer, change, and shift in time and due to outer and inner forces. When you are stuck with a subject area for years, it is helpful to find something in which a part of yourself lives. Studying feminism and food memoirs has helped me to better understand my own heritage and my own histories. I am a woman who comes from a Lebanese and European background, and my dissertation represented those intersectional identities in ways that I am really proud of. If you are able-- find that! Something you love. Something that speaks to and about you. Something of which you can be proud.

5) Open Your Computer... Then Take A Break 

This last point may seem a bit contradictory, but I really think that a lot of earning a graduate degree-- and a lot of life-- is about balance. It's about taking time to work and taking time to rest. It's about pushing oneself to be the very best but also taking time to recuperate and rest. What I mean by "open your computer and then take a break" is to work on work days and to rest on rest days. This may seem fairly obvious to people outside of academia, but in a field where the work is 90% self motivated, this is something that needs to be said. Now, like the rest of these, I see the importance of adopting this mindset but that doesn't mean that it is always easy. For me, routine makes it easier. My average working day (without a class) looks as such:
  • Wake up and do yoga or Jillian Michaels
  • Eat breakfast and read Shay Shull's blog Mix and Match Mama
  • Walk the dogs (if possible in the AZ heat or WI cold)
  • Open my computer and work-- course prep, grading, writing, researching, emailing, etc. 
  • Eat lunch and watch something fun on TV like Parks and Rec, FRIENDS, or GBBO
  • Open my computer and work some more
  • End the day when Wade gets home to volunteer or eat dinner or hang with him and the dogs
Now, did I do this perfectly everyday? Hell no. In fact, some days I couldn't even get out of bed because of sickness, sadness, panic, or anxiety. But this schedule was my goal. It was my intent. And it did help to have it as a goal. I know myself pretty well. I know I won't workout after breakfast or that if I don't some kind of break in the day I will burn out too quickly. I offer this just to say-- find what works for you. And then once you find it, actually do it. There were a lot of days when I didn't want to open my computer. Or, if I did open it, I spent the time on Facebook, Buzzfeed, or Pinterest. A day like that every once in awhile is OK but obviously that can't be the norm. Trump's candidacy and then win of the presidency was actually positive in one way, as it kept me off of Facebook from about the beginning of November until end of February because I just couldn't handle it. That did increase my productivity, as Facebook is my number one online time waster. BUT-- my point is, just sit down. Do something. Write a paragraph. Read an article. Grade a paper. My Ph.D. really didn't feel like accomplishing one big goal. It felt like accomplishing one million small ones, and for me, that only happened if I actually opened my computer.

So that is the work bit. Now I'll talk about the rest bit. Resting and taking time off, especially to travel, is so rewarding. Wade and I live by a budget, so shopping or going out to eat are treats, but it's never really an option to blow big money on any kind of unintended purchase. My release comes from spending time "away." Now, does that take money? Yes, for sure. In this point, and really in the others, I want to specifically recognize my incredible privilege. I realize how inordinately and undeservedly lucky I am to be born in the United States. To have had parents who offered me every opportunity. To have the opportunity and ability to go to school and earn two graduate degrees debt free. I do NOT take those privileges for granted, and I do hope and work to give back through my teaching and research. That being said, I love to travel and do it every chance I can. 

Ocean view from the Galapagos Island of Santa Cruz
For example, a few days after Christmas and into the new year of 2017, my husband, friend, and I went to South America. We toured Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We had an amazing trip. This was in the third year of my Ph.D. I had four chapters of my dissertation written, and two more to go. This may not have seemed like the best time to go on a two week trip to another continent, but for me, it was just what I needed. I was burnt out before I left, and touring and traveling for two weeks was the perfect escape. I didn't even take my computer on the trip. One of the best reasons to take intentional rest, though, is to be able to work even better and harder upon return. Even on the flight back from Quito, I wrote a good chunk of my conclusion to my dissertation on the plane. I finished it within the week of returning, meaning I only had one final chapter of my dissertation to write from the end of January to the beginning of March. I had the stamina to do this, though, due to the rest.

Rest doesn't have to look like big trips, though, and this was certainly a major treat for us. Rest can look like a day off in your living room with a Harry Potter marathon. Rest can look like training for a 5K. Rest can look like Skyping with friends or meeting up with friends. Rest can look like reading a magazine by the pool or starting a personal blog. Rest can look like playing with dogs or volunteering. I've rested in all of these ways. But rest is rest. It means not working. This was something I really had to learn. Before I got married, I "worked" as long as I was awake. Did that mean that I was actually working that much? No way. But, I intended to be working. When I learned to take time in my day, week, and months to actually say "it's OK to not work right now" I started to be far more productive. Who knew. 

So, that's it. No groundbreaking truths or insights. Many people, though, have asked me this question: How did you finish your Ph.D. in three years? This is how. These five points. May they help you or give you fodder to say "That's stupid. I know a better way." Either way, I wish you the very, very best. 

Thursday 11 May 2017

Made My Way...

I walked in the ASU Graduate Commencement Ceremony on Monday, May 8th, 2017

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Done & Dusted!

As of today, April 25th, I have submitted my final version of my dissertation to ProQuest. As I understand it, unless the ASU administrators have revisions, this is the final step in finalizing my degree. My dissertation chair did not recommend purchasing the copyright through ProQuest since I retain the full copyright of my work as is, so I just submitted my work as is. 

On the ProQuest site, I filed my dissertation under the main subject categories of "rhetoric," "pedagogy," and "creative writing." The secondary keywords are "autobiography," "composition," "feminism," "identity," "memoir," and "theory." Once my work becomes available after six years, I believe, these search words are the ones that will yield results for my dissertation on the site. 

I am now looking to print a hardcopy version of my dissertation. ProQuest does offer the printing of my dissertation but at a significant cost, and I would not receive the printed version for 8-12 weeks. I am currently looking at printing my dissertation through BookBaby as they have the most user friendly site and overall very positive reviews online. 

I posted this image and caption on Instagram on Friday (April 21st) celebrating the dissertation "pass" on April 17th. That was a good email to receive! 

Below is the final pass form that I received from my chair, Maureen, and the department administrator, Sheila Luna. You can see Maureen's signature and the date of the pass on the bottom. It's official! 

Wednesday 19 April 2017


This semester has been one for the books, but the results are in-- I have passed my dissertation defense and revisions! As of Monday, April 17th, 2017 I was done!! Thinking back over the milestones, it does feel somewhat strange to be at this point. At times I felt that I would never be here. I am honestly so very thankful for the support of my committee in getting me to this point. I don't take it for granted that I was able to complete my degree in three years, and I know that I could not have done it without them be ready and willing to help me through the process.

My checklist is finally complete, though, and it feels great!

The defense went pretty smoothly. For my twenty minute defense presentation, I prepared this Dissertation Defense Presentation. Preparing the presentation actually took me longer than I expected it to take. I think that it took so long because it was really hard to narrow down what exactly I wanted to include in the presentation. I cut down my 190ish page dissertation to 24 slides to present in just over 20 minutes. I designed the presentation slides based on the Hufflepuff colors, my Hogwarts house. Gotta have some fun with it!

Maureen's advice was to write a script to read from during the presentation, and I'm glad I did. My working notes kept me centered and on track. I read pretty much straight from these notes during the presentation, and then I answered questions for about 40 to 45 minutes. I answered at least three questions from each member of my committee, and then I answered a couple questions from the audience. My questions were generally focused on asking for clarification on a few terms, the decisions I made in teaching my course, and then the responses from my students.

After the questions, I went out in the hall with my friends who attended the defense and waited for my committee to make their decision. That part was probably less than five minutes, but I can honestly say that it was by far the worst part of the day. Maureen came out into the hall (with Ellie on my phone on Skype) and announced that I passed! That was a relief. I went back into the room, then, and we made a plan for completing my revisions.

After that, it was time to celebrate! My friends and I took some photos outside, and then we went to for a champagne toast and some delicious lunch at Postino Annex. That night, I ate dinner with my college roommate at Cibo Urban Pizzeria. The next day, after flying back to the midwest, Wade took me out to dinner at Bonefish Grill and gave me my graduation gift-- a trip to Harry Potter World in Orlando, FL! So fun.

The next week was spent on revisions. I completed my revisions from Maureen first, then Ellie, then Trish, then my own, then the formatting from the college. It was intense work, but I feel really good about the final product. I was able to highlight and clarify the elements of the dissertation that I highlighted in the defense but wasn't as clear in the actual draft. Submitting that finalized version felt really good, and it felt even better when I received my pass. Phew! All that's left is just to walk in the commencement ceremony in Tempe on Monday, May 8th. I'm so excited!

Wednesday 5 April 2017

It's Done!

As of Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 I have earned a Ph.D. in English from Arizona State University

Monday 27 March 2017

CCCC 2017

The 2017 CCCC Annual Convention in Portland, OR was a wonderful conference and an amazing week. I arrived in rainy Portland on Tuesday night and had some lovely Oregon sushi. The main portion of my conference activity was on Wednesday when I attended the Research Network Forum, and I really enjoyed the day and learned a lot.

I had initially proposed to discuss my dissertation work, but by the time the actual RNF came around, I thought that advice about the job market would be more helpful. So, I presented parts of my dissertation in the two roundtable sessions, and I asked about ways that I could present my research on the job market and publish my work. The advice that I received in the roundtables, from presentations and discussions about publishing, as well as from my meeting with a faculty mentor was very helpful. I have a clear direction for my work and ways to prepare to go on the market.

The rest of the conference I spent attending sessions, meeting old and new friends, and soaking up the energy of the conference attendees. The city of Portland was dynamic, engaging, and very fun to explore. I found a lot of good places to eat and great places to meet up with friends from the conference and chat more.

The most refreshing part of the week was at the end when Casie Moreland, Jessica Boykin, and I drove to Neskowin on the coast of OR. We stopped in McMinnville for a night to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, and then we settled into a quaint beach condo literally on the coast. After the hustle and bustle and constant idea exchange at the conference, we took a deep breathe and watched the waves and ate some filling food the first day.

The next couple days was spent as a writing retreat. On this retreat, I submitted my first full draft of my dissertation to the college and to Maureen! That felt like a victory for me, especially after the inspiration and ideas I gleaned from the conference. We talked, ate, laughed, and enjoyed our time on the beach, especially in such a beautiful place to stay. We also prepared for next year's conference! We read over the CCCC 2018 proposal, talked about our ideas, and discussed the changes we see and want to see in the conference. I love spending times with these ladies because, even while we don't always agree, our ideas compliment each other's and build on each other's. I came back from OR tired but ready to jump into the completion of this doctoral degree!

Tutoring Time!

As I gear up to defend my dissertation in Tempe in one week (AH!), I am also looking at the next steps for employment for this summer and beyond.

This summer I will be teaching one section of Written Communication at Madison College, and I am excited about that possibility and to be back in a classroom of students.

In addition to that course, I am also planning to rebuild my tutoring business and work with students in my area or online. Please check out my tutoring website to find out more!

Thursday 16 February 2017

An Update in Photos

Instead of just describing the events of the last couple months in text, I thought I'd give an overview of what's gone down and a preview of what's to come in this semester with photos and captions. Enjoy!

Climbing Cotopaxi Volcano

Sea lions and iguanas on Santa Cruz
Just after Christmas and over the new year, I went to Ecuador. It was my first time in South America, and it was a wonderful trip. My husband Wade and I toured Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, for one week with our friend Ben and then went to Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands for the second week. 

Women's March in Madison, WI

On January 21st, 2017 Wade and I attended the offshoot of the Women's March on Washington in Madison, WI. Over one million people marched around the world to protest Trump's blatant sexism and disregard for women's rights and issues. We didn't actually march, but it was electrifying to join a group of people speaking out for equality and human rights. The quote above really exemplifies my motivation behind attending the march. As a feminist scholar and as a woman, it was an exciting day.

Sushi Birthday Dinner with Family 
The day after the march, I celebrated my 28th birthday with my family and my in-laws. We ate sushi and cupcakes together to celebrate. Another year older and, hopefully, another year wiser ;) 

During and after all that fun, I have been writing away on my dissertation. I actually wrote the majority of my sixth chapter of my diss on the plane back from Ecuador. I have been meeting regularly with my writing group, and I shared this image with them the other day. We all know how true it is! Hoping I'm in that last uphill climb now!

Background Image on my Course Shell
Apologies if this is hard to read, and I believe I have shared this quote on the blog before. This is the background image on my ENG 301: Writing for the Professions course shell in Blackboard. It is a quote from Amy Poehler that says, "and then you just do it." She is talking about writing, and it is the motto I try to communicate to my students and adopt myself. I am teaching just one course section this semester, and I have a group of really great students. They are making it easy to be a teacher, and I've enjoyed working with them in these first six weeks. 

Invitation to Present at CCCC 2017
And now for the stuff that is coming up-- I am planning to travel to Portland, Oregon in March to present at the Research Network Forum at the Conference on College Composition and Communication 2017. I am looking forward to going because I hope to gain some insight and input on my own work at the forum, plus the energy and ideas shared at Cs is always so valuable. This is the third time I have been able to attend this conference, and I've enjoyed it every time. I am able to go this time thanks to a Professional Equity Project grant as well as generous funding from the ASU Graduate and Professional Student Association. I'm also so excited to go to Oregon because the second half of the week will be spent doing a writing retreat with my writing group (actually in person!) at a beach house. I'm hoping it will get me to the end of drafting and formatting my dissertation because... 

My dissertation defense is schedule for April 4th, 2017. I'll be flying out to Tempe, AZ and presenting and then defending my dissertation to my chair and committee members. This is a big day, and I'm happy it's scheduled but also very nervous about what it means! I'll need to have my dissertation close to completion weeks before, and then I'll have to be ready to defend all the decisions and arguments I've made. If all goes well, I'll be walking in graduation on May 8th! 

That's what's been going on thus far this semester! I'll share one quote in parting from the movie La La Land that we saw on Valentine's Day (and loved!) that pretty much sums up where I'm at.

"Here's to the ones who dream/ Foolish as they may seem/ Here's to the hearts that ache/ Here's to the mess we make." 

- Benji Pasek & Justin Paul