Wednesday, November 21, 2012

5 Questions Series - Will Duffy


1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?

I located a subject that had theoretical as well as pedagogical implications. That's the short answer. The slightly longer answer is that I stopped trying to invent a topic that felt dissertation-y or book-y and instead took an assessment of the questions/challenges/ideas that I found myself confronting as a scholar and teacher at the moment. The project I'm working on right now is about collaboration, which became important to me when I started co-writing with a friend in grad school. We enjoyed the process of co-writing, but we also couldn't explain why it worked. That gap is what I find myself now trying to bridge with this project. It sounds cliche, but I believe the most important projects are waiting right in front of our noses.



2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

My first year out of grad school, I started making "semester plans" at the beginning of each term that consisted of identifying the projects I wanted to complete. I had calenders with swaths of dates filled in with things like "Research Jon Stewart essay" and  "Draft Jon Stewart essay" and "Plan summer course" --you get the idea. Then I marked deadlines and submission dates, many of which were arbitrary. But we need these kinds of self-imposed deadlines as scholars. What I found is that making these calendars worked. I got stuff done even as I was teaching a full load. I did do something like this when I was writing my dissertation, but I definitely could have started this practice much earlier.

 
3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?

Trying to maintain the attitudes necessary for being an effective teacher and successful academic. For example, when does shrewdness (positive) inflate into competitiveness (negative)? When does patience (positive) atrophy into laziness (negative)? The list goes on and on...

 
4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

I love thinking about how the world works, and being an academic makes me a professional "thinker" in this regard. Taken to an extreme, however, this idea makes you into a pompous jerk, so, you know, see #3 above. 

 5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

Was it Stanley Fish who quipped that being interdisciplinary is so very hard to do? Whoever it was, I think that idea is a crock. I'm a rhetorician, so I basically have built a career on the backs of other fields of study. The sociologist Clifford Geertz suggested that it's when academic fields of study borrow from one another that novelty occurs. I agree. I think it is crucial to have feet in at least one or two other disciplines other than your "home" field.
_______________

Will Duffy teaches at Francis Marion University. He has a website: www.virtueeater.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

5 Questions Series - Kristen Pond


1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?

I was watching Football Night in America and listening to a bunch of guys sitting around talking about football players around the league, including the latest girl Tony Romo was dating, and it suddenly struck me that they were gossiping, it just was not recognized as such because it was a) men in ties and b) sports. This made me interested to know what other assumptions we make about neglected discourses, so I started exploring silence, gestures, and laughter along with gossip. All this is to say that sometimes not doing academic things can be the best thing for your career.

Transitioning from the dissertation to the next big project has been one of the hardest things I’ve done, but the idea for this project was one that I simply could not ignore because it kept creeping in to every thing I wrote and taught. The tough part was just figuring out how to capture the more abstract ideas of ethics, difference, and sympathy in a concrete way, which eventually became the figure of the stranger.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

To read scholarly articles and books twice when possible – first for content, then for style. The earlier you figure out how scholarly pieces are put together, the easier it will be to get your own material published. I think the first few years in grad school you are just in survival mode trying to get through classes, and then you get very inwardly focused while you write your dissertation. It’s worth looking up and out to take notice of your field, what is going on and how it’s going on. Some practical ways to do this? Make time to read the leading journals and blogs in your field, keep track of who are the leading scholars in your field, and take note of the way successful articles, books, and conference presentations are put together.

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?

Quite honestly, I think many people in our field take themselves too seriously and this leads to petty infighting and territorial tiffs. It also makes professors unable to reach their students in any meaningful way. I find it very difficult to deal with this attitude, and terrifying that the longer I am in academia the more I will take on this attitude myself. The idealism you have as a graduate student is very hard to sustain in a tenure-track position when towing the line becomes part of survival. To all of this I would say, it has been vital for me that I remember what I love about academia, that I remind myself of that often, and that I continue to do the most essential things that make me who I am as a scholar and teacher, regardless of the institution or point in my career.

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

This perhaps sounds cliché or nerdy, but I simply love to learn. I really enjoy the college environment built around learning about yourself and facing new ideas. I like nothing better than to walk across campus and see students throwing a football, sitting on blankets reading, skateboarding to their classes, or pouring out of buildings at class change time. I am constantly learning from new things I read and from the students in my classes. I also enjoy the combination of stability and change that comes with this job: the central aspects of my job do not change, but every semester I get a new schedule, new classes, new students, and new writing projects.

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

This answer goes back to my first one, it may seem counterintuitive but setting academia aside on a regular basis is the best thing for my intellectual curiosity. Doing things in the world outside “the ivory towers” enables me to return with fresh ideas, and to avoid becoming stale and burned out myself. So I run, tutor kids, hike, take one day off a week, watch football, go out to dinner, go on a day trip in the middle of the week. I am not saying this is a program for becoming a top scholar in your field, but it is how I maintain my intellectual curiosity._______________

Kristen Pond is an Assistant Professor of Victorian Literature at Baylor University. She received her Ph.D from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in May of 2010.  She teaches British literature survey courses, as well as courses focused on the eighteenth-century novel and a graduate seminar on Victorian encounters with otherness. Her current project examines constructions of the stranger in nineteenth-century British texts, including settler narratives, newspapers, charity publications, and novels. She has two forthcoming articles in Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal and Victorian Literature and Culture.  You can check out her course blog at http://blogs.baylor.edu/britlit/  and her personal blog at http://lumiacompositions.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

5 Questions Series - Tanya Golash-Boza

1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?

My ongoing research is on the experiences of people who are deported from the United States. I decided to research this population because, when writing my previous book on immigration policy, I had trouble finding out what happens to deportees. The few stories I was able to find in journalistic accounts were compelling as well as devastating. I wanted to know more about what happens to people once they are deported. Additionally, I was confident that this project was important not only to me, but also to the population I hoped to study.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

Teaching well is not about knowing a lot of material. Thus, you do not have to over-prepare for class by reading widely. Instead, focus on the knowledge you and the students share and push them to think critically about it by asking questions. This has two benefits: 1) it makes class more engaging; and 2) coming up with a list of questions to ask about the reading takes a lot less time than trying to learn all of the background material.

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?

I find writing books difficult. But, that’s what I like so much about it. Figuring out to write a book was a tremendous challenge, and I love a good challenge. Now, I am trying to figure out how to write a better book. That too is a challenge.

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

I love being able to exercise my intellectual curiosity, having the freedom to teach and research topics I think are important, and having a tremendously flexible schedule.

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

I attend colloquia on and off campus. I travel to conferences. I talk to colleagues about my work and theirs. I read widely – I am always reading something.
_______________

Tanya Golash-Boza is the author of three books: 1) Due Process Denied (2012), which describes how and why non-citizens in the United States have been detained and deported for minor crimes, without regard for constitutional limits on disproportionate punishment; 2) Immigration Nation (2012), which provides a critical analysis of the impact that U.S. immigration policy has on human rights; and 3) Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru (2011), the first book in English to address what it means to be black in Peru.  She has also published many articles in peer-reviewed journals on deportations, racial identity, U.S. Latinos/as and Latin America, in addition to essays and chapters in edited volumes and online venues. Her innovative scholarship was awarded the Distinguished Early Career Award from the Racial and Ethnic Minorities Studies Section of the American Sociological Association in 2010.

Tanya Golash-Boza’s most recent work is on the consequences of mass deportation. With funding from a Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Award, she completed over 150 interviews with deportees in Brazil, Guatemala, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic in 2009 and 2010. This research forms the basis of her book manuscript – Deported, which she is currently writing.

Tanya Golash-Boza graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Maryland, a Certificate of Anthropology from L’Ecole d’Anthropologie in Paris, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Prior to working at the University of California, she worked at the University of Kansas. She lives in Merced, California with her husband and three school-age children. She has lived in Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean, and speaks fluent English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

5 Questions Series - Belinda Walzer

1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope? 

This is is a uniquely difficult question for me because there are several different answers: 
a) My topic arose out of many smaller moments, experiences and realizations throughout my graduate career. I came to realize as I was trying to complete course work in two years to get to exams by the beginning of my third that I can't rush my intellectual growth process (and I don't always have control over it or know what that process has to look like). It took me 6 months or more to come up with exam lists and almost a year to draft a prospective for my dissertation. Partly because I'm a procrastinator and very deadline driven, but partly because it took that long for gut feelings to coalesce with research into something arguable and interesting. 
b)  If I was to choose one of those smaller moments, it was a very personal connection with a piece of literary work that I was personally invested in to an academic context. 
c) If I am also going to be completely honest, it also arose out of a desire to use work I had already done from course work and conferences, partly because I felt it was not finished and partly because I can't stand an empty page and copying and pasting is the best way to remedy that.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

See question 1, part 1. Slow down. Take fewer classes at a time. Pay more attention in them. Realize it is a process and take LOTS of notes. Also, start building professional contacts early outside of your grad school. They will make you feel better about your work as an academic as you begin to professionalize from graduate student to scholar (no one makes you feel more stupid without meaning to do so than your own advisers!) Also, you must be your own advocate. All those nasty things you hear about the job market can be true so, without being jaded, be sure you are not naive. 

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?
At the moment, prioritizing my teaching above other commitments and deadlines. This was no different in grad school, but the stakes are higher in a job. 

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

I like the ability to go to coffee shops most days of the week and I love being able to teach and read material that I am passionate about. 
5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

I think this has already been said, but definitely read. Also try to participate in the intellectual life of your campus, some have very vibrant intellectual communities and that energy can be contagious. Another good thing is to try to maintain connection with your grad school cohort for low-stakes but productive intellectual conversations and things like writing groups.
_______________

Belinda Walzer is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English Department's writing program at Wake Forest University. Her work focuses on the intersections between rhetoric, human rights in/and literature, and gender studies. She completed her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in August 2012 with a dissertation titled Rhetorical Approaches to Gender and Human Rights in Transnational Literature and Cultural Studies that analyzes the pedagogical and performative imperative that underwrites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent instruments, the normative culture to which this pedagogy gives rise, and the ways human rights literature participates in and speaks back to that normativity. Before coming to Wake Forest, Belinda was a research associate at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon while she completed her dissertation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

5 Questions Series - Annette Van






1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?


I paid attention to the kinds of questions I was interested in, what kinds of problems drew me. I found myself going back again and again to thinking about form and aesthetics. I surprised myself in graduate school when I became a Victorianist. I had spent my first years of graduate school thinking I would do film and/or cultural studies, but I kept signing up for classes on the Victorian novel (revisiting the books I had read and loved in high school). My career trajectory has also influenced what I'm working on. I'm teaching in a small teaching-centered school now and this has enabled me to expand my research scope. I'm finding myself more and more thinking and writing about aesthetics (the sublime in particular) in the composition classroom. I guess my shorthand answer would be something like stay open, let your interests lead you.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?
 
This is a terrible question. The correct answer is something very patronizing like "use the time you have to think in grad school because it gets much much harder later on to find the time to read and write and think." But I'm not sure if that's entirely helpful. Can I be so crass as to say something like "don't defer life?" If you aren't living one yet, start living a full, rich, fun, meaningful life. Don't delay until some mythical date (when you're PhD'ed, when you have a job, etc.) when you think you will be able to start having a life. My grad school self spent a lot of time avoiding a good time out of guilt that I wasn't writing fast enough.

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?
 
Keeping my sense of self and self-worth separated from my job. I am not what I do, although I do enjoy and get a lot out of what I do. Because academics tend to work in structures that have fairly rigid ideas of success and productivity (in which we are often very personally invested), it feels terribly important to me that I stay very clear about what I consider success. At times, my values and those of my workplace clash and that can be hard to negotiate. For example, one of the things I have been thinking about lately is how to integrate my spiritually-informed (Buddhist) notions about what it means to be a teacher with the kinds of more quantifiable assessment that my institution demands. How does one measure the effectiveness of a teaching practice that is detached from outcomes?
 
4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?
 
Being in a profession where thinking and curiosity are valued. Creating spaces for those things in the classroom. Being surprised and charmed by what students/colleagues say and do. Being around words, playing with them. That even when I am sitting in a faculty meeting and there are arguments and the usual displays of douchebaggery, that we're all basically on the same side, rowing the boat together.

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

I've never really had a problem with this since I'm naturally super curious, annoyingly so at times. But I am also naturally introverted and a homebody, so I try to challenge myself to do new things and get involved with stuff outside work. Right now, for example, I'm screening films for a documentary film festival and it's been an amazing way to keep the creative juices flowing. Be open to experience, there's just so much that can inspire out there. It's very humbling. Intellectual curiosity is so fundamental to my writing and teaching practice, I have no idea how I would proceed if it vanished.
_______________
 
Annette Van is learning new stuff every day at a small college in Mid-Missouri.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

5 Questions Series - John Pell


1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?

I decided to pursue something that I found incredibly challenging and incredibly important to how I orient myself to the world. That is to say, I actually do think we should pursue projects that we think matter to our place in the world. I think my projects tend to find their genesis in texts I love or ideas that continue to perplex me. If I was more cynical, I would say that you should determine your projects based on current publishing trends.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

Do work. Don't wait for inspiration. Don't wait for the perfect idea. Don't wait for gratification. Read. Write. Revise. Repeat.

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?

Self-Awareness. Most of us will receive PhD from very large universities where the only narrative is work at an equally large university. Of course, few actually get these appointments and yet most of our professional  discourse still centers on the R1 narrative. Most of us however will work in much less glamorous positions, with higher teaching loads and limited time to do "scholarship." Of course, if you understand your position, strengths, and professional aspirations, you can then begin to find balance in your work.

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

Being entrepreneurial. I would argue that graduate school is very good at producing one kind of academic, but some of us don't fit that mold. Being out from underneath those strictures allows you to discover your strengths and develop your own goals. There are a million ways to impact students, impact your discipline, and build a life - and, for the most part, you can determine how you choose to make those contributions.

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

I have five journals in my field that I read regularly and from those I am able to chase citations, see what is taking place in the field, and (ideally) determine where I might make a contribution.

_______________

John Pell is the Writing Program Director at Whitworth University. Currently, John is exploring the implications of interactionist rhetorical theory on public sphere rhetorics and cross-cultural communication. His courses and professional presentations often explore the connections between rhetoric, empathy, and human rights. John also contributes a weekly column to the RSA Blogora, which focuses primarily on issues concerning undergraduate rhetoric and writing pedagogy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

5 Questions Series - Alan Benson


1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?
 
My dissertation began life as a study of student identity in a blended (combination online and face-to-face) classroom. During data collection, I discovered that I had far more to say about (and was far more intrigued by) the students' interactions and negotiations of their required collaborative relationships.


2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?
 
Given that I am still fresh out of grad school (seriously--I still have the new faculty smell!) this is a difficult question. I do wish I had done a better job of scheduling my writing. I had a bad habit of planning to write that day, then letting the day get away from me. Scheduling time to write, just as you schedule time to teach, is really the only way to move a project along.

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?
 
Letting projects go. I have a bad habit of writing, stewing on it, tearing it all down and starting again, stewing more, ad infinitum. Learning to let projects out of your hands and exposing your work to an audience before it is "done" can be a valuable way of re-seeing your work.

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?
 
I like the autonomy and self-directed nature of much of the work, but lots of jobs (including many I've held) allow for that. What I really like is that the teaching element of the position requires that I get out of my head and interact with a wide variety of people. These interactions--my teaching, my work with writing center consultants, my work with faculty--make me a better scholar.

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?
 
Read widely, both in my field and outside. Talk with peers outside my area about their research and their new passions. Play with making connections between the writing and rhetoric I study and the types of writing and rhetoric students bring into class.
_______________

Alan Benson is the Director of the Center for Writing Excellence and Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He received a BS in Journalism from Boston University, and MA in English with a Teaching Composition concentration and a PhD in English with a Rhetoric and Composition concentration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He completed his dissertation, which focused on collaborative writing, in the spring of 2012.

His scholarly interests include peer learning and tutoring, writing center pedagogies, online writing centers, collaborative writing, usability and rhetoric, digital literacies, and digital culture studies.


Before coming to academia, Benson worked as a reporter, editor, page layout designer, web developer, technical writer, and documentation developer. His non-academic writing, humor, and web projects have been featured in such publications as the Boston Phoenix, Rolling Stone, LA Weekly, Maxim, and the Wall Street Journal.


Currently Professor Benson is sketching out a project exploring critical reading in the writing center.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

5 Questions Series - Jennifer Feather



1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?
 
The topic for my first book came about as I shaped my lifelong interest in chivalric contests into an intellectual project that intervened fruitfully in my field.  My most recent projects are based on ideas that I wanted to pursue further in the first project but that would not fit into that argument.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

Feedback on your writing is almost always tough to hear at the time but frequently invaluable when it comes to publishing your work.  Put yourself (and your work) out there as often as you get the opportunity. 

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?

Being a professional scholar and teacher requires a great deal of social engagement, especially for those of us who are more introverted by nature.  One has to be deliberate about finding quiet, interior time.

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

I find the exchange of ideas with both colleagues and students most rewarding.  I feel extraordinarily privileged to share an intellectual life with so many interesting thinkers. 

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

Recently, I audited a class in Ancient Greek, and I got an enormous amount from the experience.  Many of the colleagues with whom I shared this particular intellectual joy told me that they had had a similar experience when learning a new language.

_______________

 Jennifer Feather is an assistant professor of English literature at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, specializing in early Renaissance literature with an additional interest in contemporary theories of gender and violence.  Her book “Writing Combat and the Self in Early Modern EnglishLiterature: The Pen and the Sword” (Palgrave 2011) examines competing depictions of combat in sixteenth-century texts as varied as Arthurian romance and early modern medical texts to demonstrate the continued importance of combat in understanding the humanist subject and the contours of the previously neglected pre-modern subject.  In addition, she has published essays on blood in Shakespeare’s Othello (forthcoming in Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England) and the importance of Brutus’s suicide in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (in Shakespeare and Moral Agency, ed. Michael D. Bristol. New York, NY: Continuum Books, 2010).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

5 Questions Series - Toby Coley



1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?

Since I have already written on this blog regarding mydissertation topic, I’ll write about my current project.  After being hired to my current position (Assistant Professor of English) last year, I spent some time on campus arranging my office and getting the lay of the land before school started.  Early in my campus meandering I noticed a wall beside the campus memorial (a structure that represented an early administration building and an iconic part of the campus).  This wall contained several plaques from the early 1900s with inscriptions such as “Elocution Class of 1903” and “Literary Class of 1901.”  I was immediately intrigued.  I wanted to know what the teaching of writing was like at the campus during its early years.  In fact, my school—the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor—has the co-honor of being the oldest college in the state still in existence, chartered by The Republic of Texas in 1845 and its roots actually go back, as I learned in my research, to the 1830s.  Granted, we share this honor with Baylor University since both schools were the same college when started in 1846 in Independence, TX.  Due to my interests in the teaching of writing, I submitted a summer research grant proposal to my school and received a grant for part of the summer to do archival research, which led me to several Universities in Texas, to the State Archives and State library.  Lots of documents later, I am still collecting data and going through it but what I learned has been truly fascinating.  That’s how I came to this current project.


2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

You never feel truly prepared for anything.  We are always in various states of preparedness, but we don’t let anyone know it.  Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who feels that way.

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?

Balancing your interests, needs, and responsibilities is always difficult.  Learn to say no; know what’s important; have a clear line of support and encouragement established. 


4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

The freedom to pursue that which interests me and have others who actually care about those interests and might share them. 

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

Read, read, read. Research what interests you and get involved locally.

_______________

Toby F. Coley completed his PhD in Rhetoric and Writing from Bowling Green State University (OH) in 2011 and now teaches courses in Rhetoric and Composition, British Literature, Advanced Composition, and Advanced Rhetoric at UMHB. His research investigates the connections between writing, ethics, digital media, and religion. His publications have been featured in Rhetoric Review, Computers and Composition, Computers & Composition Online, and Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. His book, Teaching with Digital Media in Writing Studies: An Exploration of Responsibilities was published in the fall of 2011 (Peter Lang Press).