This is part of an ongoing series featuring the WRAC graduate students.
“Going back to school felt like a disaster. It was difficult and rough for me and really forced me to think about what I was doing in life, but I was very intellectually hungry.”
Bree Gannon, like many other students and faculty within the WRAC department, had a unique way of arriving here. After high school Bree took a break from academic life and immediately fell into what she described as typical women’s roles: one of which was taking some time to get married and have children before advancing her academic career. She feels that religion can be a substantial factor for women trying to find their place in society. One of Bree’s main motivations for working in religious studies is due to the impact religion has had on her academic journey and life. She moved slowly but surely into college life by starting at community college and working her way up to the university level. During that transition was when she started to feel insecure.
“When finishing as an undergrad people didn’t know my background, my age, or that I had children. It was hard for me to live that life. People think I’m strange for not owning that but it’s a vulnerable position sometimes. Coming here [master’s program in WRAC] and finding the open acceptance of that has been amazing and really freeing for me, my work, and life. The community has been unbelievable. I’ve met some amazing people that have changed me.”
Currently, she is a studying to get her Master’s degree with a focus in religious rhetoric. As part of her degree she is presently working to complete two large projects.
“I’m working on, right now, a project that looks at how young girls form their gender identities on Pinterest: how they construct their stories and think of themselves, how they use that space to figure out who they are and their relationship to their communities, and their use of this public digital space versus private space,” she explained.
The second piece that she is working on pertains to something called purity rhetoric. Her approach to this research involves close examination of Christian texts and literature—from the past 30 years—that young girls read in their teen years. At this time her interest is rooted in texts engrained in Catholicism and Evangelism, but she hopes to expand outward as her research progresses.
In addition to her studies in religious rhetoric, Bree has always been interested in pedagogy and its various branches. More specifically feminist and indigenous pedagogy, but those are outside of her class research interests. Before starting her master’s program Bree had many fears of feeling isolated and had read many grad student horror stories, but once she started to teach First Year Writing courses she started to feel right at home. “Teaching here felt very natural. Students here are very eager to work hard, to please, and to do well. The community is so supporting here.”
In her free time Bree is also a master crafter. As a stress reliever and creative outlet, she loves to knit, sew, crochet, and create collages as well as play with digital artwork. She mused about how wonderful it is that her outside interests can sometimes be integrated into the work she does at MSU, especially when it comes to another one of her hobbies: writing.
“I found that being here is a lot of integration of making in different ways and exploring art and not having it all be academic writing but how your work can spill over to all those areas as well.”
Though Bree described her start back to school after high school as being disastrous and stressful, coming to MSU and participating in the programs here has helped abate her anxiety and feelings of vulnerability. “Coming here has been one of the biggest impacts of my academic and professional life. It’s the approach in this department to more sustainable ways of working and an integration of your life and your work that they work together and aren’t two separate polar opposites. Like here’s my work. Here’s my life. I think it’s because there is such an emphasis on cultural rhetoric and looking at positionality in your work that has really helped me.”
When asked if she had hopes of going to graduate school she appeared to think back on all that she had come to accomplished and said, “I feel like it’s another piece to my story. It has been really hard to get to this point so I would like to keep going.”
Beyond that her passion for teaching keeps her on the track to one day achieving her dream and becoming a professor. “I love teaching writing. I think that there is a lot that happens in the writing classroom and I have a lot of strong feelings about First Year Writing and what it does for students. I think that it’s a space to reflect and figure out how they fit into academia.” Bree feels confident in the first year writing classroom and hopes to continue her involvement in these programs.
Additionally, Bree won’t have to worry too much about grad school as she has been accepted as one of our next year’s PhD students. Congratulations, Bree!