Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
Meet R&W Alum Dr. Jim Ridolfo
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RidolfoAfter graduating from the PhD program in 2009, Jim Ridolfo began working at the University of Cincinnati, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses, advised graduate students, and published several articles and a book. Then, in 2013, Jim made his way to University of Kentucky where he is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies and has served as the Director of Composition for the last three years. With the position, Jim inherited a rather extensive mentorship program within the University of Kentucky, as well as a first-year writing program that reminds him of the program at Michigan State University. The program opens with a week-long orientation to create custom-made syllabi and divide into mentoring groups that continue through the semester. The program also features an in-house textbook written by UK faculty and graduate instructors.

As an Associate Professor, Jim has taught graduate-level courses in various topics. Last spring, he taught "Social Theories" and "On Archives," the latter on a unique team with three other faculty members in Hispanic Studies, Geography, and Information Sciences. This fall, Jim is teaching two more graduate-level courses. One is a teaching practicum course for new teaching assistants from a variety of disciplines. These students then go on to teach the first-year writing sequence at UK. The other is a two-semester course where graduate students edit a journal featuring interviews with scholars who are invited to visit the UK campus. There is a Call for Papers (CFP) opening this upcoming summer for multidisciplinary submissions.

Digital SamaritansEven while Jim studied with the R&W program here at MSU, his research interest was in the circulation of texts, including what occurs when texts move across time and space. Jim has been particularly interested in practitioner stories and delivery and working with communities and circulating their texts. He has found that this topic of research connects well to studies of digital rhetoric. This work is especially reflected in his most recent book, Digital Samaritans: Rhetorical Delivery and Engagement in the Digital Humanities (University of Michigan Press, 2015).

Today, Jim is collaborating with Bill Hart-Davidson on a project they've been theorizing together for the last ten years. Titled #hetOps, the project is on rhetoric and the military, the use of our disciplinary knowledge by militaries, and how digital rhetoric complements actual kinetic military power. Jim and Bill see this as a trend that's increasing. For example, in the most recent U.S. election, it was much more cost-efficient to target audiences through ads on social media such as Facebook and Twitter versus the more expensive cost of using military power. Jim and Bill are working with authors and expect the collection to be released in a couple of years, hopefully before the next election. Additionally, in spring 2019 Jim will be teaching a special topics class on RhetOps. The course also includes the research Jim conducted as he pursued his PhD, including theorizing the digital locations of texts and information literacy and their impacts.

Beyond his scholarship, Jim has also worked on resources for the field. In 2012, Jim created RhetMap, which maps out job openings in rhetoric and composition every year. The project has job market data for the last five years available to freely browse and analyze on the project's website. "It started as a way to visualize graduate programs out there," he says. "Because MLA required paying membership to see the jobs, a colleague suggested that I make the map open access. MLA did open up the list a couple years ago, which means you didn't have to pay to access it anymore, which is good, but RhetMap gives a long-term understanding of the trends within the field of Rhetoric and Composition and associated (sub)fields. Chris Lindgren, [Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech,] and I have now made available the weekly trends across years, which can be found under the Market Comparison's page." Because RhetMap's JIL visualization is updated so often (between Thursday-Sunday each week), it is a useful tool for job seekers and researchers of the field.

The R&W program heavily influenced Jim's career. According to him, everything he is doing now is a result of his time at MSU. Both his research and administrative work can be traced in some way back to MSU, either with WIDE or the R&W program in general. "I still feel connected to the program because I still stay in touch with people in my cohort. Our network extended beyond my physical, actual time at MSU as a student," Jim shares.

His community engagement in particular was heavily influenced by the graduate faculty. Jim believes that the supportive and positive attitudes toward students and the students' research, both undergraduate and graduate, has directly carried into his work at UK. "I learned how to get research work done. I learned a lot about work as a long-term process," Jim explains. "I felt that there was an attitude that work in seminars was not an end in itself, but a means to a larger research project or trajectory. Our exams were designed around this idea. At MSU, I learned that things were a long-term trajectory. So, I learned a lot about how to get that work done and improve my time management."

When thinking about current R&W PhD students, Jim draws from his own experiences to offer some advice. "The best thing you can do is listen to the advice of the graduate faculty and take the feedback they give seriously," he admits. Jim also suggests to value the network of students and faculty found in the program. He adds, "I'd also say support your cohort and think of them as a long-term network of people who can support each other's work, something that I was talking to graduate students here at UK the other day. One of the things that is very clear to me now is that most graduate programs are silos. There was a really strong emphasis at MSU—one that Malea as graduate director facilitated—that cohorts should support each other. And that's extremely valuable. The longer I go through my time as an academic, the more I appreciate that. I also really appreciate that Julie Lindquist, who was my dissertation chair, had her current students meet up at a coffee shop. It was great to have some coffee and discuss how things are going as we were working on our dissertations. Her mentorship as my dissertation chair was invaluable."

Written by Lauren Utykanski
1 December 2017