Meet John Gagnon
This is part of an ongoing series featuring the WRAC graduate students.
John Gagnon recently went ABD – but this isn't his first grad school triumph. He earned a Master’s in International Development and a Juris Doctor degree, with an emphasis in International Human Rights Law from Tulane University. His interest in human rights issues has brought him to Michigan State, after taking him overseas and through a job with the U.S. Department of Justice, and then onto work with the Department of Homeland Security.
His path to Michigan State has been unique, to say the least. He returned to his home state to work with WRAC faculty who provided him with encouragement and support – we're all very thankful that this U.P. native has joined the ranks of WRAC.
"I knew that I wanted to work here, and I've been blessed to learn from some truly supportive faculty mentors," says Gagnon. "Within WRAC, Malea Powell, Bill Hart-Davidson, Trixie Smith, and Candace Epps-Robertson, have each been pivotal in my academic evolution and helped me see myself, my research, and my teaching in new ways."
Gagnon told me that he'd always wanted to earn his Ph.D, but the circumstances and stars didn't align until a few years ago. His work experience with governments and organizations involved in human rights, especially human trafficking, gave him the idea to do his doctoral research project on how human trafficking is rhetorically framed. His dissertation, currently titled "New Ways of Seeing: Survivor Rhetoric and (Re)writing Stories of Human Trafficking," in which he examines the rhetorical practices used within trafficking survivor communities, the rationale behind such practices, and how the individual stories are then related to the greater cultural narratives about human trafficking.
In support of his interests and research, Gagnon is associated with the MSU Consortium Against Human Trafficking, as well as the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force. He is also a founding board member of a nonprofit organization that provides professional support for wounded military veterans.
Along with giving back to the greater Michigan community, Gagnon also teaches a few WRA classes. He currently instructs WRA110: Writing – Science & Technology, and has experience teaching WRA150: Writing – Evolution of American Thought. He will be leading WRA331: Writing in the Public Interest in the spring of 2016.
Gagnon claims he never really pictured himself as a teacher until he got involved. The most rewarding aspect, he says, is getting to mentor and mold students. "There's a rawness, an honesty, a sense of responsibility that comes with standing in front of a fresh group of students and conveying that we're all there to engage in the work of building a community and learning from each other."
His hobbies outside of his incredible community service and research include gardening, cooking, and fishing. He also finds respite inside Wrigley Field where he can share his love for the Chicago Cubs with the rest of the stadium.
When asked if he could do anything with his life, Gagnon gave a very humble and inspiring answer. "I've found it is really easy to just go through the motions, to excel at doing what is expected, to basically sleepwalk through life. And, some time ago, I reached the point where that just wasn't enough for me; I realized that this is all very much a gift that I ought not to squander. Allowing myself to fully experience life and to listen to the universe along the journey isn't always easy, which is why I describe it as an aspiration."
Congratulations on being ABD, John, we can’t wait to see you succeed further!