Michigan State University
Michigan State University
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Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
Department of Writing
Rhetoric & American Cultures

Meet R&W Alum Dr. Kendall Leon

3KendallLeon_ENGL_20160817_001(1)(1).jpgWRAC’s Rhetoric and Writing PhD program encourages collaboration and close connections, something R&W alum Kendall Leon doesn’t take for granted. “One of the most important things I learned is that relationships with people are so valuable. And that has really helped me in my jobs. I think being nice and kind to others matters so much,” she says. “The cohort I was in has become so important too. We all still talk and work with each other. And I think WRAC faculty taught us that and modeled that for us.”

After graduating from the R&W PhD program in 2010, Kendall went on to become Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Purdue University, and then Director of the Professional and Technical Writing Graduate Program and Assistant Professor in Rhetoric and Composition at Portland State University (PSU). She is now in her second year as Assistant Professor of Chicano/Latinx Rhetoric in the Department of English at California State University, Chico (CSU), where she loves to be because this is where she’s from and got her undergraduate degree. “It’s amazing to work with people who were my professors when I was an undergrad,” she reflects, “and I also feel connected to the space and location of the school and be back near family in California.”  At CSU, Kendall has taught undergraduate writing and rhetoric courses, where she has encouraged students to work with the design and usability of the department’s website. In the fall, she also taught a graduate course titled Rhetoric for Writing Teachers, where she and the students discussed different aspects of rhetorical theory in relation to their pedagogy and teaching practices. In the spring, Kendall will continue teaching Rhetoric and Writing, along with a Literacy Studies course. She will also teach more specific writing courses for students who pursuing nursing. In this upcoming summer, she is “redesigning the Writing Course for Nurses so that it is more interactive for nurses.”

In addition to her wide-range of teaching, Kendall also conducts research in her main interest area: Chicano Rhetorics in connection to methodology; however, her research areas have been extensive and largely shaped by the positions she held at Purdue and PSU. For example, while working at Purdue, she became interested in Writing Program Administration (WPA) after teaching and training the graduate assistants and working towards becoming the writing program administrator. After Purdue, her research interests shifted to technical and professional writing while working at PSU as Director of the Professional and Technical Writing Graduate Program. Today at CSU, Kendall is working towards rebuilding the professional and technical writing program. “We’ve recently become an HSI (Hispanic serving institution), so we want the mission statement and curriculum to reflect this institution identity change,” she notes. “My research has been focusing more on invention, which is one of the rhetorical canons, and inventing things that connect to the students and our and their goals.” Kendall has been collaborating with one of her colleagues at CSU to develop a “heuristic for professional and technical writing and program goals that can address HSI students.”

As a first-generation student who has been incredibly interested in education and access to education, Kendall observes that she constantly asks herself an important question: “How can we design spaces and writing programs to help include and build around the students who are not considered?” And although she always had her sights set on community writing, Kendall recalls how WRAC’s R&W program allowed her to expand her research interests, particularly while working at WIDE, MSU’s Research Center that focuses on “researching and innovating experiences for emerging technologies in the Digital Humanities.” She also found new interests while working as an assistant for WRAC professor Malea Powell. “She encouraged me to connect with different academic units and organizations, which also included working with different technologies and web-based research tasks, which was also something I had not been familiar with,” says Kendall. “These opportunities in grad school were great because I don’t think I would have done such things otherwise.”

In addition to her research interests being shaped throughout the years, Kendall gives credit to WRAC’s R&W program for the positive influence it has had on her career. Not only did the program provide hands-on opportunities such as her work at WIDE, but it also taught her a plethora of useful skills. “I learned how to navigate the institution and develop connections with people,” she remarks. “I feel that I can go into different research projects and classes and adapt easily. I also learned how to be strategic with my writing.”

As for current Rhetoric and Writing PhD students, Kendall offers valuable pieces of insight. “Be open to and even seek out different types of coursework and research areas,” she advises. “Be kind to each other, especially those in your cohort because your cohort will be people you will have for the rest of your life and can help build connections to others.”


Written by Reyna Hurand