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

Checking in with PhD alum Dr. Suzanne Rumsey  

Rumsey_Suzanne.jpgDr. Suzanne Rumsey has the distinction of being the very first person to earn a PhD from MSU’s Rhetoric and Writing Program.  She’s done the WRAC department proud and is now an Associate Professor of English and Linguistics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW).

Dr. Rumsey says she first “felt called” to pursue a career in academia as a freshman at Bethel College in Indiana. Such a feeling would be inspiring to any undergraduate, but it especially helped Dr. Rumsey as a first-generation college student. Her dedication to this calling propelled her through her undergraduate studies and the daunting task of applying to graduate school. Her efforts led her to the Critical Studies in the Teaching of English (CSTE) MA Program at Michigan State.

Dr. Rumsey’s time in East Lansing was quite eventful. Within three years she had finished her MA, started a PhD in the newly established Rhetoric and Writing Program, and gotten married. In 2006 she graduated with her PhD and accepted a tenure-track faculty position at IPFW.  

In her current position Dr. Rumsey teaches many courses familiar to Professional Writing students, including Technical Report Writing and Writing for Multiple Media. Her research fields include literacy studies and cultural rhetorics. “My main research interests center on heritage and cultural literacies that are faith-based, inter-generational, community focused, and/or used by older adults,” she says. Dr. Rumsey has published work in scholarly journals such as College Composition and Communication and the Journal of Literacy and Technology. A recent article entitled “Holding on to Literacies: Older Adult Narratives of Literacy and Aging,” will appear in the interdisciplinary journal Age, Culture, and Humanities later this fall.

In addition to her scholarly work Dr. Rumsey is writing a book for a broader readership about her paternal grandparents. “The book is based on more than 400 love letters between my grandparents, Ben and Miriam, during World War II,” she says. “They belonged to a Christian denomination called the Dunkard Brethren and were conscientious objectors to the war. Ben chose to serve his country not by going to war but by working at two different Civilian Public Service camps, which were an experiment in compromise between the government and the historic peace churches.” The book tells her grandparents’ stories through their letters to each other and other archival content.   

As a graduate of the Rhetoric and Writing Program Dr. Rumsey has achieved the calling she first felt compelled to pursue as a college freshman. She remains grateful to her teachers and mentors in the WRAC department who helped her along the way. “I would not be the teacher or researcher I am today without the investment of time and resources from our faithful faculty,” she says. “They are exceptionally caring, collegial, and generous. I strive to be the same.”


Written for WRAC  by Hayden Harris