WRAC faculty members Jeff Grabill, Bill Hart-Davidson, and Mike McLeod helped launch a new educational technology company in September. The company, called Drawbridge, will commercialize ideas developed at the Writing in Digital Environments (WIDE) Research Center as well as invent new technologies.The first product is called Eli
, a web service that improves writing by helping teachers and students quickly conduct reviews, see and assess feedback, and learn from the revision process. Eli is designed for use in K-12 schools, colleges and in professional or continuing adult education.”Like any good company, Drawbridge is built on a societal need, such as the need to improve writing skills,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “Writing is identified in most every employment circumstance as one of the biggest challenges, particularly as students are becoming more oriented toward the language of hand-held devices.”A powerful and interactive web service built to streamline the revision process for students and teachers, Eli has a simple yet highly relevant goal: to help students become better writers.
A little over a year ago, we showcased Eli and its newly-minted documentation. Eli has recently passed another milestone. Eli is now available commercially and is being used locally at Michigan State University and Okemos High School and at a number of other sites around the country.
The creation of Eli has been a long and challenging process. “It was a discovery but it was also an intense collaboration; each of us brought unique contributions to the table and we all have traces of our identity in the product,” said McLeod. Commercialization was necessary, says Hart-Davidson, “to ensure that a stream of resources will exist to support it as the user base grows.”
Beyond helping writing instructors teach and students write, Andrew Henry, CEO of Red Cedar Solutions and Drawbridge, says that Eli’s commercialization shows MSU’s commitment to growing Michigan’s economy. The software is getting excellent reviews from new customers. But perhaps more importantly, this innovation is a coup for the WRAC department. Grabill said,”Outcomes such as this can happen more often: the arts and humanities are sources of creativity and innovation that are valuable.”
This year, as a part of her Instructional Technology Graduate Assistantship, first year R&W doctoral student, Beth Keller
, has joined with the WRAC communications management interns in coordinating the work of the WRAC website.
Photo courtesy of Beth Keller
She says her favorite part of the position is getting to work with and closely mentor the PW interns: “speaking in terms of mentorship, getting to know someone through their writing, and seeing their ideas, writing, and process grow and change is very rewarding.”
As part of the position, Keller is responsible for maintaining the department’s website, creating a sustainability handbook, and supervising the interns; however, she is also taking this opportunity to research mentorship among women.
“[This position] gives me an experience of what it’s like observing people using writing to accomplish granular tasks, how those tasks help accomplish larger goals, and also how to manage and influence that process,” she says.
Because of this position, Keller proposed and was accepted to two conferences (Computers and Writing, and ATTW) for 2012. Keller is excited to see what comes from the position, and plans to continue researching mentorship, sustainability processes, and writing as work throughout her stay at MSU and beyond.
Dr. Jim Ridolfo, R&W 2009 alumni and current assistant professor of composition and rhetoric at the University of Cincinnati, was recently awarded a 2011-2012 Middle East and North Africa Regional Research Fulbright. Ridolfo was only one of two scholars to receive the award last year.
Photo courtesy of Jim Ridolfo
He will spend six months (February – August 2012) in the West Bank and Israel working on his project entitled, “Letting Go of the Text: Changing Samaritan Attitudes Toward the Circulation of their Pentateuch.”
Ridolfo has been researching and composing a digital archive for the Samaritan community since 2007, for which he earned funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities with PW and R&W associate professor William Hart-Davidson in 2008.
During his travels, Ridolfo plans to research, explore, and learn more about the circulation of Samaritan manuscripts. He plans to conduct archival research in the National Library in Jerusalem and the A.B. Samaritan Institute in Holon, as well as gather oral histories with members of the Samaritan community.
Click the following links for more information involving Ridolfo’s research and specific Fulbright scholarship.
Photo courtesy of G.L. Kohuth
Cutting-edge resources such as Copy(write): Intellectual Property in the Writing Classroom are instrumental for teaching students how to navigate copyright issues. Published in October 2010, it is a collection of articles edited by WRAC Professor Danielle DeVoss, R&W alum Martine Courant Rife, and includes an inter-chapter by PW alum Nicole Nguyen.
Image courtesy of Amazon.com
The creation of Copy(write)connected multiple perspectives of the WRAC program, increasing its value as an accessible collection of information. Nicole Nguyen, now a law student at DePaul University, spent her senior year as a PW major doing research and writing her own piece for the book under the DeVoss’s mentorship. Nguyen says that her interest began with a question: “I began to think more about whether there is a disconnect between what we are taught in our writing classes and the way intellectual property law functions overall.”
Photo courtesy of martinecourantrife.com
Martine Courant Rife and Danielle DeVoss wrote the introduction together. Rife became involved with the discipline of intellectual property as a natural extension from her legal background while DeVoss clearly understands the complexities of teaching writing. “More and more, we’re having students write not just with words, but with images, with transitions, with movement, with sound – and sometimes they use the sound and images of others.” DeVoss says. As long as multimodal work continues to flourish in education and the workplace, Copy(write) will have a place on writers’ shelves.
Learn more about this book and Danielle DeVoss’s upcoming book projects here.
Many thanks to Lauren Tuski for her contributions to this article.
One of the great things about the Professional Writing program here at MSU is the strong sense of community between current students and alumni – relationships that continue to grow even after alumni become established in their careers. So, we’ve decided to catch up with some earlier PW graduates, to learn what they’ve been up to, and to get some advice.
Photo courtesy of AJ Marin
Since graduating in 2008, AJ Marin has been working for Fleishman Hillard, a large public relations firm, at its headquarters in St. Louis, MO, as an account executive completing various digital, writing, and media relations projects.
Marin says that he loves the freedom that the public relations industry provides him, as it rewards creative thinkers and new ideas. His average day involves a substantial amount of writing, but his main responsibilities involve media relations, and thanks to his background in web design, he is also in charge of running several of his clients’ online newsrooms.
His advice to students entering the work force is to “rely on your technical and writing skills because both are important.” He also believes that the strong analytical mind PW helped him develop was most instrumental in preparing him for the professional setting.
For more information about Marin’s job, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Having graduated from the PW program in 2005 in the digital and technical writing track, John Phillips
now works at Cengage Learning
in Farmington Hills as a web designer, while also continuing to complete freelance design work to keep his PW skills sharp.On a day-to-day basis, Phillips says he “works with software developers, usability specialists and product owners to define requirements, user stories, and specs for our digital products.” He then completes the design work needed: wireframe design and sketches, and coding. He also completes browser testing.
Phillips says the most important thing he learned from PW was how to write concisely and thoughtfully. He also says that WRA 360 Visual Rhetoric and WRA 210 Intro to Web Authoring were the courses that best prepared him for the work force.
His best advice? Phillips says to network with as many people and working professionals as possible — and that includes PW alumni. He also urges students and young professionals to find a mentor and to complete freelance work to strengthen skills and to get some extra income.
For more information about his job, contact Phillips at email@example.com
Photo courtesy of Kelsey Beachum
Kelsey Beachum spent the summer of 2011 interning at a small publishing house in Dublin, Ireland, called Walton Media, where she completed writing, editing, and proofreading work for a variety of magazines (primarily Golf Digest Ireland), and also helped in producing other media such as event booklets.
She says her job included working in a very small office of only eight people and consisted of everything from writing little quizzes or brief event summaries to writing long pieces on significant golfers, event previews, and course summaries. Beachum says of her internship “it was a lot of [learning about] golf. And it was wonderful!”
She also had the opportunity to work at a golfing event Walton organized and promoted, which she says was an extraordinary learning opportunity.
Beachum claims this experience made her much more confident in both her technical skills and her ability to adapt to different workplace environments. She also took this internship opportunity to travel extensively throughout Ireland.
For more information about her experience, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Lauren Ebelt
This past summer, Lauren Ebelt interned at New Island Books, a publishing house located in Dundrum, Ireland. She says she learned a lot about writing and editing while also visiting a lot of places that, even several months later, still take her breath away.
Ebelt completed the internship for several reasons including fulfilling graduation requirements and to see the world, but says that while she was expecting a “go fetch me coffee” internship experience, her internship turned out to be better than she could have ever imagined.
Ebelt learned of the program from meeting with her adviser and talking with numurous former PW students who participated in the program. Ebelt says that PW alumna, Becca Ebner, was vital in preparing her to work and live abroad, “she prepared me for the things that weren’t in the glittery writing that the study abroad office gave me.”
While working at New Island, Ebelt did everything from editing manuscripts and contracts, to helping design the cover of books. She also helped correspond with authors and attended book launches and trained her successor.
Of her overall experience, she says that “professional writing was a great background for this internship,” and it was that background that made her have the confidence to complete the internship. She finished by saying that “in a nutshell, this summer boils down to just a few key words: the best experience of my life.”
For more information about Lauren’s experience, contact her at email@example.com.
Note: to learn more about interning abroad, contact a PW academic adviser.
The Cherokee Syllabary: Writing the People’s Perseverance
, the newest book written by associate professor and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Dr. Ellen Cushman, was released by the University of Oklahoma Press earlier this month.
Book cover courtesy of Ellen Cushman
It took Cushman nearly five years to research, analyze, write, and complete this ethnohistorical study, which was funded in part by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies grant (VPRGS).
The Cherokee Syllabary analyzes and explains the complex linguistic concepts behind the Cherokee writing system, introduced in 1821 by Sequoyah, a Cherokee metalworker and inventor. Cushman finds that the writing system was created apart from Western alphabetical models. Because it works so closely with the language, its legacy has endured.
In addition to this book, Cushman has also written a number of scholarly essays, found in Ethnohistory, Wicazo Sa Review, and Written Communication, to name a few. The book is available for purchase through Amazon.
Photo by Phill Alexander
Phill Alexander’s dissertation, titled Individual Copycats: Memetics, Identity, and Collaboration in the World of Warcraft, presents an analysis of participant-observation case studies of the popular Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) World of Warcraft. Alexander investigates how players of this game “utilize memetic practices to build gaming literacies, to author digital identities, and to collaborate to achieve both individual and group goals.” Gaming studies research within a rhetorical setting is something not many researchers choose to focus on, and Alexander hopes that his interest and efforts here will help him to stand out from among his peers. He has begun the job search process while continuing his dissertation work in hopes of finding a job in a university program that focuses on digital rhetoric and has the interest in and potential for digital composition. He jokingly describes himself as “I’m the humanities version of the guys on Big Bang Theory, and I know someone wants that guy [me] to teach in their department.”
Photo by Andrea Riley Mukavetz
Andrea Riley Mukavetz
PHD student Andrea Riley Mukavetz has spent her graduate studies researching with a group of multi-generational American-Indian Odawa women from the Little Traverse Bay Band (LTTB), which has culminated in a dissertation titled Theory Begins with a Story, Too: Listening to the Lived Experiences of American Indian Women. She argues “These stories of lived experiences are important rhetorical theories that show how American Indian women negotiate issues of visibility in their community.” She enacts cultural rhetorical strategies that bring methodologies common to Native studies to impact how we think about “doing” rhetoric. As she continues to refine her dissertation, Riley Mukavetz has applied to 60 jobs, looking for a position in rhetoric & composition, American Indian studies, gender studies, or postcolonial literature and theory. Ultimately, she wants to be at a school with a diverse student population and where she can have the opportunity to work with tribal communities. Her advice for others on the job market is “Divest, don’t obsess….Take the time to develop self-care strategies because it’s the stress that will affect you the most.”
Photo by Gabriel Raquel Rios
Gabriel Raquel Ríos
Gabriela Raquel Ríos is a visiting PHD student from Texas A&M University and is working on her dissertation titled In Ixtli In Yollotl/A (Wise) Face, a (Wise) Heart: (Re)Claiming Embodied Rhetorical Traditions of Anahuac and Twanantinsuyu. She describes the purpose of her dissertation as “a model of relationality that uses Indigenous and decolonial methodologies alongside the Nahua concept of in ixtli in yollotl (a wise face/a wise heart) and embodied rhetorics.” She seeks to apply “thing theory,” which involves understanding objects or cultural artifacts as animated “things” that bear a different relationship to different bodies and “nature.” This allows for a connection between language, material artifacts, and images without the use of a text-based model. As Ríos continues to finish her dissertation, she has applied to 40 jobs so far with plans to continue applying to more. She is particularly intrigued by positions that include opportunities for civic engagement and non-western rhetorics. In each job application Ríos sends out, she conveys that her research with indigenous rhetorics “can actually help us to answer some tough questions regarding issues like biodiversity and sustainability.”
Photo by Travis Webster
In Travis Webster’s dissertation titled What Ex-Ex-Gays Can Teach Us About Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Rhetorics, he traces gay, lesbian, and queer rhetoric to different online communities that oppose and speak out against sexual conversion practices. He says, “I argue that participants’ stories point back to rhetorical responsibilities of GLQ resistances and activisms.” The overall goal of his research and work is to respond to homophobic institutions by connecting resistances and activism from the early years of the “AIDS crisis” to a twenty-first century context of gay suicides and bullying. He hopes that his research as well as his experience as a “scholar who does queer rhetorics research” will bring a unique positionality and his particular research’s spirit to any job he may have. Webster has been diligently applying to numerous positions and hopes to find a position where he can teach advanced undergraduate rhetoric and writing courses with the opportunity to get involved in program curriculum development.
This is part two of a two-part feature about the 2012 R&W PHD cohort.