WRA 415 Digital Rhetoric is a course offered to students in the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures (WRAC) department, which allows students to dip into different styles of digital spaces. This course is designed to help students gain knowledge that is essential to the study and practice of digital rhetoric. I had the opportunity to take Digital Rhetoric with Professor Liza Potts in Fall 2013. In the four months I was in this class I learned how to use three new Adobe programs, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and InDesign. I also had the opportunity to experience online programs, such as Camtasia, Joomag, and easel.ly.
I wasn’t the only one who got the opportunity to improve my digital skills. This course allowed my peers and I to explore different spaces on the Internet and analyze how individuals communicate and build audience through these spaces. In analyzing these spaces, we were able to create projects and present them in different ways, with the common goal of delivering our findings through the digital world.
Liza encouraged us to step outside the Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, and to choose from other delivery options that best fit our projects. She wants her students to “explore different tools and different delivery modes. These projects are their opportunity to learn new tools, practice skills, and explore issues of audience and persuasion.”
WRA 415 Student Projects?
Carly Mangus, a senior in Professional Writing with an emphasis in editing and publishing, used Weebly to delivered her final reflection paper, which was “Defining Digital Rhetoric”. Weebly is a web-building tool designed to offer step-by-step web development instruction to help anyone establish a website. Carly chose to deliver her project in the form of a website because she felt that it made the most sense, if she is discussing digital rhetoric it makes complete sense to apply the concept of digital rhetoric visually.
It may appear that fiction authors have more leeway in their writing and storytelling. Not true. The Writing, Rhetoric and American Culture (WRAC) department at MSU offers many doors in which students can open and step into professions that involve a variety of non-fiction writing. What opportunities lie in non-fiction? Memoirs, diaries, documentaries, journals, textbooks, photographs, newspapers, magazines, instruction manuals, flash fiction essays, and writing for WRAC are all examples of non-fiction works. Surprisingly, this list is short compared to the many opportunities related to non-fiction that are out there.
Before we walk down the yellow brick road and discover the different stops WRAC has to offer towards non-fiction, let’s take a look at Webster’s definition of non-fiction, “writing that is about facts or real events.” If we go off Webster’s definition, non-fiction may appear boring. Instead we will use “Dr. Bump” Halbritter’s definition, “Not suspending disbelief, but inspiring belief about things that are accepted.” Well said. Now let’s continue walking down the yellow brick road and begin to explore the possibilities in WRAC.
First Stop: Which Character Are You?
The Scarecrow: The Undergraduate: “Dr. Bump” Halbritter finds excitement in teaching WRA425: Advanced Multimedia Writing, which allows students to uncover the documentary side of non-fiction. Students are given the opportunity to challenge their brains and create amazing videos, for instance, “For the 25” was made by PW alumni. Research and use visual and audio technology to mediate, create and remix text. You will be able to collect, process and edit information to create dialogue and script. This course is offered every spring semester. It is a continuation of WRA225: Intro to Multimedia Writing taught by Alexandra Hidalgo every fall semester.
The Tin Woodman: The MA Student: AL854: Nonfiction Writing Workshop is taught by Dr. Leonora Smith. She provides a set of assignments, experiments and challenges that explore non-fiction techniques and apply strategies of poetry and fiction to non-fiction writing. You’ll develop practices that lead you to write rich, powerful, satisfying non-fiction. With all my heart I was able to compose pieces that were ready for publication or presentation this semester. I am looking forward to reading my piece at the Conference of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature in spring 2014. Students are free to choose any topics and write collective pieces that will allow you to tell your side of the story. This course is offered every other year in the fall semester.
The Cowardly Lion: The PhD. Student: WRA853: Academic Writing is a new course that is going to be taught by Dr. Malea Powell. This course has a curriculum that will allow students to take strategies from creative non-fiction writing into their academic writing. This course is currently known as the Development of the Essay, starting spring 2015 it will be a new course on academic writing. Build the courage and be the first to take this course and take writing techniques and strategies from various creative writing fields, such as poetry and fiction, and use them as ways to make your academic writing better and use other techniques to break through writing blocks. Look forward to this course every spring as a required core course for PhD students and an elective for MA students. Another similar special topic to look forward to in 2015 is WRA891: Workshop in Rhetoric & Writing.
It isn’t uncommon for students to come into college not knowing exactly what they want. There is a variety of creative and imaginative faculty in WRAC that are dedicated towards helping students make the right turn on the yellow brick road. There are great staff and advisors who listen and cater to what you need. Don’t be afraid, college isn’t intended to be a lonely experience. Professors are here to encourage a variety of all kinds of work. Do like Dorothy, network and meet remarkable people along the yellow brick road and establish an amazing team that will help you pick courses and create a concentration. WRAC may not have a concentration geared towards only non-fiction, but once you established what you want, on your crossing towards the end of that road, you can pick out the stops you will make along the way. (more…)
Internships are an essential part of a student’s college path to the career they want. Not only do you receive real-world experience by interning at a business or company you can see yourself working for, but you also receive the chance to network and meet people in your desired field or career with every internship you take on.
Once you have an internship, though, it’s your job to make the most out of it and receive the kind of experience you want to take away from it. Tina Ray, an MSU Rhetoric & Writing alum who now works with MessageMakers in East Lansing, recently wrote a blog post on MessageMakers’ website about how interns can be “awesome” by “being proactive.” In this post, she explains that she’s worked with a lot of interns over the past seven years at MessageMakers, and one thing that stands out to her the most is “how much their success depends on proactivity.”
What I found the most useful were her tips to effectively be proactive in your internship. Such as speaking up about projects you wish to be part of, especially if they are something that interests you. She also suggests to “take responsibility for your workflow” and keep busy; ask if there is anything else you can do if you don’t have enough to do. Also, ask for feedback on your work so you know what you’re doing right and things you could improve upon, and always take opportunities that are offered to you.
“They are an opportunity for you to get used to business settings that may become a part of your career life, to professionalize yourself, and to make connections with others that may be beneficial later.”
Even if the internship doesn’t turn into a full-fledged job, the experience is what you will take with you as you continue your career path to the job that’s best for you.
I recently received a copy of Joe Harris’ updated edition of A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966 from Utah State University Press. It was a nice surprise accompanying a contributor’s copy of another title, Exploring Composition Studies: Sites, Issues, & Perspectives that you should absolutely check out. In the foreward, he makes the very interesting claim that composition since 1966 can be understood as a movement to rethink all of post-secondary pedagogy through the lens of writing instruction.
It’s a bold claim. And it got me thinking about what we try to do in the Rhetoric & Writing graduate program that may fit this pattern. Do we, through the ways we teach writing at the graduate level, aim to improve graduate education more generally? I believe we do, and quite consciously, here at MSU. We pay attention to process. We work to demystify genres and conventions associated with writing in post-graduate workplaces. We build in opportunities for peer-learning. And we have designed a graduate curriculum that aims to ground acts of composing in practices of inquiry, invention, and research appropriate to the scholarly conversations our students seek to join. Rhetoric and Writing is quite literally a writing program. (more…)
Cultural Rhetorics Research Lab
Rhetoric & Writing graduate students Andrea Riley Mukavetz, Daisy Levy, Doug Schraufnagle, Jennifer Fisch-Feurgson, Marilee Brooks-Gillies, and with faculty adviser, Dr. Malea Powell, have used the research cluster structure to form a collective lab-space looking to reach two main objectives: to start and sustain a humanities theory lab and, and to elucidate cultural rhetorics as an interdisciplinary field.
Cultural Rhetorics Theory Lab Wordle
The lab’s mission is focused on promoting, informing, and theorizing about what cultural rhetorics is. This year’s multitude of activities included planning two forums for individuals interested in gaining hands-on experience with cultural theory and rhetorics, collectively authoring an article entitled “What is Cultural Rhetorics?,” designing sustainability documents for the lab, and networking here at MSU and beyond.
Recently, various members of the lab participated in a variety workshops at the CCCC’s conference, and will also be attending the upcoming Rhetoric Society of America conference in May.
Over the summer, the lab plans to build its web-presences and its major projects for the next year are to begin working on a digital Cultural Rhetorics journal and a Cultural Rhetorics textbook as well.
Queer Rhetorics Research Cluster
The Queer Rhetorics cluster is looking to use the methodology of play to explore and examine queer identity, bodies, and practices in various communities. Overall, its members (Casey Miles, Katie Livingston, and Simone West), along with their faculty adviser, Dr. Trixie Smith, are looking to contribute to the queer rhetoric field as a whole.
Aside from group research and authorship, each member is also taking this opportunity to progress forward research they’ve already started independently. Miles’ work this semester focused on butch pedagogy; Livingston’s research is centered around exploring consent as a community-based methodology; West is interested in television censorship and cultural practices through a queer lens; Smith’s work is concerned with coming-out stories.
This past year, cluster members presented at CCCC on this work; likewise, members have proposed sessions and panels for next year’s CCCC as well as the PCAS/ACAS conference.
For more information about this specific cluster, contact Trixie Smith at email@example.com
Every year, the R&W Graduate program invites potential PHD students to visit MSU, and holds a weekend event. This event gives the selection of students admitted to the Rhetoric & Writing graduate program an opportunity to visit MSU and build new relationships with faculty and students. This year’s recruits met with with current students and faculty, visited the local area, and partook in a social mixer in MSU’s Agricultural Hall’s Atrium. The recruitment weekend started on February 23rd and lasted until the 25th.
Conversations in Ag Hall's Atrium among R&W faculty, students, and recruits
There was a pleasant mixture of laughter and serious conversation echoing in the atrium as the recruits mingled with faculty and “recruitment buddies.” Beth Keller (a recruitment buddy) said, “This year’s group of students are especially diverse in their research interests. I really look forward to working with them in the future.” From San Francisco State University to University of Toledo, some recruits traveled far to visit the campus and talk to their potential peers and professors. Along with their luggage, these candidates also bring their research interests; this year, they ranged from education of athletes to the rhetorics of protest.
Recruitment weekends have an important role in the decision process, and this mixer was another chance to demonstrate the R&W’s engaged community and welcoming atmosphere. Those are factors that may tip a recruit’s decision toward MSU. Recruits are expected to make their decisions by mid-semester. We hope to welcome many of them to the R&W graduate program.
A list of current MSU students, faculty, and Rhetoric & Writing Program alumni presenting at this year’s CCCC.
Writing Democracy 2012: Envisioning a Federal Writers’ Project for the 21st Century
- Jeff Grabill: Dewey, Pragmatism, and Assembling a Writing Public
Transitioning to Informed Classroom Practices for all Students: Engaging the Politics and Pedagogy of Language Varieties in Writing Instruction
- Bonnie Williams, Denise Troutman: Transitioning to Informed Classroom Practices for all Students: Engaging the Politics and Pedagogy of Language Varieties in Writing Instruction
Research Network Forum
Space, Portal, Passage: Invention & the Near Invisible
- Julie Lindquist, Bump Halbritter, Steve Lessner, Nancy DeJoy
Rhetoric and Composition Pedagogy and Scholarship in the Context of Globalization: Emerging Globally Networked Learning Environments as New Gateways for Theory, Research, and Pedagogy
- Jeff Grabill: The Politics of Technology
Dr. Melanie Yergeau. Photo courtesy of Cara Gonzalez.
There are new voices being heard in the rhetoric and writing community; one in particular seeks to challenge the traditional view of writers with disabilities. Melanie Yergeau, a faculty member at the University of Michigan’s Department of English, gave a presentation called I Stim, Therefore I Am: Authoring Autism, Authoring Audience to to a group of WRAC faculty and graduate students. Stimming is repetitive body movement, a characteristic shared by many (though not all) autistic persons.
“Dr. Yergeau’s visit is part of a speaker series Malea Powell started when she was the R&W Director and that I have tried to continue. We call it our ‘New Voices in Writing & Rhetoric’ series and we aim to bring in promising early-career scholars doing work that is of interest to our graduate students and faculty,” said professor Bill Hart-Davidson. Dr. Yergeau’s work is indeed interesting, examining the traditional concepts of rhetorical theory and their relationship with disability. Yergeau says that there is a view that autistic or otherwise disabled persons, “fail to–and cannot–connect with able-bodied audiences.”
Photo courtesy of Cara Gonzalez
Her presentation included videos of autistic persons discussing many of the issues facing autistic composition. Autistic herself, Dr. Yergeau created a compelling and potent argument for more “neurodiversity” in writing and rhetoric, which is being echoed by those in the autistic community who wish to speak for themselves. Donnie Sackey, a R&W PhD candidate, said, “I hope many people will ask, ‘Why is it that so many people, who either research autism or represent the autistic, aren’t autistic?’”