Who I am as a Scholar

Michelle Professional

I am a (nearly) second year PhD student in rhetoric and composition at Purdue University. I am passionate about the pedagogical value of threshold concepts and task-based, community oriented composition. This is reflected in my teaching philosophy and my current curricular work in FYC. In the Fall of 2016 I’ll be teaching my first linked FYC course, partnering with the School of Technology. We will combine the problem setting and solving framework of TECH 1200 with a Genre-based approach to composition that focuses on the rhetorical work writing does in industries, disciplines and communities.

Even as my research interests diverge from composition and pedagogy they do so in a way that keeps my teaching and my research embedded in and supported by each other. I’m finding my home in professional and technical communication, and spending a lot of time thinking about how technical communication shapes our public narratives about complex problems. I bring with me to these new areas of research my passion about threshold concepts and rhetorical practice. Troublesome knowledge doesn’t stop being troublesome when knowledge making, learning, and decision making happens outside the classroom. I’m fascinated by how Michel Callon (and others) shape the problems of modern public and civic life as a series of socio-technical overflows. For me, this has sparked an interest in thinking of public rhetoric and technical communication more broadly, and in more inclusive terms.

I’m starting to think more about research in the wild as what what happens when we are asking questions and showing our work and listening as we build technologies—and by technologies I mean ways of doing and making across disciplines. This is not disinterested work. It foregrounds connectedness, for both me and my students. Collective learning invites identity and passion and the messy work of evolving into the classroom. The personal is political is also technical. Collective learning and the constitution of a common world requires us to think about the why and the how and the who is being impacted simultaneously.

I feel compelled to participate, to get my hands in the bloody mess (as Jenny Rice might say) of public engagement and attempt to expose the apparatus in a way that affects change in the material conditions of my community. I want to think about the ways we could practice knowledge making (or world making?) in more open ways. At the same time, I’m always connecting my research interests to pedagogy by thinking about how to teach that practice of collective world making to new students who are just starting to figure out where they will  make their space in multiple disciplines. I think of composition as learning rhetorical practice because it is about teaching and learning that is embodied; it requires effort and discipline in material, not abstract terms—you have to do something over and over to practice.


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