Contents:

Reflection:

Starting the PhD program I gave myself a few goals and considerations – develop my ideas about video as composition, make more videos, begin to foreground queer and butch, and think deeply and critically about myself as a leader across identities and positions. These goals are the themes I speak towards in this essay.

Coursework

In Fall 2011 I took AL 805 Rhetoric Theory and History (with Dean) and AL 885 Research Colloquium (with Bill). 805 was the fourth class I’ve had with Dean, and 885 was the third class I’d taken with Bill, which was helpful because I was able to leverage these relationships in various ways to help me towards the goals I’d set for myself. These classes were also back-to-back on Wednesdays that semester (3-9pm), which was a huge chunk of time for me to be (and stay) engaged.

Research Colloquium (885) was a good opportunity to “see the field.” To map an understanding of rhet/comp, and then place my work on that map. I also got to know my cohort a little bit. Perhaps the most important stuff for me in this class was working on our professional documents (PDF) – teaching philosophy, research précis, and CV. I’ve included my philosophy and précis drafts in this portfolio. I’m not happy with either of them because I don’t think they function as what they’re intended, but they are places to start. I feel uncomfortable with these because I am SO unsure of any definition or understanding I have of teaching and research. But I get the importance of practicing these types of writing. I was also able to continue my practice of videomaking in 885 with the Self-Study assignment. We were tasked with studying ourselves, looking for places of stress, habit, specific activity, efficiency or lack thereof. I knew immediately I wanted to create a video as a way of seeing the images and movement of my life, which I think is exactly what this video, Tough Love Letter to Grad School (Vimeo link), accomplished.

In Rhetoric History and Theory (805) there were only two other PhD students, and the rest were incoming MA students and one very bright undergrad. I remembered how overwhelming a theory course is, and how alien it felt.  And I’ve come to understand that a class is not just a step along the way towards a degree, but a communal learning moment in which the ideas expressed by the class inform the ideas floating around in my own head. To be a leader, I need to be open to the ideas of other people and less hesitant about where those ideas can take my own thinking. In other words, I needed to listen. And because this was my fourth class with Dean I was able to use the humor in our rapport to lighten the mood in the class, while also poking holes in and resisting the stability of any telling of a history of rhetoric.

I read hard and deep for 805. Not only did I need and want to be more versed in the history of this field, but to come to class ready to talk during those inevitable silences when no one knows what to say. A theme I hitched myself too early in the semester was emotion – how emotion was written and spoken about, othered and discarded, controlled and ordered – in the history of rhetoric. My final paper, The Emotional Other in the History of Rhetoric (PDF), was an inquiry into this notion. We were also tasked with writing a definition of rhetoric at the end of the semester. I came away with four ideas I’d associated with rhetoric – choice, communication, desire, and audience. Dean suggested we not make a video for this project, which naturally led me to make a video (Vimeo link). Choosing to use video to compose a definition of rhetoric IS rhetoric, which is why I insisted. I believe this video is successful as both a definition of my understanding of rhetoric and as a video composition.

Research Clusters

In addition to courses, I also participate in two research clusters – Pinch Tap Swipe: Tablets in the Writing Center (#iPadRC) and Queer Theory Playground (QTP). My work for #iPadRC includes contributions to our blog (pinchtapswipe.com), weekly meetings, and lots of group discussion and experimentation. We’ve also proposed panels for 3 conferences, and were accepted to all (SWCA, ECWCA, and C&W). We are currently just beginning to make the turn to situating our work so we can start to look towards publication opportunities. My specific focus in #iPadRC has been to consider and experiment with the iPad in writing center consultations; as well as asking how the mobility of the iPad alters/affords/limits movement between spaces – the writing center to home to class, and so on.

But…my heart belongs to Queer Theory Playground. I am relieved and grateful that these research clusters came along because it’s given me space to foreground queer in my scholarship, and a place to come every week and speak/be/write queer. I’d been doing some thinking about play and humor and emotion when the idea came to me of a “queer theory” “playground.” I like the idea of a playground as a low stakes space to experiment – with ideas, readings, mediums, words, recipes, expectations. I’ve come to know how much I really love reading queer writing; it feels like breathing, a necessary activity for being alive. QTP has also allowed me to foreground queer in my work, which is one of those goals I’d given myself.

Work

When I decided to apply to the PhD program (in mid 2010) I knew I wanted to work in The Writing Center to give myself time and space to develop my ideas on pedagogy, and get used to the idea of myself as a writing teacher. But my work at the center has become so much more than what I expected. As the Media Coordinator, not only am I given creative license to make media, I’m also learning a lot about the rhetorical aims of social media and content management, as well as the dynamics of institutional identity and project management, in my work on our new website (writing.msu.edu). Lastly, I came into my first year on assistantship at the center, Fall ’11, with a blast – the WC LipDub video (YouTube link) – which helped me position myself among the staff as someone who’s creative, fun, accessible, and helpful – as a leader. In order to do this I needed to be a bit less guarded with my ideas and time. Without sounding overly hokey, I actually really like going to work.

One of the most exciting parts of my work at The Writing Center has been giving workshops on video composing by special request to Scott Chiu’s and Leonora Smith’s WRA classes. I am beginning to translate my videomaking knowledge into teachable units, and am currently attempting to transition the way the center teaches the “iMovie Workshop” more along the lines of my ideas about video composition – intense focus on audience, purpose, and emotion; discussion of copyright; specific tips regarding transitions, effects, and on-screen text; and consideration of delivery, and sound as credibility.

In addition to my assistantship at the center, I’ve also maintained my hourly gig for CCC Online. We started this journal back in October 2009, and launched our first issue this past January – The Turn to Performance (paywall link). As the Media Editor I am responsible for troubleshooting and researching multimedia issues as they arise. For this first issue this meant completely recoding one of the website submissions to create consistency, navigation, and functionality. In October ’09 I couldn’t imagine our first issue, but I’m really proud of the work over these last two years, and am eager to use my editorial experience to inform my own publishing enterprises.

Service

The last bit of work I have to reflect on is my participation in the CAL Inclusion and Diversity Committee and the Writing Center 20/20 Planning Committee. The Diversity Committee meets once or twice a semester to discuss campus events we should sponsor. This part (“college” level?) of institutional dynamics is turning out to be frustrating because it feels like nothing actually happens. However, at the center level with the 20/20 Committee, things are moving along with the planning of our 20th Anniversary Celebration to culminate in 20 events throughout the year. This is a group of undergrad and grad consultants, led by Trixie. We are also working to design a new logo for The Writing Center to mark our 20 years of writing instruction.

Conclusion

I am pleased with my first semester (and some change) of PhD school. I’ve given myself achievable goals and feel good about my progress in reaching them. I’ve carefully considered and positioned myself as a leader in the courses I’ve taken, as well as in The Writing Center. I’ve given myself excuse to make videos while keeping in mind rhetorical purpose and situation. I’ve developed my ideas about video composing for workshops in The Writing Center. And I’ve foregrounded queer in my coursework as well as in my participation in Queer Theory Playground.