“…we must address despair and impossibility through careful analysis, a passionate attachment to our work, attention to ethical accuracy, and a commitment to social responsibility and action. In short, we must be conscious of the momentum we create.”

Jacqueline Rhodes summoning the work of Jacqueline Jones Royster

As a queer feminist leader, I feel a responsibility to be deeply conscious of the power and authority that comes with leadership, and to leverage my position to create conditions in which people can collaborate and do their best work. I approach leadership through a feminist practice of listening and reflecting back what I’m hearing in an effort to reach a common understanding of values, combined with a queer understanding of power as negotiable and unstable.

In my four years at The Writing Center, I immersed myself in this learning community, believing a writing center’s best resource is its staff, scholars and professionals with knowledge and skills useful to the center. As the Media Coordinator for The Writing Center I facilitated the learning of 15-20 undergraduate and graduate students on teams maintaining the center’s website development and content, social media presence, and visual design needs. These projects touched every facet of the center’s practices, creating space for collaboration across eight satellite locations, organizational committees, scheduling, workshops, and with our directors. Another example of of my leadership in The Writing Center is in collaborating with a team of graduate and undergraduate students in creating a promotional video, a single shot lipdub set to The Beatles “Help” featuring 40+ staff members. In the four months of planning this video, my role as the team leader was to create opportunities for team members’ ideas to become actions, by first listening to what they wanted to learn, and then creating conditions in which this was possible.

In 2011, I co-founded Queer Theory Playground (QTP), a queer rhetorics research group for queer-identified rhetoric and composition scholars at Michigan State. We come together each week to find ease and comfort in queer kinship. This group has no stable hierarchy, and with each project we negotiate leadership positions. From these queer relations emerge collaborations across publications, conference presentations, community and academic workshops, and the planning of the annual Queer Conversations Symposium. We are currently collaborating on a multimodal publication developed out of our roundtable at the 2014 Cultural Rhetorics Conference, titled “What ‘Fucking’ Clayton Pettet Teaches Us About Cultural Rhetorics.” In this piece, we have invited the roundtable audience members to collaborate with us as a way to value the knowledge they contributed to our consideration of Pettet’s performance[1]. In total this piece has 9 authors, and has been accepted in the inaugural issue of Constellations: a cultural rhetorics publication.

Lastly, in my role as President of WRAP (Writing, Rhetoric, and Praxis graduate student group), I led an executive committee responsible for planning and coordinating professional development opportunities, social events, and recruitment for our graduate student population. As the leader of this group, I worked to create an atmosphere of open and direct communication through listening and reflecting back as a way to counter the default authority that comes with my white and masculine identities. This included collaborating with the director of Rhetoric & Writing to give graduate students a more significant voice in the program. Through these collaborations, we were awarded the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Board Student Group Grant to fund Research Speed Networking, a professional development event with the goal of fostering collaboration and community among Rhetoric & Writing graduate students and faculty. This event went on to win the Innovative Program Award during Michigan State’s Student Life Leadership Awards.

I look forward to seeing how this administrative philosophy, that practices listening, reflection, and negotiations of power, works in other types of conditions.

[1] “Art School Stole My Virginity.” Clayton Pettet. Vyner Street Gallery, London, England. 2 April 2014. Performance.