Although my commitment to social justice issues has been extensive, as a graduate student and instructor this has been most recently demonstrated in three ways: in my research in participatory media and their rhetorics of displacement, a responsive composition pedagogy rooted in the consideration of a diverse audience, and volunteer service dedicated to issues of quality food access.
My tenure as a graduate student at Old Dominion University and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee has focused on research into how participatory media persuade audiences through ecocritical rhetorics of place. This work has evoked theories pertaining to identity representation within spatialized media such as computer games and electronic literature. As part of my dissertation project, I argue that play is a radical form of placemaking and how “open world” digital spaces diminish this potential and restrictively emplace participants. This project concludes by discussing how augmented reality games have reinforced racial tensions in Milwaukee’s public spaces through an all too familiar rhetoric of “knowing one’s place.”
Although these theories emerge in the classroom, I work with students primarily using a more pragmatic instruction focused on how writing and media production are powerful tools in the fight for equality and inclusion. From the first day, we are mindful of the mantra on my syllabus: Words are power. Through our language and work, we not only champion our perspective but we must do so ethically and compassionately. Each of my courses are constructed as an immediate response to current issues concerning class, creed, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and accessibility. These examples help frame student work throughout the semester, typically culminating in an assignment that tests their encounter and engagement with Otherness.
This commitment to equality is also demonstrated in my volunteer service. While at Old Dominion University, I worked extensively with the homeless and disenfranchised of Southeastern Virginia through the American Red Cross and local soup kitchens. Although my current graduate work has demanded more of my time, I continue to work with the on-campus food pantry and a neighborhood food cooperative and work for issues relevant to food access.
Moving forward in my academic career, I am eager to dedicate more of my attention to issues of technological access as well. Because my research and pedagogy focus on digital rhetorics and the communities of practice that embolden them, I am increasingly challenging my own assumptions about technology and the luxury of access. Most recently, my experiences at Milwaukee Area Technical College and with the Summer Bridge program at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee have called into question the privilege of access many of us early adopters have come to take for granted. This technological self-reflection has motivated my work in the digital humanities and an approach to the digital sphere as one that must be critiqued through practice.