sweet-bitter weather

Despite being absolutely freezing every winter here in Houghton, Michigan, I love the place. It has gorgeous summer which looks pretty much like a heaven during fall colors. When summer looms, my worries are gone; my anxieties no more exist. When I came here as a graduate student in RTC program, I was, however, rather petrified by the winter warnings unwittingly shared by my colleagues. The chilling cold would freeze my nose every time I would dare to walk. But, now I have learned how to enjoy winter. I don’t care about freezing winter because I can seize some moments of delights on varied festive occasions. Certainly, I don’t care about piles of snow beneath my boots because it is my dream school which offers supportive living in a warm congenial and home-like environment. Though relatively a very small program with faculty and staff of family-like friends, I find the program very interesting. It is a program that definitely considers your future, your interest, and your responsibility to fulfill as a citizen of the world.

The program offers students a solid grounding in the field. At the same time, because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program, every student gets enough opportunity to explore the area of his/her own interest. Here, I find things absolutely different from my prior institution. You do not feel lonely as plenty of RTC graduate students are willing to meet you, to hear you. You feel at home away from home as soon as you begin to interact with teaching faculty and staff, friends and other members. Each professor provides students with guidance and advice on becoming professionally active. The focus on scholarly skills and the mentoring relationships with professors assures that students can acquire a professional competence in the area of their interest. Courses offered definitely serve the interest of every student. I have been enormously benefited from the multidisciplinary and global approach of teaching and the congenial learning environment.

expanding knowledge base through conferences

The RTC program gives you the opportunity to expand your knowledge pool. It is interesting the way professors encourage students to attend conferences. We are almost always not mere listeners at conferences we share what we have and what we are working on. Conferences also afford students the opportunity to meet scholars they have read about. I have had the opportunity to attend conferences. In my three years stay on campus, I have witnessed two conferences that the department has hosted. In both conferences I had the opportunity to listen to mentally challenging scholarship. I have also attended and presented at conferences in other institutions.

The atmosphere and student culture encourages you the student to share what you are working on with other people. You constantly hear graduate students discuss conferences they have attended or yet to attend and the preparations they are making towards yet to attend conferences. As a member of the RTC community, you will come to realize the importance of conferencing to your graduate education and beyond. The department does a good job mentoring and encouraging students to become well rounded, competitive academicians. And the good side of this is most of the students develop conference papers to well published articles.

student-centered professors

The RTC program at MTU is a wonderful place to pursue your academic laurels. I have had the opportunity to listen to renowned and student-centered faculty members. The first thing that captured my attention when I arrived was the faculty-student relation. I am thrilled about the fact that I can walk to any of the professors and talk about whatever problem there is with me. It is fun to discuss academic issues with people who are ready to listen and offer solutions to your numerous problems. You do not walk out of a professors’ office without solutions. My first semester on campus would have been a disaster but for the help of the professors. When the going was tough, when I struggled to understand the theories and concepts, they urged me on. They encouraged and challenged me. I have come very far and I can say the professors have helped in enormous ways.

The professors are interested in the well-being of students. This is captured in the zeal with which they patronize in graduate colloquiums. One would think that the colloquiums only provide a platform for graduate students to discuss their research with colleagues. It is not the case in our program. The professors show up in their numbers, ask questions and sometimes they coordinate the colloquiums. It is fun and exciting to see students’ and professors’ engage in intellectual discussions. The professors respect graduate students, they are ready to mentor us. The professors are a treasure!

Peers in the Grad Program – Enriched By Diversity

Undergraduate days are marked by classes, study sessions, and parties. Often, a lifelong friendship or two develops. While graduate days are marked by volumes and volumes of work, lifelong friendships as we knew them in our undergraduate studies seem less likely because, if we are not attempting to read 100 pages of text in one night, we are writing the next great 25-page Journal of Business and Technical Communication article. Nonetheless, peer relationships play an important role especially in a smaller, more intimate program like the Rhetoric, Theory, and Culture program at Michigan Technological University.

We come to Michigan Tech’s RTC program from very diverse backgrounds. Some of us studied or worked as technical communicators. Many of us did not; instead, we were educators, media relations specialists, linguists, or creative writers. We are an assortment of recent graduates to well-seasoned working professionals. It is this diversity that enriches our three (for MS students) or four (for PhD students) semesters of coursework. Graduate classes are discussion based, providing us with the opportunity to reflect on the required readings and their implications. In these discussions, our collective scope enhances each person’s theoretical understandings and philosophical thoughts. And, despite our differences, we develop a common language and a shared sense of humor.

Our diversity can be expressed through our coursework as well. The Rhetoric, Theory, and Culture program allows us to choose niches of study most suited to our backgrounds and interests. So, for example, we can indulge in coursework concentrating on rhetorical theory, or highlighting the relationship between technical communication and technology, or examining the effects of communications on culture and vice versa. In this way, we are able to achieve our future ambitions that range from academic posts to industry positions. Now, we relate to each other as peers—assisting one another in our studies and helping each other laugh when the graduate road is a little rocky—and soon we will be one another’s colleagues.

RTC experience

About the program

Enrolling in the RTC program at Michigan tech has been an enormous benefit to my education and career pursuits. Aside its interdisciplinary approach which provides students with a rich and diverse array of courses to select from and fashion out their interests, the program privileges students with a learning experience grounded in a spectrum of knowledge to increase and enhance their expertise.

About the teachers

A huge benefit of the RTC program is the commitment of the faculty members. I have gained tremendously from the rich knowledge that my professors give in the classroom. Their teaching reflects the openness, enthusiasm, and dedication needed to be successful.  Faculty members are also committed to helping students identify and develop their specific interests by offering invaluable advice when needed.

Nathan Carpenter, PhD candidate

Dissertation: Contextualizing and Rearticulating Collective Power in the Digital Era

Today’s technological culture tells us that computer networks and mobile communication technologies are producing powerful new kinds of collective activity, as evidenced through the widespread use of concepts such as “smart mobs,” “crowdsourcing,” and “collective intelligence.”  My work investigates these concepts as sites of cultural and political struggle and asks the following questions: How are these concepts used to reproduce power relationships?  For whom is collective activity powerful?  How can concepts of collective power be reconfigured to enable new forms of political efficacy?

Teaching: As a doctoral student and candidate, I have had the pleasure of teaching a number of introductory and advanced courses, including Perspectives (UN1001, Michigan Tech’s first-year-student seminar), Composition (UN2001), Introduction to Speech Communication (HU2830), Technical and Professional Communication (HU3120), Popular Culture (HU3860), and Media and Communication Theory (HU3871).

Department Activities: In addition to teaching, I have served in the following capacities: as the HDMZ’s Graduate Assistant Director; as the Assistant to the Director of the Communication, Culture, and Media undergraduate degree program; as the Web Coordinator for the Making Our Mark @ MTU diversity project; and as a cohort leader for the Pavlis Institute for Global Technological Leadership.

Student Life: I live with my family in the quiet village of South Range (about 10 minutes south of Houghton).  Besides appreciating having a great place to raise our children (I have a 5-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter), my wife I and enjoy being able to participate in the thriving local arts community.

Cheryl Ball, Associate Professor of New Media Studies

“The PhD in Rhetoric and Technical Communication at Michigan Tech taught me to be a flexible, fun scholar. The program allowed me to pursue my own areas of interest within digital writing studies and
pushed me into new areas that resonated with a larger,
interdisciplinary community.”

“The PhD in Rhetoric and Technical Communication at Michigan Techtaught me to be a flexible, fun scholar. The program allowed me topursue my own areas of interest within digital writing studies andpushed me into new areas that resonated with a larger,interdisciplinary community.”Dr. Cheryl E Ball is an Associate Professor of New Media Studies in the English Department at Illinois State University. Her areas of specialization include multimodal composition and editing practices, digital media scholarship, and digital publishing. She teaches writers to compose multimodal texts by analyzing rhetorical options and choosing the most appropriate genres, technologies, media, and modes for a particular situation. Since 2006, Ball has been editor of the online, peer-reviewed, open-access journal Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, which exclusively publishes digital media scholarship and is read in 180 countries. She has published articles in a range of rhetoric/composition, technical communication, and media studies journals including Computers and Composition, C&C Online, Fibreculture, Convergence, Programmatic Perspectives, and Technical Communication Quarterly. She has also published several textbooks about visual and multimodal rhetoric, including most recently visualizing composition with Kristin L. Arola (Bedford, 2010). Her most recent book, RAW: Reading and Writing New Media (with Jim Kalmbach, Hampton Press, 2010), is an edited collection about reading and writing multimodal texts and administering writing programs with multimodal design components. She is currently at work on a new multimodal, genre-studies-based textbook project, a digital-media scholarly book collection, and a National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored content-management system for Kairos. Her online portfolio can be found at http://www.ceball.com/.