PhD student Vincent Manzie received the Top Student Paper Award at the 2017 International Crisis & Risk Communication Conference in Orlando, FL. The paper is “Applying the Rhetoric of Renewal Model in a Contemporary African Context: Lessons Learned from Royal Dutch Shell Oil Crisis in Nigeria.”
This year, the SSCA met in Tampa, Florida, and I helped organize a panel presentation that focused on the convention’s theme, Communication as Arts and Craft. Dr. Carrie West (Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Schreiner University), Professor Sally Hannay (Professor of English, Schreiner University) and I shared collaborative projects and mentoring techniques that evolved around a small roundtable of knitters who all happened to work in academia, our Stammtisch. While Carrie focused on the community of practice approaches of the Stammtisch, Sally shared her pedagogy on how to integrate a service-learning component into her Technical Communication classroom. I then wrapped up our panel by discussing the successes and obstacles when launching an international charity project that is based on grassroots activism. StreetKnits consists of a vibrant community of knitters from various countries (United States, Germany, Spain, Canada) who donate knitwear to homeless shelters in the Midwest.
Our panel was very well received. In fact, an ESL instructor from Georgia might be a new StreetKnitter and plans on starting a similar community outreach project on her campus, linking StreetKnits to refugees.
I also enjoyed several other panels on intrapersonal communication, rhetoric and ethics. Communication Studies is such a multi-facetted field and offers a big variety of exciting talks at a conference. Unfortunately, my flight to Chicago got canceled on Thursday and I did not arrive in Tampa until Friday night which resulted in a very short stay. But my colleagues and I plan on paneling again at next year’s SSCA convention in Austin, Texas, and I plan on submitting a paper on my own as well.
I would like to thank the Humanities Department and the Student Government for making this trip possible. StreetKnits is a project dear to my heart and sharing my ideas with like-minded people was a wonderful and inspiring experience. Also, I would like to thank several faculty members: Dr. Patricia Sotirin, Dr. Jennifer Slack, Dr. Stefka Hristova and Dr. Lauren Bowen have been immensely helpful in assisting me getting started with the IRB process, they introduced me to fellow scholars in the field and they helped me brainstorm about how to build a StreetKnits community at Michigan Tech.
Presenting at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) called for papers for its annual Convention last spring, and I submitted a proposal about a project my friend and former colleague, Lori Wells, and I had been working on for almost two semesters. The title of our presentation was, Le Petit Prince: A Big Idea for a Small Liberal Arts Campus.
This national conference met in San Antonio in November 2014, and when Lori, the French instructor at Schreiner University, and I received an acceptance via email, we were thrilled because our presentation would be a home game only about sixty miles from where I used to teach English and German for six years.
Lori and I launched a Big Idea on Schreiner University’s campus. We developed pedagogical concepts in our foreign language classrooms that focused on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s international classic, Le Petit Prince. Moreover, we organized several events in the course of one academic year that included theme-based discussion and interpretations of the book. These events, such as a Stone Soup discussion group that was linked to the university’s Writing Center and Monday Night Fiction, the book club on campus, also reached out to students who were not in our respective classes and even included community members in general. Students organized discussion panels and engaged in creative writing projects, e.g. a tri-lingual script for a class video. We also shared an international video commentary with our colleagues at ACTFL and received highly interested questions and remarks about how to launch a Big Idea project like ours on a different campus.
The conference was impressive with almost 800 presentations that ranged from teaching literature to experimental pedagogical approaches in all kinds of foreign languages. Attending and presenting at a professional conference like this is a fantastic way to network and to meet new people. I was warmly encouraged to apply for a job after discussing pedagogy with some fellow German professors and reconnected with a dear friend of mine whom I had not seen since grad school about sixteen years ago. He is now teaching German at the College of Charleston and would like to organize a panel with me for next year’s Convention in San Diego. The ACTFL Convention offered me big opportunities for collaboration and was truly inspir ing.
I would like to sincerely thank Michigan Tech’s Humanities Department and Student Government for supporting my project and presentation by granting me funding for this trip. I return from The Lone Star State with a slight sunburn, a mind full of academic ideas and a stomach full of the best Tex Mex food.
PhD Student Wincharles Coker has published a review of Beatrice Quarshie Smith’s book Reading and Writing in the Global Workplace: Gender, Literacy, and Outsourcing in Ghana. The review appears in the November 2014 edition of the journal Discourse and Communication (pp. 429-32). It’s available online at http://dcm.sagepub.com/content/current.
Especially in the harsh and seemingly endless winter months, getting acclimated to the Houghton environment (as a whole) can be a difficult task, especially if you hail from a place where the culture vastly differs from the one that is here. Coming from Queens, New York, a 30-minute F-train ride away from Times Square, my arrival to Houghton and most of my first year were spent trying to figure out how I could make this place, and my time pursuing my Master’s as comfortable and beneficial to my education as possible.While a challenging experience, I tried as hard as I could to find and fit bits and pieces of my hobbies from New York into my schedule to fuel myself with the familiarity of home. Before the snow hit, I would attend the early morning yoga sessions in the SDC until I decided to invest in my own yoga mat so I could keep up with my practice in the event that I couldn’t drive and was snowed in; I became involved with the women’s rugby team at Michigan Tech and embraced the chance to keep my love for the sport alive. As I approach the end of my time as a Master’s candidate, I know that I may have to make the sacrifice and give up my commitment to one of (if not both of) these hobbies in order to finish on-time but I also understand that I’ll need to find that balance again somewhere else; going to the KBC with friends and fellow graduate students,a large McDonald’s iced coffee, cooking a delicious meal, watching a good movie, picking up a good Netflix series or book (for fun, imagine!), Bananagrams, and FaceTiming with my girlfriend or friends from home are aspects of my life in Houghton that I strive to integrate into my lifestyle to ensure that the rough days less of a challenge. While several of my colleagues and friends enjoy hobbies ranging from photography and blogging to snowshoeing and broomball, I’ve found that there are places to make things feel like home here and provide that much-needed, occasional break from the work of being in graduate school and trying to find our place in the academic world.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.