Research Agenda

My research explores present-day literacy practices and the ways in which institutional, economic, and social history impact past and present networks and communities. In the classroom, I study the mechanisms and methods students use to transfer and adapt their knowledge for the various academic, professional, and personal communication situations they encounter on- and off-campus. In the archive, I search for answers regarding how class, culture, and commerce impact the literacies valued by the educators and the people.

In the spring of 2015, I published “Bypassing the Silence in the Technical and Professional Writing Classroom: Encouraging Agency through Discourse Analysis” in Open Words: Access and English Studies. This article disseminates research I conducted in my Technical and Professional Writing class at the University of New Mexico, a Hispanic-serving institution. My research suggests that within the Technical and Professional Writing classroom, discourse analysis can be used bolster students’ feelings of agency as they learn to apply their discursive awareness to professional communication situations. For writing instructors teaching peripheral student populations, such as working-class students, immigrant students, or other minority student populations, discourse analysis is a framework that can help students adapt their home literacies to the literacies expected of them in academic and professional communities without eliciting feelings of familial and cultural betrayal, a common concern for peripheral students populations.

Interested in how first-year composition students use their Funds of Knowledge, defined as the knowledge they bring from their home communities, and in discourse community membership, I published research conducted in one of my first-year composition courses at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. My article “Mapping Students’ Funds of Knowledge in the First-Year Composition Classroom” was published by the Journal of Teaching Writing in the summer of 2015. In the article, I provide the Digital Literacy Map assignment as one way that writing instructors can support and build upon students’ pre-existing knowledge to help students’ transition to the campus community. Explicitly, the Digital Literacy Map is meant to introduce students to discourse community concepts. Implicitly, it supports and celebrates students’ Funds of Knowledge as they draw on their digital- and community-specific knowledge to illustrate the similarities and differences between their self-selected communities.

As the founder and organizer of the University of New Mexico’s Celebration of Student Writing (CSW), I was interested in learning how student-participants perceive the value of the CSW. Along with a co-researcher, we interviewed over twenty student-participants and collected survey data from the 2011 CSW, an event where over 700 first-year composition students participated. We discovered that the CSW provides a place where first-year students can learn from and about each other and express their thoughts and opinions. The coauthored article “Moving Beyond the Hype: What does the Celebration of Student Writing Do for Students?” is forthcoming from Composition Studies in 2017.

My experience with teaching students across the socio-economic spectrum, as well as supporting students’ literacies, has led me to develop an edited collection, Class in the Composition Classroom: Pedagogy and the Working Class, with co-editor William H. Thelin. Given the variations in working-class and first-generation student populations at institutions across the nation, the collection does not offer chapters that merely gives advice on what to do but adopts an honest examination of what teachers are teaching to working-class student populations, as well as why certain theories should be implemented (or disregarded) given the particulars of any specific population. My chapter in the collection, “‘Being Part of Something Gave Me Purpose’”: Community Membership and Self Cultivation in First-Year Writing,” explores how my Discourse Community Identity Profile assignment can support working-class students’ transition to higher education by encouraging them to explore ways in which their discourse communities cultivate their identities. This collection is forthcoming from Utah State University Press. 

Ultimately, my research explores the complexity of literacy acquisition, particularly noting how community, culture, and commerce impact those literacies. Popular conceptions and beliefs regarding which literacies are “valuable” to a culture or community impact the field of rhetoric and composition, and more broadly English studies, as these dialogues impact support for academia and the profession, departmental and institutional funding, and inform classroom practice.