DRC 2021-2022 Fellows End-of-Year Reflection

Image Caption: A modified screenshot of the DRC Fellows’ final virtual meeting. Pictured from the top left to right: Jennifer Burke Reifman, Sarah Hughes, Laken Brooks, Courtney Mauck, Laura McCann, Laura Menard, Alyse Campbell, Simone Sessolo, Naomi Silver. Not pictured: Anne Gere.

2021-2022 was an exciting year for the Sweetland DRC Fellows. As their fellowship draws to a close, our six fellows offer reflections on their experiences and projects. This year’s cohort continued to focus on themes of accessibility, ethics, and activism, along with several other topics within the field of digital rhetoric. Our blog carnival explored emerging perspectives on new media technologies, and a new teaching materials page was created to showcase crowd-sourced classroom activities, texts, and prompts. In addition, our fellows created a new podcast, the DRC Talk Series, which features prominent scholars currently working in the field of digital rhetoric. The DRC Fellows also expanded on projects relating to digital literacy in Appalachia, as well as outreach to the Computers and Writing community. We are grateful for the 2021-2022 Fellows’ dedication, creativity, and collaboration this year!

Laken Brooks: 

The DRC fellowship was a balm to my soul. As a member of the 2021-2022 cohort, I was able to make connections to other emerging scholars in Writing Studies and Cultural Rhetoric. I was also able to think about ways that I could practically apply my academic interests to make my community a better place. 

For example, my colleagues in my cohort provided me with valuable insight as I shaped my fellowship project. Throughout the year, I researched tools and organizations about media studies and digital literacy in Appalachia. I then created a public Adobe Spark outlining these resources for Writing Studies scholars who either work in Appalachia or otherwise work with Appalachian students. This project continues to grow. Based on the feedback of my peers, I was able to imagine helpful directions in which to expand this Appalachian digital literacy project. Now, I am working to create a multimodal Twine that provides some curated feedback about different tools that scholars might use when they do folklore studies, qualitative interviews, or other in-person field research in the Appalachian Mountains where WIFI might be limited. 

One of my favorite parts of the fellowship was being able to collaborate with other fellows to create a digital roundtable conference presentation. My group recorded a video outlining some teaching strategies that can help instructors prioritize accessibility. I have since adopted several of these accessible teaching approaches that my co-presenters taught me. For example, one co-presenter explained how he encouraged his students to take class notes for one another in a shared document. This approach has helped me engage students as they alternate between taking notes in our class. Not only does this note-taking help keep students engaged during class time, but it also opened up broader discussions about note taking strategies, the importance of taking notes, and how sharing notes may help foster a stronger learning community. 

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I will treasure this fellowship and the connections I have made for years to come. 

Jennifer Burke Reifman: 

As someone in a graduate program with few other students in Writing Studies, becoming Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative fellow in the 2021-2022 cohort was a terrific opportunity to meet fellow graduate students and learn from them. Throughout this year, I have gotten to know and work with fellow graduate students across the country who I may have never encountered before, and I am thankful for these new connections and how they have broadened and added to my own work. 

Through my time as a fellow, I got the chance to develop projects alongside fellow graduate students and trusted faculty. Specifically, working from last year’s Syllabus Repository project, Sarah Hughes and I worked to develop the Teaching and Learning Materials Collection, a space for writing instructors to share their work in developing essay prompts, in-class assignments, and go-to readings. We received dozens of thoughtful, well-developed submissions from instructors who were excited to share their intellectual labors with the field. After review, the Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative now houses almost 20 different writing prompts and in-class activities from instructors across the country. This kind of database was incredibly fulfilling to help create because, as someone who has been teaching for over ten years, I regularly turn to the work of other teachers to inspire new classroom innovations and think about new ways to incorporate digital rhetorics in my pedagogy. 

In addition to this project, I also really enjoyed working with all the fellows this year in building our Computer and Writing Conference workshop. While many of us weren’t able to be there in person, we were able to innovate an asynchronous workshop about incorporating digital activism in the classroom. Finally, I was also able to review a workshop session at CCCC around multilingual writers and contribute to other reviews from this conference season. Overall, the work I have done with SDRC has been truly fulfilling and rewarding. I look forward to seeing what future fellows do in these roles!

Sarah Hughes: 

As I approach the last days of my second year as a DRC fellow I feel so much gratitude for the connections I’ve forged and the opportunities I’ve been afforded as a member of this collaborative and kind community. Thanks to Alyse, Naomi, Anne, Simone, and my cohort for your spirit, enthusiasm, and mentorship: I’ve enjoyed learning from and alongside each of you, and I am so energized and inspired by the work we accomplished together this year.

As a fellow last year, I had the opportunity to be part of the inception of the DRC Syllabus Repository alongside Nupoor Ranade and Jianfen Chen. At the time, the fellows had discussed the possibility of creating an additional repository—one for the classroom materials like those described in those syllabi. With too little time in the semester last year and an excitement to create a pedagogical archive that would support instructors new to teaching in Digital Studies, I held onto the idea. Then, this year, Jennifer Burke Reifman and I were able to bring that project to life as the Teaching & Learning Materials (TLM) Collection: a library of thoughtfully-designed and inventive assignment prompts, classroom activities, and essential course texts. The collection is already impressive at almost twenty entries, and I look forward to watching it flourish in the hands of future fellows. As an instructor myself, the conversations I’ve had with fellow teachers, in assignment prompt exchanges and hallway passings, have honed and polished my pedagogy and the documents at the heart of my classroom. I’m proud to have contributed this collective space to house and formalize these exchanges for instructors working at the intersections of digital studies. Thanks to the generosity of our contributors, the DRC now houses this rich and supportive resource.

I feel so much gratitude for the sense of fellowship this program cultivates, the collegiality and trust that emerges within this small and interdisciplinary community, where our varied but intersecting research interests coalesce. I loved our collaborative work on our Computers & Writing Conference presentation, thinking through questions around digitality and accessibility, ethics, and activism. I’ve learned so much about corners of digital studies scholarship I wasn’t familiar with from the work of my cohort and past fellows, and my own research has become more nuanced with this insight. I’m leaving this fellowship with new connections and friendships, insights and experiences, and I look forward to being part of the continuing discourse at the intersections of digital studies.  

Courtney A. Mauck: 

At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was a smart decision to join the DRC during the final year of my PhD, a time when I should be using most of my energy to finish my dissertation. However, looking back on it now, I can see that it was one of the best decisions I made. As someone no longer in coursework, it was a valuable opportunity to come together with like-minded scholars in a space where we could share ideas, develop projects, and just learn alongside one another in a supportive space.

As a DRC Fellow, my main project was developing Blog Carnival 20: New/Emerging Perspectives on New Media Technologies. This project was really important to me because, as someone doing research on social media, I find that the publication cycle of traditional journals can sometimes be a hindrance when it comes to sharing research on new technologies. Often, by the time we are able to publish, the technologies we are writing about may already be on the slippery slope towards obsolescence. As such, I was so grateful to work with so many thoughtful scholars for Blog Carnival 20 and to learn about all the exciting projects people have been engaging in when it comes to new media technologies. I’ve certainly learned a lot from the experience.

I am also grateful to the entire DRC team and proud of the work we did and the materials we compiled for our virtual presentation/workshop at Computers and Writing 2022. This presentation really highlighted all our intersecting research interests and allowed us to work collaboratively in new and interesting ways. It was so rewarding to see all our hard work come together. My time as a DRC Fellow gave me community during a time when I really needed it. I’m looking forward to applying the skills and knowledge I’ve gained in my future projects, and I’m excited to see the amazing things the folks in my cohort end up doing next.    

Laura Menard: 

This past year with the Sweetland DRC has been an amazing experience! I have learned a lot through my projects of maintaining the DRC social media accounts (including creating an Instagram account), making a podcast, and our cohorts’ presentation at Computers and Writing 2022. I’ve been able to meet and collaborate with so many great people. 

Creating a podcast with Laura McCann is definitely a highlight of the year. I had the opportunity to meet top scholars in the field of digital rhetoric and ask them questions about their research. In addition, I learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes aspects of podcasting. I gained a new level of respect for podcasters because there is so much work that goes into making one; from writing scripts to editing (so much editing!) to integrating music that fits the vibe of the show. It’s a long process, but it’s all worth it in the end when the podcast gets posted. 

I’m also proud of the work we did for our Computers and Writing 2022 presentation/workshop. Most of us were unable to attend in person. Working and communicating through Zoom meetings and Google Docs, we created a presentation with videos of our individual or group parts. I’m so proud of how well we all worked together, how committed to the presentation we all were, and how the separate videos were able to be integrated so completely into an awesome presentation. 

With it being my 3rd year in my program at BGSU, I was no longer taking courses, and it had me feeling a bit isolated at times. But, the community and camaraderie I felt with the other DRC fellows more than made up for it. I will always be grateful to the DRC for this past year, and I can’t wait to see what future cohorts create.

Laura McCann: 

This past year with the Sweetland DRC was such a positive experience. I had spent the last several years watching each new cohort of fellows be introduced on the DRC website and enjoyed the content they created, from blog carnivals to podcasts. I am so glad that I finally decided to apply myself. Working as a 2021-2022 DRC Fellow has given me the opportunity to meet so many smart and friendly scholars. Additionally, as a University of Michigan undergraduate alumna, it felt so exciting to be a part of the UM community again. 

As a fellow, I had the chance to work with Laura Leigh Menard on a podcast project focused on methods and methodologies. We both wanted the opportunity to speak with active scholars in rhetoric, composition, and media studies and to think more deeply about the many different ways to approach digital projects. We were able to meet with Laura Gonzales, S. Scott Graham, Caddie Alford, and a DRC alum Wil Flores to discuss their diverse methodological approaches and collect advice for scholars interested in entering digital rhetoric scholarship. We envision these interviews to serve as a starting space for new PhD students or more advanced scholars who are looking to incorporate digital rhetoric and composition practices into their own work. This is a project that I hope continues into future cohorts, and is one that I am proud to have worked on. 

In addition to the podcast project, I worked closely with Laura Leigh and other fellows on our Computer and Writing Conference workshop. Many of us ultimately were not able to travel for an in-person session, but we put our theory in practice and created an innovative set of asynchronous workshops together.  Working closely with fellows to create the workshop materials was my favorite part of this entire year. I know that I will miss the camaraderie and collaboration we fostered together, even in a remote setting. And like years past, I will be excited to follow the work of our incoming DRC fellows. 

About Author

Alyse Campbell

Alyse is a PhD student in the Joint Program for English and Education and the Graduate Administrative and Editorial Associate for the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative. Her research interests include digital writing pedagogy, digital discourse, and Asian American rhetoric.

Laura McCann

Laura McCann is a Rhetoric PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University working within the rhetoric of health and medicine, technical communication, and digital rhetorics. Her current project studies master narratives of infertility and the rhetorical strategies patients employ to make sense of these disruptive medical experiences.

Laura Leigh Menard

I am a third-year PhD student in the Rhetoric and Writing Studies program at Bowling Green State University.

Courtney A. Mauck

Courtney A. Mauck is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Composition at Ohio University. Her research interests include digital rhetorics, social media, multimodal composition, and game studies.

Laken Brooks

Laken Brooks is a PhD English student at the University of Florida and a freelance health and lifestyle writer.

Jennifer Burke Reifman

Jennifer Burke Reifman is a 5th year Education Ph.D. Candidate at U.C. Davis with an emphasis in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies. Her research focuses on technology in the writing classroom, writing program administration, and student identity and agency. When she isn't being a graduate student and writing teacher, she spends most of her time playing with her 3-year old son, tending her backyard garden, or diving into a video game.

Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes is a PhD candidate in the Joint Program in English & Education at the University of Michigan, where she also teaches in the English Department Writing Program. Her research interests include digital rhetoric, gender and discourse, and gaming studies. Her dissertation project explores how women use multimodal discourse—grammatically, narratively, and visually—to navigate online gaming ecologies.

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