How would you describe your perspective on teaching?
Whatever class I teach, I really like to focus on social justice. For example, a professional writing class doesn’t seem like it would have anything to do with social justice, and yet, in my classes students are working with campus groups and nonprofits to make a difference in their communities. Even in introduction composition courses, I want to help students understand the consequences of the stories they’re telling, and the stories they refuse to hear. I think that’s the crux of what I do: I think about the tangible impact that I’m making in students’ lives. I want to empower students to write into existence the world they want to see; I want them to really feel like they’re agents of change when they leave my class.
When are your office hours?
My office hours are on Tuesdays from 2:00-3:00 pm and Thursdays from 2:00-4:00 pm, and by appointment any other time.
What are you currently reading, if anything?
That’s a great question. A mentor once told me that academics should never stop reading for pleasure–that we have to remind ourselves why we’re here. Right now I am reading a book called The Fifth Season by the author N. K. Jemisin, who is a black feminist speculative fiction writer. I’ve also been reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, which talks about mass incarceration and how that plays into our particular history of racial injustice in the U.S.
What is a text that you think everyone should read?
There is a book that I’ve taught both in my rhetoric courses and in some of my Women’s Studies courses–Allan Johnson’s Privilege, Power, and Difference. I started teaching from this book so that students would have a common language to talk about difference, which is so important because so many of us have a hard time talking about identity without getting defensive. Students’ responses to the book surprised me; they loved it. I think Johnson’s book was transformative for a lot of my students because it helped them realize that having privilege doesn’t make someone a “bad person”–and that students could actually leverage their privilege for justice. Like my students, I think so many of us want to talk about things that are difficult but feel we don’t have the language–or we’re worried we’re going to mess it up. So yeah… I would recommend this book, because my students recommend it.
What is your biggest pet peeve in the classroom, or a big mistake that students tend to make?
I don’t know that I have “pet peeves,” per se, and I think that’s because I remember being a quasi-first-gen college student, who was super busy and working several jobs while attending class. I’m keenly aware that I wasn’t the perfect student, and I try to remember (especially now that I’m a professor) how stressful college can be. So I suppose I want to encourage students to talk to their professors when they’re struggling. Sometimes, I think students feel shy and worry about “bothering” us, but we’re not bothered. We’re here, and we really want to help.
Are you working on any projects at the moment?
Oh, indeed. So, I do work at the intersections of gender, sexuality, and rhetoric: For example, I’m working on a piece about trans bathroom bills, which we see popping up across the United States. I also just submitted a piece on how Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks (etc.) represent trans and gender non-conforming characters in animated films. That article was especially fun for me, because my students inspired me to write it. Students were doing a research project on trans youth, and when they couldn’t find many resources they said to me: “Why don’t you write about this, Dr. G?” And so I did.
What are some of your hobbies or interests?
As you can tell from my office decor, I have this huge collection of Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins. I’m a huge fan of collecting things from when I grew up, which was in the late 70s and early 80s (a good time for toys but a really bad time for fashion). And, this might seem random, but I also make plushy dolls. I never make the same doll twice, and each one comes with their own short story.
What is a piece of advice you would offer students?
I would absolutely recommend that students enroll in an immersive learning course or take part in an internship. If they can do both, that’s amazing. We get hired not just for our degrees and credentials but also for being able to say: “This is a tangible thing that I’ve done, and I’m really passionate about it. Here’s why…” For instance, a student in my Transgender Rhetorics course interned at Heartland Transgender Wellness, where he created all these informational pamphlets for clients. So he was able to say: “Not only am I educated about trans issues, but I’ve also produced these community resources.” So that’s huge, and I think that’s something that’s changing. There was a time when you could just get a job right out of college, but now you’re going to need to do an internship. You’re going to need to tell a prospective employer: “These are the kinds of things I’m already doing, and here’s how I can lend this skill-set for you.” And my sense is that Ball State is doing an excellent job in preparing students for our changing job market.