It rarely happens that professors are hired at an institution from which they graduated–but it has just happened at UWaterloo! Ashley Rose Kelly is our newest Assistant Professor, and we are thrilled to have her. She also graciously agreed to do a Words in Place interview. Read on to find out what it is like to come back as faculty and have former professors as new peers–all while establishing yourself and your research at a new institution.
JLH: You have the uncommon experience of being hired as a professor at the same university where you did your undergrad—is there a little bit of déjà vu? Is it a mental adjustment to have your former professors as colleagues?
ARK: I completed both my undergraduate studies (B.A. in Literature and Rhetoric) and early graduate studies (M.A., co-op in Rhetoric and Communication Design) in the department. Returning to the University of Waterloo as a faculty member was all part of my ideal career trajectory and by some alignment of the cosmos that actually happened. More than feeling déjà vu I’m a little surprised to find myself here—thrilled, but surprised.
Mental adjustments have felt breezy and natural, and I credit that to how well I have been treated by the department’s faculty. Working with Randy Harris and Neil Randall I always felt as though I was treated as a competent and respected colleague, albeit a junior one.
JLH: Has campus changed since you were here? Do you find you are looking at Waterloo—the city and university—with a different set of priorities?
ARK: Kitchener-Waterloo is certainly a growing region and the campus has indeed changed. My fiancé, Brad Mehlenbacher, also completed his BA (85) and MA (87) in the Department of English Language and Literature at UWaterloo so we toured around campus and had some fun noting the changes that occurred between our times there and my return to UWaterloo.
Upon returning my priorities are certainly different for the city. A lot of long-term commitments to the city and region exist now where they didn’t before. Looking at the university now, as alumni and faculty rather than a student, I am somewhat more focused on long-term planning. Some priorities remain the same, such as my commitment to inter- and multi-disciplinary research, which I engaged in during my graduate studies at UWaterloo.
JLH: What excites you most about this upcoming year?
ARK: Wherever I begin this response I find myself overwhelmed with an ever-growing list. Most generally I am excited to return to an English department. I feel at home in an English department, and enjoy the composition here at UWaterloo of literary scholars, new media and critical cultural, writing studies scholars, and rhetoricians like myself—and, especially and of course, those with overlapping identities.
JLH: How do you feel your research fits at UWaterloo? Are there specific opportunities you are pursuing?
ARK: Much of my research is inter- and multidisciplinary and collaborative. At North Carolina State University, where I earned my Ph.D., and at Purdue University, where I began my career as a faculty member, I worked with researchers from across the humanities and social sciences as well as STEM disciplines. UWaterloo’s reputation in STEM subjects and our own department’s industrious faculty members who collaborate with other departments and programs, and indeed the faculty in English who are appointed from other program homes, are good evidence that the research I conduct is already established and valued here.
After landing at UWaterloo, I secured an internal grant to support my next major project, “Networked Expertise in Multidisciplinary STEM Collaborations,” which I am beginning in the Fall term. The study examines the role of expert social networks in generating scientific knowledge by investigating how individual researchers in effective multidisciplinary STEM collaborations assess the competencies of their peers from other disciplines in order to understand implicit and explicit assessments of expertise.
I’m also reaching out across campus to make, or in some cases to rebuild, connections. Part of my time is spent in The Games Institute where I am developing a project entitled the SciGames Hub. I’ve also been working with Randy Harris (PI) and Chrysanne DiMarco on a grant-funded project looking at rhetorical figures in computational rhetoric, a project situated between English and Computer Science. Another exciting affiliation is with the Science and Technology in Society Teaching Group at UWaterloo. I identify as a rhetoric of science researcher working in science studies, so I was thrilled to find a broader community of science studies scholars here at UWaterloo.
Another way UWaterloo has benefited my work is to host the Genre Across Borders website. I’ve been working closely with Carolyn R. Miller, a leading—if not the leading—genre scholar, to continue building this inter-disciplinary and international resource for genre researchers and we’re thrilled to have a long-term, university-based hosting solution for this scholarly project.
JLH: I presume—like most of us—you have several research projects underway. Is there one that you are most excited about?
ARK: My book project, Trans-Scientific Genres of Science Communication, is one that I have been working on most intensely since joining the faculty here. I’m very excited about the project, which is progressing nicely. The book explores how scientific communication is rapidly changing in web-mediated environments and encompasses a range of emerging genres and social practices and it explores crowdfunding proposals, open notebooks, open databases, new kinds of visualizations, and blogging as “trans-scientific genres.”
JLH: Finally, what is the last novel you read for fun?
ARK: How about what’s next? I’m eager to crack open The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon. The book is about the relationship between a young Alexander the Great and Aristotle. I’m a rhetorician so it is probably obvious why I’d be interested in the book, but I’m especially excited to begin reading Lyon’s book because she is a Canadian author, and I’ve rather embarrassingly not kept up with Canadian literature while I’ve been abroad.