Category Archives: Alumni

Our Newest PhD: Dr. Sarah Whyte!

Screenshot 2018-07-18 14.45.49Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s newest PhD graduate, Dr. Sarah Whyte. On July 17th she successfully defended “The Rhetorical Life of Surgical Checklists: A Burkean Analysis with Implications for Knowledge Translation.”
Screenshot 2018-07-18 11.18.11Sarah (above left) was supervised by Dr. Jay Dolmage (above centre)–note how genuinely happy a supervisor looks after a successful defense? Committee members were Dr. Randy Harris and Dr. Catherine Schryer.; thank you to Dr. Kathryn Plaisance of Knowledge Integration (above right) who served as internal-external examiner, and Dr. Carolyn Rae Miller, of North Carolina State University, the external examiner.

Dr. Whyte’s work has appeared in Social Science & Medicine; Advances in Health Sciences Education; Cognition, Technology & Work, and elsewhere. A description of her dissertation follows:

The Rhetorical Life of Surgical Checklists: A Burkean Analysis with Implications for Knowledge Translation
This dissertation uses the terms of Kenneth Burke’s dramatism to identify rhetorical aspects of surgical team checklists as they have been promoted, performed, studied, and surveilled. I argue that these terms can help to account both for the rapid uptake of checklists into policy and for their more variable effects and uptake into practice. I develop this argument by analyzing a large archive of texts published between 1999 and 2016, including popular media, news coverage, promotional campaigns, primary research, and other forms of scholarship. These published texts are considered alongside ethnographic fieldnotes from a study in which I collaborated to design, introduce, and evaluate an early version of a preoperative checklist at four Canadian hospitals. My analyses are guided heuristically by the first principles and central terms of dramatism, including action and motion; motive and situation; identification and division; attitude, form, and circumference. I use these terms to chart the early emergence of checklists within professional literature; to trace their rapid uptake as a standard of professional communication; to discern their multiple functions or purposes; to illustrate how and why they are enacted, accepted, and sometimes rejected in the operating theatre; and to locate blind spots in applied health services research. Taken together, these analyses demonstrate the importance of diverse rhetorical processes both to the uptake and to the basic functions of checklists. They also demonstrate the value and versatility of dramatistic terms. I contend in particular that the concept of rhetorical situation, as elaborated by Burke, holds significant potential for understanding and negotiating the material and symbolic dimensions of practice and practice change. This dissertation points the way toward a uniquely rhetorical approach to the study and practice of knowledge translation in healthcare work.


Welcoming (back) Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher

As many know, UWaterloo English hired several new faculty this year. Oddly, the people who assessed the needs of the department and proposed this particular position were unaware of Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher, his close ties to the institution, and his motivation to return to the region
. Read on for more–including his comments on when Fed Hall. was “the largest dance hall on any university campus in Canada.” Welcome Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher!

JLH: Welcome to UWaterloo—we know you have a history with the institution. Can you tell us a bit about that, and how it feels to be returning?
BM: I’m absolutely thrilled to be returning to UWaterloo after many years away from what’s always felt like my educational home. Being Canadian and growing up in Southwestern Ontario, I spent the bulk of my childhood in Stratford and in and around Toronto, Ontario. During my visits home, I’ve watched Kitchener-Waterloo grow from a small university town to what feels like a futuristic high-tech hub and cultural centre. I completed my BA and MA in English Co-Op at UWaterloo, and then moved to the United States to earn my PhD in Rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University, before taking a position as an Assistant Professor of English at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. After receiving tenure, I moved from the humanities to the College of Education at NC State.

In 2015, my wife, Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, took a tenure-track position in the Department of English Language & Literature at UWaterloo, and we’ve been enjoying re-acquainting ourselves with the university, city, and region ever since. During my last few years traveling back-and-forth between Raleigh, North Carolina, and Waterloo, Ontario, I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to join the department and to give back to the Canadian research and teaching context what’s been so generously given during my university years. It’s wonderful to be home again.

JLH: What do you see as the biggest change at UWaterloo since you graduated?
BM: The 1980s and 2018 feel dramatically different, particularly in terms of campus resources and architecture (and my lack of familiarity with it!). For example, when I attended UWaterloo, Fed Hall, “the largest dance hall on any university campus in Canada,” was lined up at the door every night of the week. It hosted the likes of Billy Bragg and The Indigo Girls, students danced till 1 AM, and in those days you could smoke inside. The University Club was an unknown to me, and the Bombshelter played “Leave it to Beaver” re-runs every Friday afternoon. Thankfully, they appear to have upgraded the furniture we routinely slept on in what was then called the Campus Centre. I recall there being less food available on campus and many of the spaces between buildings are now filled with new buildings. Fed Hall, the Bombshelter, and the Grad House were where most students ate, studied, and built life-long friendships, or at least that’s my happy memory of the time. I also have vivid memories of Hagey Hall, where I spent the majority of my time and shared an office with three other MA students.

JLH: You’ll be teaching English across faculties: what do you see as the most rewarding part of teaching non-English majors?
BM: I’ve been teaching non-English majors for most of my career, a lucky byproduct of being an English major interested in computers in the 1980s. Working with Dr. Paul Beam on computational analyses of Alexander Pope and Thomas Hardy, and with Dr. Phillip Smith as a TA for Introduction to Computing Technology for Arts majors, I had unique experiences that led me to teach courses enrolled by students across disciplines. Later, at North Carolina State University, I taught engineering communication, science communication, and business communication. And even later I taught training and development and education majors at the graduate level. Personally, I’ve also learned a lot from hearing my eldest daughter talk about her own experiences as a Computer Science major at Duke University, and now, working in the high-tech industry. I have also enjoyed working on numerous grants and dissertation committees that involved non-majors. I haven’t taught first-year students since I was at Carnegie Mellon University, so I’m looking very forward to reacquainting myself students new to their disciplines and to University of Waterloo in general. It’s an exciting time for me to begin teaching first-year students again, as my youngest daughter is just beginning her first year in college this August at UNC-Asheville.

JLH: Can you share a bit about your current research projects?
BM: I am currently working on a book-length manuscript, tentatively entitled “Learner,” an exploration of the rhetoricity of learning across the life span. Drawing on research from education and contemporary rhetoric, I explore the movement from behavioural to cognitive to social theories of learning.

I’ve also been collaborating with Ashley Mehlenbacher on a chapter where we discuss how online genres are used to communicate climate change information. This is part of work I’ve been conducting related to rhetorical studies of science and technology, a field I’ve only been reacquainting myself with over the last few years, last having worked in the area as a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University while completing a dissertation on proposals in biochemical research.

JLH: Finally—because I often ask—what are you reading for fun?
BM: I’m currently reading Timothy Findley’s final novel, Spadework, a book that I picked up in a used bookstore in Stratford, Ontario, and coincidentally, a murder mystery set in Stratford, Ontario, where Findley lived. The inside cover has a map of Stratford which, happily, I haven’t had to rely upon in my reading!


Screenshot 2018-06-25 09.25.35Convocation happens twice a year at UWaterloo. June convocation is the larger of the two. Faculty dust off their academic robes, enviously eying colleagues who graduated from institutions with much nicer robes in more flattering colours or with more interesting designs. (UWaterloo’s are red and green, pictured above.) Inevitably someone cracks a joke about Harry Potter, and who resembles which Hogwarts professor. And then the ceremony begins: we get to watch students receive their degrees as parents and friends cheer, mortifying some, buoying others. Afterwards, there is a reception in the student centre, where everyone poses for photos and faculty mingle with students and their parents. Congratulations to all our new English graduates! Here is our 2018 graduating class, with photos interspersed:


Kasandra Arthur, “We are Having All Kinds of Fun: Fluidity in Shoebox Project” (Supervisor Dr. Neil Randall)

Ryan Clement, “Playing the Story: The Emergence of Narrative through the Interaction between Players, Game Mechanics, and Participatory Fan Communities.” (Co-supervisors Karen Collins, Dr. Neil Randall)



Megan Dawe
Justine Fifield
Tasnuma Mou
Amber O’Brien


Julie Funk, “Sleep Mode and Material Melancholies: Speaking Roland Barthes, Love, Longing and Loss in Smartphone Discourse” (pictured above right) (Supervisor: Dr. Marcel O’Gorman)

Miraya Groot, “Waterloo Region Cyborgs:  Practice and Theory” (Supervisor: Dr. Marcel O’Gorman)

Megan Honsberger, “Technically Buddhist” (Supervisor: Dr. Marcel O’Gorman)

Caitlin Woodcock, “Resistance isn’t Futile: Exploring Mindful Non-Use of Digital Technologies from Female Perspectives” (pictured above left) (Supervisor: Dr. Marcel O’Gorman)


Emran Arif
Aaron David Atienza
Carmen Barsomian-Dietrich
Martin Bertrand
Dale Brennan
Gabriela Carmen Bzorek
Brian Nicolas Carney
Diana Hill Yin Cheung
Erica Antoinette Diane Lucille Coutts
Alyssa Briana Dauria
Benjamin Davis
Sandun Dissanayake
Benjamin Michael Elliott
Annabelle Camilla Maria Eshuis
Christine Barbara Frim
Alicia Jean Fuller
Emily Galvao
Nivan Hamed
Taylor Hatkoski
Meghan Holmes
Ishmal Hussain
Jasmin Jackson
Sumer Jafri
Lisa Manni Juniper
Tasha Karsan
Naz Delair Kittani (pictured above right)
Melissa Karina Koehler
Heather Nicole Lambert
Chelsea Leite (pictured above left)
Hayley Joy Levine
Troy MacArthur
Laura Macdonald
Katharine Macpherson
Victoria Yvonne Malfait
Kayley Maree Marner
Ernest Joseph McCullough
Kristin Elizabeth Rose McKnight
Scott Aaron Metzger
Shehzeen Misbah
Emily Taylore Misurec
William George Mitchell
Tatiana Morand
Zibusiso Ncube
Vanessa Ngan
Ryan Harrison Nisker
Oluwabukunola Oluwafisayo Orunesajo
Emily B Paul
Robyn Peers
Brandon Petryna
Nathika Pratheep-Ananth
Sanum Mumtaz Qazi
Summer Sarah Rashed
Michael Joseph Reitmeier
Alexander Joseph Rollinson
Erica Rosa
Tanja Maria Saric
Pamela Maria Schmidt
Nemanja Simic
Madeline Victoria Smith
Megan Elizabeth Smith
Ashley Marie Snyder
Elizabeth Spanjer
Katherine Elaine Steckly
Jonathan Tang
Naomi Corinna Turner
Sarah Elizabeth Turner
Meghan Elisabeth Voll
Margaret Anna Walker
Mackenzie Jane Verba Weaver
Samantha Miharu Yasui

How to play critically?


On Wednesday, May 9th, join UWaterloo English’s Dr. Aimée Morrison, UWaterloo English PhD alumnus Dr. Steve Wilcox, and Dr. Leah Zhang-Kennedy at The Museum in Kitchener, for “INTERACTION Dialogue: Learning Through Play.” The event is presented in partnership with UWaterloo Games Institute, founded and headed by English’s Dr. Neil Randall. According to the event page:

“Experts in digital media and game studies as the discussion covers the cultural, educational, social and political role of games and gameplay in our lives. Topics include digital literacy skills, creating and playing games critically, and learning through play.”

More information, including how to pre-register, is here. The event will be moderated by current UWaterloo English PhD student Betsy Brey.

Mouthy badgers and alumnus Tom Cull

Screenshot 2018-04-23 19.57.50
Some of you may remember UWaterloo English alumnus Tom Cull from a previous interview on Words in Place; others may remember him as a classmate or student. He’s also the author of the chapbook, What the Badger Said (Baseline Press, 2013), and now, the just released book of poems, Bad Animals (Insomniac Press). As the press writes:

“Tom Cull’s debut collection is equal parts zoo, funhouse, and curio cabinet. A mouthy badger tells off a search committee, a family of beavers conspires to commit murder, a celebrity seal slips his cage. In these poems, human and animal spaces overlap, often marking moments of transgression, rebellion, escape, and capture. Home and habitat are flooded with invasive species, cute animal videos, and rising tides.”

Alumna Eleanor Sudak wins HeforShe

Screenshot 2018-03-08 16.02.08
Congratulations to English alumna Eleanor Sudak, who is among the winners of the 2018 HeForShe writing contest at University of Waterloo. Eleanor won first place in the poetry category for her poem “Today We Say Thailand.” The winning submissions have been published in a special anthology presented by the Book Store and Writing Centre in support of the HeForShe 10x10x10 IMPACT framework.

English was well represented on the judging panel and included Dr.  Sarah Tolmie (English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts), PhD candidate Tommy Mayberry (who is also an Instructional Developer, Centre of Teaching Excellence), and MA candidate Marisa Benjamin.

Alumna Marsilda Kapurani: Rhetoric, Art, and the Real Housewives


I never thought I would be discussing an alumna’s contribution to the Real Housewives of Toronto. But that’s only a small portion of this interview with MA grad Marsilda Kapurani, who talks about the direct link between her time studying rhetoric and digital media at UWaterloo, and her subsequent career. Thanks to Marsilda for participating!

JLH: Can you tell us why a Masters in English was a good fit for you?
MK: Aside from the great reputation the university has, choosing UWaterloo was obvious for me because, the previous year, my husband had started his PhD program in Engineering at the same university.

In choosing the program, I considered my work experience and the career path I wanted to follow after my MA. In the four years after my BA, I had worked as a teacher, translator, and marketing manager. In the future, I wasn’t sure whether I would pursue art, marketing, or teaching. For these reasons, the Rhetoric and Communication Design program suited my interests better, since its applicability in art, academia, and business would provide me with more flexibility in my future professional choices. In retrospect, I couldn’t have chosen a more interesting program to study.

JLH: What did you enjoy the most about your time at UWaterloo?
MK: The whole experience was interesting and enjoyable. I loved the courses, especially the ones concerned with the Theory of Rhetoric and Digital Media. The digital media courses gave me a deeper insight in a rising medium that continues to shape our private and professional reality in a way that was incomprehensible 20 years ago.  If I had to mention my favorite courses, they would be the ones taught by Dr. Neil Randall, Dr. Aimée Morrison, and Dr. Michael MacDonald. Also, I really enjoyed working as a TA for a Business Communication course.

Additionally, some of the people I met during that time became close friends and we have managed to stay in touch since.

JLH: How have you used your degree since graduating? Has it been as you expected?
MK: English is my fourth language. As such, the MA programme provided me with useful tools for using the language beyond direct communication by exploring a deeper dimension of it – rhetoric. As an artist, interior designer, and marketing coordinator, I am always working with different people that have different interests, and communication is always a two-way street. When I am creating a painting or designing a room, the only means I have to understand my client’s visions are words which I have to translate into a visible and tangible product. I can confidently say that rhetoric has been extremely useful and necessary for me in performing well in all of these areas as it can influence people’s perspective of reality and convey a clearer message. Whether the medium is paint on canvas, a 3D design of a room, or a written digital ad, I feel rhetoric provides such practical knowledge that can only improve a professional’s performance.

JLH: Someone mentioned you in connection with the Real Housewives franchise–can you explain a bit about that? 
MK: Well, my involvement with Real Housewives of Toronto was very accidental. Before the show started, one of the “housewives” happened to visit the design office where I work and she saw my artwork there and really liked it. She commissioned a few pieces before the show and then another one for her wedding anniversary as a surprise present for her husband, which occurred while the show was being recorded. The painting was featured on the show when she surprised her husband with it, and she was very nice to name me as a local artist.

JLH: Finally, because I like to ask: what are you reading for fun?
MK: Currently, I am reading Cultural Intelligence by David Livermore. It’s a non-fiction book based on research drawn from over 25 countries. Through this book Livermore tries to provide insight on the diverse and global workforce we are living in, and especially how leadership has become a multicultural challenge. He provides a four-step CQ to help decision makers navigate international relations and the multicultural workforce effectively, respectfully and confidently.

In addition, I love architecture and interior design books. I just finished Candice Olson’s Favorite Design Challenges and can’t wait to read the Printed Textile Designs by Amanda Briggs-Goode.

You can follow Marsilda on Instagram and Facebook.