Category Archives: Appointments

New faculty: Dr. Jennifer Clary-Lemon

JCLAs many people know, UWaterloo English committed a significant portion of the winter term to interviewing potential new faculty members.  The process is bittersweet: you get to read about and meet the most exciting and interesting people, but can only hire a few. Then it comes time to extend a job offer, and there you are, on the edge of your seat, hopeful that someone will like you as much as you like them. In this case, we are ridiculously fortunate that Dr. Jennifer Clary-Lemon liked us! The co-author of Cross-Border Networks in Writing Studies and former editor of Composition Studies, Dr. Clary-Lemon has also contributed to Rhetoric Review, College Composition and Communication, Discourse and Society, and The American Review of Canadian Studies. And she agreed to an interview! Read on to find out more, and join me in welcoming her to the department.–JLH

JLH: Welcome to UWaterloo. If I have this right, you have Canadian west coast ties, and then were on the prairies–how does it feel to be relocating to Ontario? Will UWaterloo be a bit of a cultural shift on top of the geographic shift?

JCL: Thanks for your welcome! It’s true, I was born in Dawson Creek, B.C. and have lived many places West (Kelowna, Vancouver, Honolulu, Prescott, Tucson, Tempe) and Midwest (Chicago, Winnipeg). I guess I think of myself as a person from the west, though living in the longitudinal centre of Canada for the last twelve years has brought some cognitive dissonance to me thinking of myself that way. It’s going to be strange crossing that centreline, thinking of my geographies anew, and re-associating myself with a different region. Though you could say I’ve been drifting eastward for a long time!

Admittedly, I don’t yet know much about the culture of Ontario other than what makes the news rounds. But I’m used to working at a small, liberal arts inner-city university in an urban centre with Indigenization as a key strategic initiative. It will be a big shift moving to a much larger research university whose focus is on the STEM disciplines. For me, that’s the immediate cultural shift that I’ll be trying to get a handle on as I arrive.

JLH: Some of your research explicitly engages the Canadian west coast–can you talk a bit about that, and your research more generally?

JCL: My research about the Canadian west coast was entirely by accident—I wound up interviewing tree planters in Manitoba about their experiences, and many of them invoked time they had spent tree planting in B.C. and Alberta.  That project, a book called Planting the Anthropocene: Rhetorics of Natureculture (out next March!), is a rhetorical look into the world of industrial tree planting, engaging themes of nature, culture, and environmental change. Bringing together the work of material ecocriticism and critical affect studies, it argues for a new theoretical framework that I call a new materialist environmental rhetoric.

Because that project is mostly done, right now I’m meandering down a couple of other new research paths. The first is about the tension between new materialism and cultural rhetorics (particularly indigenous rhetorics), and the second is about the ways that humans and non-humans make meaning and persuade each other in development projects, particularly as they apply to environmental impact mitigations for endangered species.

JLH: I’m really intrigued by your work with the University of Winnipeg Global College Institute for Literacy, Diversity, and Identity. Could you tell us a bit about it?

JCL: Directing the Global College Institute was a wonderful opportunity to support diverse initiatives on campus that were interdisciplinary, community-based, and flexible enough to want a launching pad outside of a traditional disciplinary department. My time as Institute Director brought together the three elements of Literacy, Diversity and Identity by choosing to support initiatives that creatively combined them: supporting the Finding Your Voice creative writing program for new Canadians; supporting practicum-based events in experiential learning courses like the 24-hour Read-A-Thon and Book social;  assisting a student symposium that brought together students in English, Rhetoric, and Education to speak about their experience with community service learning; partnering with Amnesty International  to host workshops on nonviolent communication; supporting the Tongues project with the NEEDS centre (an after-school program honouring diverse language approaches to art, writing, and music); and delivering a workshop on Critical Discourse Analysis to Young Leaders in Sustainability for the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

JLH: Where do you see yourself fitting within the department?

JCL: I’ve worked for so long in an independent department of Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications that sometimes I forget that my PhD is in English! To that end, much of the collegial work I’ve done in my past has been the work that brings together seemingly disparate disciplinary areas and finding common ground between and among them. I suppose I see my fit at UWaterloo in the same way—I love teaching writing, I love researching rhetorical theory, and I have always loved reading. Although we are all loyal to our own scholarly traditions, there is much common ground to bring to bear between them.  I guess I see myself as a listener to those conversations, and someone who wants to have them in the best interests of students.

JLH: Finally–because I often ask–what pleasure reading do you have lined up? Even if you can’t get to it!

JCL: Some days pleasure reading and research reading is the same, as was just the case when I finished The Overstory, by Richard Powers. However, I will say that I often follow the whims of good pals who ask for suggestions on social media and then I lurk greedily in the comments. What this means is that I have many titles written down that I know nothing about and probably don’t go together, but that I have on good advice that they’re good reads—Invisibility is a Superpower, Dare Me, Excellent Women, Lay It On My Heart. Oh, and judge me as you will, but every time I wind up reading a YA novel when I didn’t know it was YA, I wonder, why doesn’t everyone write novels this well?


Welcoming Dr. Imre Szeman to English

Please join me in welcoming our newest member of the English department,  Dr. Imre Szeman. Imre’s research focuses on energy and environmental studies, social and political philosophy, and critical theory and cultural studies. Previously a Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies and Professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, Imre  is the recipient of numerous awards, including the John Polanyi Prize in Literature (2000), the Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award (2003), the Scotiabank-AUCC Award for Excellence in Internationalization (2004), an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship (2005-7). He is the founder of the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies and a founding member of the US Cultural Studies Association.

His most recent books include: Energy Humanities: An Anthology (with Dominic Boyer, 2017); Popular Culture: A User’s Guide (with Susie O’Brien, 4th revised edition, 2017);   Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment (with Jennifer Wenzel and Patricia Yaeger, 2017). Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Culture (with Sheena Wilson, Adam Carlson, 2017);  Popular Culture: A User’s Guide (with Susie O’Brien, International edition, 2017); and After Oil (with the Petrocultures Research Group, 2016).

Forthcoming books include: A Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory (co-ed, 2017); Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment (co-ed, 2017); and On Petrocultures: Globalization, Culture, Energy: Selected Essays, 2001-2017 (2018).

Dr. Szeman is jointly appointment with Drama and Speech Communication.

Our newest department member: Dr. Forrester

In case you missed this fantastic piece of news, I am absolutely delighted to announce that Dr. Clive Forrester is the newest member of the UWaterloo English department. His linguistic research into the operations of Jamaican Creole in courtroom spaces is compelling. He kindly agreed to an interview with Words in Place, discussing everything from snow and swag to comic books. Enjoy!–JLH

JLH: Welcome to Waterloo! You did you PhD abroad–when you started your PhD, did you envision yourself teaching in an English department in Canada?
CF: I didn’t even see myself in Canada full stop! I knew my grandma spent a good deal of her later years there (she returned to Jamaica for her final few years) and that it was almost always cold. I remember asking her to bring back some snow once so I could see what it looked like in real life. Well, when I arrived in 2008 as a Visiting Prof at York University I got my “baptism by ice” that winter. But, if you can survive one winter, you can survive two. And if two, then three. And so on.

JLH: How have you found Waterloo so far? Have there been any surprises?
CF: I quite like it here at Waterloo actually. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of welcome/orientation activities for new faculty members. Usually orientation is focused on students and new faculty are given a map of the university to figure things out. But I’ve attended at least three welcome functions and been treated to all manner of pastries and UWaterloo swag.

JLH: Your research adds a new area of expertise to our department: can you tell us a bit about what you do and how you see it fitting here?
CF: Well, at first I felt like an oddball given the kinds of research and courses in the department – Medieval literature, Chaucer, Shakespeare, even a course on Harry Potter. But then I realized that a lot of the courses really deal with how different genres/styles of language shape and influence the way people see the world in different contexts throughout different time periods. I kinda do the same thing in my own area of research, applied/forensic linguistics, especially when I look at how different linguistic identities are perceived inside the courtroom in a context where two languages of differing status (Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole) occupy the same discourse space. I think I can contribute to the theoretical underpinnings of what comprises one’s linguistic identity and the ways in which this identity is negotiated across concerns such as linguistic discrimination, code switching, language change etc. One of my current works in progress looks at perceptions of hate speech in the Caribbean, and how this perception is framed against a background of a context where indigenous Caribbean languages are often dismissed as inherently hateful.

JLH: Do you have future research projects you are excited about?
CF: I’d say I’m excited about (a) co-editing a volume on language and the law from a Caribbean perspective, and (b) seeing how best I can develop my research on hate speech perceptions in the Caribbean.

JLH: I know most of us don’t have spare time for pleasure reading this time of year, but I’m curious: if could sneak in a few books, what would they be?
CF: Of late, I’ve started to read works from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – the Nigerian feminist author who wrote Half of a Yellow Sun (the first one I read). I’m also eager to start Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings; he’s a Jamaican author who shot to fame after winning the Man Booker Prize in fiction for 2016. I also love a good Marvel or DC comic, my favourite story arc of late has been “Injustice: Gods Among Us” where the DC superheroes (and some villains too) decided to use their powers to the full extent and end crime permanently.

Welcoming Dr. Vershawn Young to English

I’m genuinely thrilled to announce that Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young has just been cross-appointed to English. (He holds a PhD in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago–perfect!) His books include: From Uncle Tom’s Cabin to The Help: Critical Perspectives on White-Authored Narratives of Black Life (co-editor, 2014); Other People’s English: Code Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy (co-editor, 2014); From Bourgeois to Boojie: Black Middle-Class Performances (co-editor, 2011); Code Meshing as World English: Policy, Pedagogy, Performance (co-editor, 2011); and Your Average Nigga: Performing Race, Literacy, and Masculinity (2007).

If that isn’t enough, he is the lead editor on the forthcoming Routledge Reader of African American Rhetoric: Debates, Histories, Performances as well as Anti-Racist Activism in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication, co-edited with English’s Frankie Condon. I could list his numerous articles and awards as well, but I think you get the point: Dr. Young enriches our offerings in rhetoric and American literature in important ways. The students recognize this too, and he is already sitting on PhD dissertation committees.

Photo credit: Richard Tsong-Taatatarii.

Our Newest Faculty Member is also an Alumna?!

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.

A Recent PhD Graduate Reflects on the Academic Job Search

Hawreliak_blog_photoYou may recognize Jason Hawreliak, UWaterloo English PhD graduate, from previous WIP posts about his post-doc, or his work as a co-founder and editor at First Person Scholar. Jason is now an Assistant Professor of Game Studies at Brock University’s Centre for Digital Humanities. Jason was kind enough to agree to an interview with Words in Place about his experience preparing for and entering the academic job market.–JLH

JLH: Firstly, congratulations on the tenure-track job. Were you wedded to the idea of academia, or were you also considering industry?
JH: Thanks! An academic job was certainly my first choice, but I was also seriously considering a job outside of academia. With the way that the job market is right now, I think that’s important. After finishing my Ph.D. last summer I got a Mitacs postdoc through Neil Randall and the Games Institute which had me working with a startup firm. That was a great experience and opened my eyes to startup culture. Not everyone will be interested in startups, but I think it’s a very good idea for Ph.D. candidates to try to get some experience outside of academia.

We all know that many university departments—especially in the humanities—are not hiring many tenure track positions, and certainly not enough for the amount of people looking for work. Contract or adjunct work is becoming the norm for new grads and it’s difficult not knowing if you’ll have a job come next term. I was very fortunate that I only worked in the “gig economy” for about a year, but it was a very stressful period. If you’re able to get some industry experience then you’ll be much better off when looking for a job. A broad skillset is really important I think.

JLH: At what point did you go on the academic market, and what were your thoughts as you eyed the job ads?
JH: I started applying quite early, while I was still trying to nail down a defense date. My initial thoughts when looking at ads were, “oh this position looks perfect for what I do – how could they not hire me?” But of course it doesn’t work that way. I received many rejection letters, and it was certainly discouraging at times. That said, I just kept plugging away and applying, even if I didn’t think I had a chance. For this job at Brock, I revamped my CV and application package thanks to some invaluable help from faculty, and got the interview.

What I learned more than anything through the application process is that you have to be able to accept rejection, and that you have to be in the right place at the right time. I really do believe it’s a lot about luck as there are plenty of hard-working, qualified people who aren’t getting jobs. You can obviously increase your chances by doing interesting research, publishing, getting grants, serving on committees, showing a passion for teaching, etc., but I don’t think there’s any denying that a lot of it is about fit and timing. The stars really do have to align.

JLH: You began the program before the professionalization course was in place; how do you think UWaterloo prepared you for post-PhD employment?
JH: I think very well. I never took any professionalization courses but there were workshops available. Also, UW English has some great connections with local tech companies and places like Communitech, so I always felt I had a decent sense of that world if academia didn’t work out. More than that though, my supervisor, Marcel O’Gorman, was a huge help. Marcel dragged me along to my first conferences, gave me interesting RA work, and throughout my Ph.D. guided me on how to better position myself as a job candidate. I really lucked out in that regard. Generally speaking, UW English is also great because it offers teaching opportunities throughout, and that doesn’t happen everywhere. I have friends at other schools who never taught independently until after their Ph.D. Having that teaching experience really helped.

JLH: When it came time for job applications and interviews, did anything surprise you?
JH: Not really, but again, I think that can be attributed to the guidance I received. Maybe just the rate of rejection. You know intellectually that the odds aren’t in your favour, but after a certain number of “We regret to inform you” letters it takes a bit of a toll on you. For people about to go on the job market I’d say to just be prepared for that and know that it doesn’t have anything to do with your worth as a scholar, teacher, or person because it can feel that way sometimes. Once I realized that rejection is just a part of the process it became easier to take.

As for interviewing, I did some mock interviews and job talks in front of faculty and other grad students and I can’t stress how much that helped. Those should be mandatory. I can almost guarantee I would not have gotten this job without the mock job talk. It was awful and I probably would have walked out on myself if I had been in the audience. But that’s exactly the place where you want to have that bad experience, and it gave me the skills and confidence I needed for the real thing. For the actual interview, I guess just that it was a very long day. You always have to be on and that can be tough for some people.

JLH: In hindsight, is there anything you wish you’d known when you first started the PhD? Or anything you might have done differently?
JH: It’s hard to say because I ended up in what’s essentially my dream job at Brock. I’m researching what interests me, the courses I’m teaching and developing are the courses I’ve always wanted to teach, and the people I work with are wonderful. If I did anything differently, who knows, I might not be here.

One thing I did learn about the dissertation though is that at some point I had to stop reading; I had to stop worrying about making the dissertation perfect. I was really worried that my dissertation would have some glaring blind spot, that I would miss something obvious and important and I would be laughed out of my defense. So I just kept reading everything I could get my hands on, accumulating mountains of notes. There’s a benefit to that, obviously, but at some point it becomes an impediment. You can never know everything, even about your very specific topic, and I had to learn that that’s ok. If you try to know everything, you’ll just keep spinning your wheels. Of course, you can’t go too far on the other side of things and get complacent, but in my experience that’s almost never an issue. The problem for me was that I wanted it to be perfect and so ended up taking much longer to finish than was probably necessary. But everyone is different and that’s certainly not the only reason why dissertations take as long as they do.

Actually, one other thing is to seriously consider whether or not to make your dissertation open-access once it’s done. If anyone can just view your dissertation online at any time then publishers may be more hesitant to publish it as a book. I allowed mine to be open-access because I strongly believe that information should be as accessible as possible, but there are material considerations to keep in mind too. Mind you, I have colleagues who were able to get their re-worked dissertations published by very good firms, so it’s hard to say. It’s complicated and I don’t know what the right answer is, but it was just an issue I hadn’t anticipated.

JLH: Finally, what has been the biggest shift for you as you moved into a tenure-track position?
JH: Job security, for one. That’s the biggest thing no question. But in terms of the actual work, it’s more meetings! That’s honestly the biggest difference I’ve seen so far. The workload for teaching and research is certainly heavier, but I had expected that. I hadn’t expected that meetings would take up so much time and energy. Luckily I enjoy the committees I’m on and really like the people I’m working with. We’re setting up a new game design and development program slated to start next fall, and it’s exciting to be a part of that process. I guess just generally you feel like you’re more of a part of things in the department and the university and that’s nice. Otherwise you teach, you read and you write. Everyone coming out of UW English is more than prepared for that.

Introducing new faculty member Stephanie White

Stephanie WhiteWaterloo English’s latest hire, Stephanie White, will soon be defending her PhD dissertation on community-engaged composition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We are thrilled to have her join the department and enhance this area of research and teaching expertise. Thank you to Stephanie for squeezing in an interview between moving and the beginning of term! –JLH

JLH: You’re Canadian, but you did your entire university education, from undergraduate to PhD, in the US. What made you make the choice to stay abroad throughout?
SW: Well, it ultimately came down to which schools took me! But the main reason I applied to PhD programs in the US is that there simply aren’t many programs in Canada that focus on composition and on writing instruction at the doctoral level. And that’s what I most wanted to study: university writing pedagogy. I also really wanted to learn about community engagement when it comes to writing studies, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison has a very cool culture of community engagement in their Composition and Rhetoric program. So that choice came down to which school was the best fit for what I wanted to learn about—and that school happened to be in the US. Oh, and I also fell for this American during undergrad, and his career decisions worked well for him in the US, so that was a factor.

JLH: Does it seem strange to be entering the Canadian system for the first time at this level? What differences stand out?
SW: It does and it doesn’t. I have a lot of questions about what really is different, but most of them at this point are logistical (like, what requirements are in place for doctoral dissertation defenses at UW?). But many of the differences will come down to institutional culture, not national culture.

JLH: Do you think your research will translate well to the Canadian context?
SW: I’ve always done research in both Canada and the US, and I’ve worked to make sure that my research was relevant to both contexts—that’s been a major priority for me. So, for example, my research on undergraduates doing community-engaged writing in first-year communication courses features case studies in Washington, DC, in Ontario, and soon in BC.

JLH: What most excites you about UWaterloo?
SW: I’m really impressed by the culture of growth that I see here–everyone seems invested in new initiatives, like the English 109 classes for math students that I’ll be teaching in the fall–which I think shows how innovative the faculty of English can be. That’s so important in academia!

JLH: Finally, what are you reading for fun right now?
SW: My sister just lent me her copy of Jane of Lantern Hill, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, which was the perfect (re)read for coming back home to Canada. Before that, I read the newest Bridget Jones book. Next up, I’m rereading The Brothers K, by David James Duncan. It’s been almost ten years since I first read it, and it’s so rich and powerful and funny that I want to go back to it for more. And, when you’re in the middle of major life transitions, like moving to a different country and starting a new job, past books are like old friends that have moved with you, you know? I need some comfort reading.