The philosopher Isaiah Berlin once famously divided writers, thinkers—indeed all humanity—into two distinct categories. To Berlin, you were either a hedgehog or a fox. Hedgehogs have a singular focus and interpret the world through the lens of central, unifying idea. Foxes, on the other hand, distrust such monolithic perspectives and are given to protean and fugitive thought that pursues many ends and seeks to understand things on their own terms, without placing them within any particular box or system. Megan McIntyre, the new Assistant Director for Program Development at the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, is decidedly with the foxes.
Take her formal education, for example. McIntyre attended three different colleges and, as she explains, "cycled through a half dozen majors" including criminology, psychology, history, political science and English. It wasn't until her senior year, while studying at the University of South Florida, that McIntyre became an English major. She would go on to earn BA, MA and PhD degrees in English from that institution. However, even within the confines of her chosen discipline McIntyre evinced the searching, rhizomatic intellect so typical of foxes. To wit: while writing her Master's thesis on postcolonial women writers and the educational system under British colonialism, she discovered a new love of rhetoric and writing studies that would become the focus of her doctoral work. The dissertation she wrote is unmistakably the work of a fox, as it utilizes a hyper-interdisciplinary theoretical focus known as Actor-Network Theory, which is used to analyze complex heterogeneous networks made of both human and nonhuman agents. In McIntyre's case, she examines the role of Twitter in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, carefully revealing how "human users and subjects and nonhuman spaces and technologies form a network" that produces and extends human agency. In her subsequent writing, McIntyre has examined the role that technology plays within the writing classroom, particularly how "networked notions of agency and responsibility" might shift how we think about learning in the first-year composition classroom.
Considering her profoundly interdisciplinary focus, McIntyre felt an immediate attraction to the community of scholars and teachers within the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. As she tells it, "I was impressed by the interdisciplinary First-Year Seminar and thrilled to see professors from multiple disciplinary and professional backgrounds teaching writing courses." She hastens to add that "[i]n addition to a fantastic faculty in the Institute and beyond, the students I met during my visit were thoughtful, bright, and invested. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to join such a faculty or work with such students."
As for her new role with the Institute, McIntyre looks forward to providing further resources for faculty and to "creat[ing] opportunities . . . for faculty to learn from one another." "I'm hopeful," she writes, "that my background and interest in technology will be of use to the faculty across the Institute. As part of the research I'll do in my position, I also hope to find ways of articulating the amazing work our faculty and students do as well as find ways to better support faculty work and program outcomes."
The faculty of the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric are looking forward to working with Megan on these endeavors, and wish her a very warm welcome.
The Institute for Writing and Rhetoric is proud to announce that Darlene K. Drummond will join the faculty this fall as an Assistant Professor of Speech.
Drummond's research focus is on interpersonal communication, largely within the context of health and the experience of health care. In her published work on such issues, Drummond studies the communication experiences of individuals living with chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and breast cancer. Much of her work also examines the experiences of what she terms “co-cultures”; her "focus," she relates, is "on giving voice to muted groups particularly Blacks and Hispanics living in the United States and the maintenance of group identities in intercultural communication encounters."
Drummond's scholarship has been profoundly influenced by three remarkable social scientists—Alfred Schutz, Norman Denzin, and Erving Goffman—whose pioneering work in sociological phenomenology, interactionism, and ethnography form the foundation of her own work. "In my writing," she states, "I attempt to carefully describe the ordinary conscious experience of everyday life . . . . It is the internalized subjective consciousness of the perceptions, behaviors, evaluations, feelings, judgments, decision making, beliefs, and remembrances of others that I seek to describe."
A remarkable example of Drummond's mode of analysis may be found in a deeply personal book that chronicles her own decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery. The book, an autoethnography entitled A Diary of Gastric Bypass Surgery, carefully describes Drummond's agonizing experience of the death of her mother from complications related to obesity and the difficult decision to undergo a radical surgical procedure to avoid a similar fate. One of the book's reviewers states that Drummond's careful, vivid, and intimate portrayal of her experiences allow her readers to “become voyeurs into the life of someone struggling with obesity.”
While her past research has considered how gender, race, and ethnicity play crucial roles in effective interpersonal communication encounters, Drummond's future research will examine how these forms of culturally constructed identity intersect with issues of social class. In particular, Drummond is interested in how these "complex dynamics" affect "interactions between health professionals and consumers in the planning and construction of effective health regimens." Drummond also plans to explore "more concrete ways to feel comfortable in discussing issues of racism, sexism, classism, and other 'isms' in interpersonal, small group, and public speaking contexts."
Drummond is an active and award-winning scholar. She has published widely and presented papers at conferences all over the world, many of which have received prestigious awards. Recently, while attending the 2015 meeting of the World Communication Association's conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Drummond received the Myung-Seok Park Award for the best overall conference presentation—an award she also won six years earlier. Drummond has also won the Women’s Health Presentation Award for the highest ranked poster at the annual meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine, a Top Paper Award in the Intercultural Communication Division of the Southern States Communication Association, and a Top-Three Paper Award for the Health Communication Division from the National Communication Association.
Drummond notes, "I am extremely excited about the opportunity to conduct research, teach, and serve such a great institution. The position will allow me to explore areas of personal and professional growth through experimenting with innovative approaches to conducting research, presenting research results, and making significant contributions to the Institute’s faculty development efforts.”
The faculty of the Institute share Drummond's excitement and offer the warmest of welcomes and good wishes.
Deanne Harper brings a wealth of experience to the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. Professor Harper formerly worked as an Associate Academic Specialist in the English department at Northeastern University where she taught composition, rhetoric and technical writing. She also acted as a consultant for Northeastern's College of Engineering, helping the faculty there to enrich their curriculum with a professional writing experience at each level of their five-year degree program.
Most recently, Harper has worked in the software industry as a Senior Manager for Education at Nuance Communications, a multinational corporation that creates speech technologies for individuals, businesses and healthcare providers. Forbes magazine describes the company as “the most advanced speech recognition company in the world.” If you've interacted with the clever and sometimes cheeky Siri on your Apple iPhone, you've witnessed the powerful software for which Nuance is known. At Nuance, Harper designed over 30 classes to teach skills necessary for the implementation of speech systems. Her particular expertise was in the theory and practice of user interface design, actually scripting the dialogs and wording to enable humans to interact with machines.
This kind of experience with technology is quite valuable in today's writing classroom, where students expect to gain competencies in more than just the traditional college essay. Indeed, students today often engage in what is known as multimodal composition, where intellectual work is composed in various forms of media including podcasts, blogs and film. Harper finds that her writing pedagogy has been fortified by her recent detour through the world of cutting-edge technology. She writes, “I look forward to using technology to enhance interactivity between students and myself, and to enlarge the range of texts available as we improve literacy in multiple contexts.”
Professor Harper has authored a number of publications, largely focusing on how best to prepare undergraduate students for academic and professional success. She has also worked with several textbook publishers to help create handbooks for student writers and various other learning materials used in the composition classroom. She has had a hand in a number of important and widely used reference texts including Writer's Reference (Diana Hacker); Literature, the Evolving Canon (Sven Birkerts); Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum (Laurence Behrens and Leonard Rosen); Discover and Commitment: A Guide for College Writers (Leonard Rosen); and The Allyn and Bacon Handbook (Leonard Rosen).
When asked about her new position at Dartmouth, Harper states that she is “thrilled” to join the faculty at the Institute, “both because the program is truly outstanding . . . and because the students and faculty desire to be excellent within an organization that provides the resources to support that desire.”
As she prepares to teach her first two courses with the Institute—Expository Writing and Science and Technology Writing and Presentation—Professor Harper pleasantly recalls her own experiences as an undergraduate student. “I never forget my own wondrous Freshman year,” she writes, “where professors challenged me, encouraged me, scared me sometimes, and ignited my appreciation for so many ideas and perspectives.” Now, as a professor herself, Harper tries to provide a similar learning experience for her students: “I understand that Dartmouth students are one of its greatest resources, and I look forward to working with such outstanding people. I expect to learn from students even as I challenge them towards excellence in the writing and analytic skills that enrich all other pursuits.”
Professors Compton and Van Kley Take on New Roles
Two of our faculty return to the Institute this year with new titles. Josh Compton, who joined the faculty in 2008, has accepted a tenure-track position in Speech with the Institute. Earlier this summer we interviewed Professor Compton about his vision for Speech at Dartmouth, his teaching, and the future of his scholarship.
Professor Nick Van Kley, who served this past academic year as the Interim Director of Student Writing Support Services, will return as the Director this year. Van Kley comes to the Institute from Brandeis University, where he was the Assistant Director of the Writing Program. In an article from this summer, we wrote about Professor Van Kley and his future plans for RWIT.