Writing and Research

I contribute short articles to Career Corner, the blog for University Career Services at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These articles reflect my investment in professional development for graduate students and PhDs and are cross-posted on the Concordable Blog.

Between 2011 and 2015, I completed coursework and qualifying exams for the PhD in Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill. As a doctoral student, I was interested in how difference (e.g., gender, race, class, and sexuality) is articulated within our public, political culture. I looked at the political discourse in United States today and asked, how do we, as gendered, raced, classed, and sexual individuals and groups, make our voices heard, achieve visibility, and carve out livelihoods?  Difference and its counterpart, conformity, were at the core of my dissertation research about First Ladies of the United States and the practices of “normal” citizenship.

I was interested in the First Ladies of the United States, their various political projects, and the public responses they receive (positive and negative). Through their projects, first ladies influence what it means to be patriotic, or an ideal citizen. But in the responses they receive, we can observe lasting cultural tensions about women in political roles, changing American values and customs, and shifting norms for masculinity and femininity. Throughout my coursework, in conference papers, and for my dissertation planning, I explored these and other aspects of the first ladies in my dissertation. My goal was to shift the conversations that occur about first ladies and their political influence and cultural roles.

Although I will not complete this dissertation project, I am thankful for what I learned about difference and representation. Beginning with my Master’s thesis and continuing through my doctoral years, I deepened my understanding of race, class, gender, and sexuality at the smaller, interpersonal level of everyday action and at the larger, institutional level of politics. I continue to draw from this knowledge in my own day-to-day experiences.

I was active at regional and national conferences, presenting my work at National Communication Association, Rhetoric Society of America, Southeastern Women’s Studies Association, Southern States Communication Association, and Women and Society. My critical essay, “From Seeing to Looking to Participating: Embracing Multiple Sexualities by Fixing the Gaze on Brandon Teena,” is included in Deanna Sellnow’s The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture: Considering Mediated Texts (2013).