My research focuses on increasing accessibility within sites of composition: first-year writing classrooms, professional and multimodal writing classrooms, and writing centers. I’m interested in what researchers, instructors, and students can learn about rhetoric and writing from disability studies.
Rhetorics of Overcoming
My book, Rhetorics of Overcoming: Rewriting Narratives of Disability and Accessibility in Writing Studies, was published by the National Council of Teachers of English in July 2021 as part of the Studies in Writing & Rhetoric (SWR) Series. Rhetorics of Overcoming addresses the in/accessibility of writing classroom and writing center practices for disabled and nondisabled student writers.
I explore how rhetorics of overcoming—the idea that disabled students must overcome their disabilities in order to be successful—manifest in writing studies scholarship and practices. Specifically, I argue that rewriting rhetorics of overcoming as narratives of “coming over” is one way to overcome ableist pedagogical standards. Whereas rhetorics of overcoming rely on medical-model processes of diagnosis, disclosure, cure, and overcoming for individual students, coming over involves valuing disability and difference and challenging systemic issues of physical and pedagogical inaccessibility. I call for developing understandings of disability and difference that move beyond accommodation models in which students are diagnosed and remediated, instead working collaboratively—with instructors, administrators, consultants, and students themselves—to craft multimodal, universally designed writing pedagogies that meet students’ access needs.
You can access a PDF of the first chapter of Rhetorics of Overcoming through the NCTE website!
Self-Care in the Writing Classroom
Increasingly, my research has focused on mental health, disability disclosures, and self-care in the writing classroom.
In 2015, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health reported that college students seek mental health services at 5x the rate of enrollment. From 2010 to 2015, “institutional enrollment grew by 5.6%, the number of students seeking services increased by 29.6%, and the number of attended appointments increased by 38.4%.” And according to the 2013 National College Health Assessment, more than one-third of U.S. college students reported depression. In response to these trends, researchers are collaborating with faculty to ensure that students are not just physically well but also emotionally and spiritually well.
Explicit attention to self-care encourages student and instructors to express their needs. With constant reports of racial, gendered, and disability violence within and beyond the classroom, there is a critical need for self-care in higher education. The ongoing pandemic, especially, has made this important to prioritize in my classes.
I incorporate self-care in my writing classes, and I lead workshops for faculty and staff on self-care strategies for themselves and their students.