UPDATE: Alt-Ac’s URI History: An Interview with Donna Bickford

As a follow up to Kim Wickham’s interview with Donna Bickford that appeared on our blog on February 26th, we have learned that Dr. Bickford was recently honored with an Award for the Advancement of Women.  Dr. Bickford’s achievement is featured in the article “Three receive University Award for Advancement of Women,” available on The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s website.  We offer her our congratulations!

Upcoming Graduate Student Conference

With just two weeks to go, preparations for the 8th Annual Graduate Student Conference are well underway. This year’s conference is themed “Opening Spaces: Enabling Engagement with Complex Conversations,” inviting interdisciplinary dialogue from various departments at URI and beyond. Led by Jenna Morton-Aiken, second year Ph.D. student in Writing and Rhetoric at URI, the conference committee has vetted abstracts and proposals, and arranged panels with far-reaching topics. From discussions on mental health in literature to the impact of media on stand-up comedy, from conversations about the utility of video games in academia to exploring environmental practices in hotels, this year’s panels offer something for everyone in this smorgasbord of intellectual conversation.

In addition to the impressive student panels, the accomplished Reverend Dr. L. Weldon Palmer will deliver the keynote address. Reverend Palmer’s own scholarly and professional work spans difficult conversations; with a concentration in religious ethics and American religious traditions in his doctoral work, Reverend Palmer has also co-authored interdisciplinary studies in neonatology, geriatrics and gerontology, and biomedical experimentation.

As plenary speakers, this year’s conference will feature two of URI’s own esteemed professors: Dr. Jose Amador from the Department of Natural Resources Science and Dr. Libby Miles from the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. Professors Amador and Miles recently co-taught an honors-level course on communicating science to the public.

Registration is currently open for the Graduate Conference! Please visit the Graduate Conference website for further details. The conference takes place on Saturday, March 29, 2014.

Adolescence and New England Film Through the Cinema and Research of Michele Meek

The reverie of adolescence and precocious little girls fills the artistic and

Cassie (Shelby Mackenzie Flynn) plays with her food in Red Sneakers. Photo by Geoff Meek
Cassie (Shelby Mackenzie Flynn) plays with her food in Red Sneakers.
Photo by Geoff Meek

scholarly world of Michele Meek, filmmaker, teacher, and English Ph.D. candidate at the University of Rhode Island.  Michele’s creative talents can be seen through her writing, directing, and editing of her films, including Conversations With Women: Masturbation, Bubble Gum Ice Cream, and Red SneakersRed Sneakers won the 2nd Place Children’s Film Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and has gone on to screen across the country.  In 1997, Michele founded the website NewEnglandFilm.com, a site that remains devoted to keeping New England up-to-date with the local film scene, as well as provides avenues for cast, crew, and film companies to engage with one another.

Recently, I sat down with Michele to discuss film distribution, future projects, and her research.

Q: How did you first become involved in the filmmaking community?

MM: While working on my master’s thesis in screenwriting, I worked at Where Magazine, which is a publication for tourists in Boston.  I started to wonder, “Why isn’t there a publication for filmmakers to stay in touch with what’s happening in the local community?” So, I launched NewEnglandFilm.com thinking that I’d eventually move it to a print magazine. Then, of course, it just made sense as a website.  I realized it was more interactive and up-to-date, so it just grew from there.

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Alt-Ac’s URI History: An Interview with Donna Bickford

If the term “alt-ac” is unfamiliar to you, it won’t be for long. The 2013 Modern Language Association Conference held a special session “How did I get here? Our ‘Altac’ jobs”; searching for “alt-ac” in the Chronicle of Higher Education returns around 60 results; and, the term is quickly becoming commonplace in academic departments. Alt-ac is short for “alternative academic,” referring to careers held by scholars in the academy that are outside of the traditional tenure track, often in administration.  Those in alt-ac careers are generally Ph.D.-holding staff members, who not only work in administration, but also research, write, and teach. While these “administrator scholars” are valuable assets to the university, the lack of a clear support system and lingering hierarchical tensions still needs to be addressed in order for universities, departments, and students to benefit fully from this resource. Attention has, therefore, turned to the need, at departmental- and university-levels, for further discussion of alt-ac careers and an array of related issues, including the growing use of adjuncts, digital humanities, and graduate/professional student preparation. While alt-ac careers do not “solve” the myriad hiring issues within the humanities, they are fast becoming recognized as legitimate and attractive options for those who do not see themselves in tenure-track positions, but who still have much to offer to the academy.

I was fortunate enough to conduct an e-interview with Donna Bickford, one of the leading voices in the alt-ac community, and an alum of the University of Rhode Island, having earned her Ph.D. in English. Links to her two Chronicle articles, co-written with Anne Mitchell Whisnant, can be found below, along with other pertinent writings on the present and future conditions of alt-ac careers.

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All American High: Writing about a 1980s Nostalgia Film

Keva Rosenfeld shooting All American High.
Keva Rosenfeld shooting All American High.

Last semester, I taught the course ENG 245, Introduction to Film Decades, with the theme “Teen Films of the 1980s.” I found that our classroom conversations often led students to puzzle over what teens were “really like” back in the 1980s. I would sometimes remind them that for those of us who grew up in that era, life was not, in fact, anything like a John Hughes film.

In my quest to find a documentary about teen life in the 1980s, I stumbled upon All American High, a film by Keva Rosenfeld , which was nominated for the 1987 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Grand Jury Prize and aired on PBS in 1988. As it turns out, the film had recently been remastered and has found a new audience nearly thirty years later; it will screen in the upcoming 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) as part of a program with the Austin Film Society.

So I decided to contact Keva Rosenfeld and interview him about the production and re-release of the film and its own portrait of teen life. As I discovered, the film, which was filmed about a contemporaneous moment, has now become something of a nostalgia film for the 1980s, in the Jamesonian sense. You can read the resulting interview at The Independent.

Tim Amidon Shares His Research on Firefighters’ Multi-modal Literacies

On December 6th, Tim Amidon (PhD candidate, Rhetoric and Composition) gave a Brown Tim basket_tendingBag talk in which he presented work from his dissertation, “‘You Can’t Just Learn That Knowledge—That Unspoken Knowledge’: Firefighters’ Multi-modal Literacies.”

Tim, who has been a firefighter for fifteen years, began his talk by explaining that firefighters are too often considered to be “people who do, not people who think.” The research he conducted—which included interviews and field observations—challenges that assumption, and it also challenges our understanding of literacy practices and knowledge work.

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Beazley Kanost’s “Whose Cool? The Direction Truth Takes in Portrait of Jason”

What is cool? Used so frequently in everyday vernacular, the “cool” has acquired various ambiguous shades of meaning. In a talk on December 4, Beazley Kanost (PhD candidate, Beazley cropped 3English) challenged our ordinary notions of the cool, taking up and carefully theorizing both the idea of the “cool” in 60s counter culture and the implications of the political stance that lies behind our assumptions about the “cool.” Kanost’s “Whose Cool? The Direction Truth Takes in Portrait of Jason” draws from her work on experimental film of the 60s, particularly material from her visit to the Shirley Clarke Papers archive at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in Madison, Wisconsin, funded by a graduate research grant from the University of Rhode Island Center for the Humanities. Central to Kanost’s argument is the way in which the subject of Clarke’s film projects is often the “cool man.”

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Writing and Rhetoric Students and Faculty Organize Interdisciplinary Humor Symposium

Comedy is no laughing matter, or at least, it’s not just a laughing matter. This year scholars and students at URI set out to afford humor the attention and respect it deserves through a series of events that will culminate in an all-day, interdisciplinary symposium on Saturday, March 22nd entitled “Open Mic, Open Minds: An Exploration of Social Issues Through Stand-up.”  Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Dr. Jeremiah Dyehouse is the faculty advisor to the committee, which includes Writing and Rhetoric Ph.D. students Krysten Manke and Jillian Belanger.

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Night of Poetry at the Wickford Art Association

On December 12th, 2013, students from Professor Peter Covino’s creative writing class held a public poetry reading at the Wickford Art Association. Students delighted a packed room of listeners as they read from chapbooks they created during the semester. The nine graduate students participating in the reading (calling themselves The Thunder Room Collective) were: Jenna Morton-Aiken, Derick Ariyam, Jessica Brigges, Julie Hassett, Mark Hinkley, Charles Kell, Danielle Sanfilippo, Rhiannon Sorrell, and Hillary Trimbach.

Charles       Rhiannon

 

Kenna Barrett Explores Turing’s “Test” and Automated Essay Evaluation

Kenna's Duck
What does Alan Turing’s famous thought experiment have to do with writing essays?

On Wednesday, November 13th, 2013, Kenna Barrett, (PhD candidate, English) delivered a talk exploring the possible relationship between Alan Turing’s commonly known “Turing Test” and Automated Essay Evaluation (AEE). Throughout what Barrett named an “interdisciplinary, work-in-progress” she explored parallels between the Turing Test’s questionable ability to produce human-like responses and AEE’s controversial abilities to “score” the writing of humans.

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