Preparing for Interviews: Standing Out While Fitting In

by Letizia Guglielmo, Associate Professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies
Kennesaw State University

Over the last few months, my colleagues Erin Costello Wecker and Lydia McDermott have shared advice on the job search that grew out of our 4c16 CFSHRC mentoring table.

Now that your application materials are prepped and submitted, the next stage of the process likely will include various rounds of interviews via phone or Skype and face-to-face with search committees. Read more

Be Yourself on the Job Search

Lydia McDermott
Assistant Professor of Composition and Director of the Center for Writing and Speaking at Whitman College

Around this time of year, I find myself thanking the rhetoric gods that I am no longer on the job market. You know how I feel. If you have a job, you too are thankful. If you are looking for one, you are looking forward to being on my side of that prayer.

Last month, my colleague, Erin, posted the first blog in this series on finding a job in rhet/comp. The series was spawned at the 4c16 CFSHRC mentoring tables, where we, with colleague Letizia Guglielmo, offered advice on the job hunt.

I’m going to take this opportunity to elaborate from personal experience on some of Erin’s wonderful pieces of advice.

Be Honest

Cat Typing on computer

It’s a lot of work, but remember to be yourself.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the “spin” of the job search, adjusting your documents for a variety of institutions to make yourself seem like the perfect fit. It’s also easy to become too concerned with other people’s wishes for your success: fellow graduates, your adviser, your mentors. When it comes down to it, you know who you are and where you would fit better than anyone else. Trust that.

When I was on the job hunt, I applied for a wide variety of institutions. I was flexible, as Erin so wisely advised. In my application process, I became distracted by a vague concept of prestige and I lost track of my own strengths and desires. I am an excellent teacher and I love students. As much as I enjoy my research, I need teaching to fuel me. I’m not meant to be at an R1 institution. Yet, I applied to some. I have colleagues who have taken positions similar to mine at a small liberal arts college, who really are dissatisfied with their teaching and service loads. They aspire to very prestigious journals and presses and hope to make academic waves. They’d probably be happier at a more research-intensive institution.

Think about Fit, and then Rethink

I didn’t know that I was the perfect fit for a small liberal arts college where I am part administrator and part faculty until I was interviewing for the job. True story: I had several interviews lined up at MLA. The night before my first interview, with the school where I am currently employed, I had horrible, gut-wrenching food poisoning. I got 2 hours of sleep at the most. I went into my interview convinced the whole MLA experience was for naught. My lovely interviewers kept offering me snacks and drinks, and all I could concentrate on was NOT getting sick. In the end, this distraction proved useful. I had no energy to be nervous about my answers. I could not spin them because I didn’t have the brainpower. I was forced to be honest and open and it paid off.

I enjoyed that interview. I ENJOYED that interview, despite my stomach, despite MLA, despite the fact that I never attended a liberal arts institution. Pay attention to how you feel about interviews. If you feel at home, that is a good sign. If it feels like something is off, maybe something is off.

Now that I am on the other side of job searches, we resist talking about “fit,” because it can be shorthand for discrimination. Whoever is interviewing you or evaluating your materials cannot tell you if you “fit.” However, they do know what competing demands the position needs to fill. They want to imagine you filling those demands. So, again, you must be honest. I would rather recommend a candidate for hire who is exceptionally prepared for two of the demands of the position, and only slightly prepared for a third, but willing to learn and take on the challenge.

Be Flexible, but Know your Limits

You know how daunting your dissertation was when you first wrote that prospectus? Remember the process of sorting through the literature relevant to your research? At some point, you had to stop sorting and start writing. At some point in the writing, you had to conclude. You could not make it perfect and get done in time (If you are still finishing your dissertation, take this to heart, especially if you are on the job market—you must finish). Your goal with the dissertation was ultimately a degree, not a perfect piece of writing. Your goal with the job search, is ultimately a job, not perfect job materials, not the best teaching statement ever (you will have to write it again for tenure anyway), not even the perfect job (none exist).

Give yourself a break. Do what you can and learn to let go when it is time to let go. Do other things in your life that keep you sane: exercise, eat chocolate, spend time with friends, family, and animals, work on an article (no, really), watch some Netflix (but that has an end too). Be kind to yourself and know when you need to take a break from the process. You can come back refreshed and ready for more.

Bunny falls asleep at computer.

Get some rest!


Job Seekers, Be Like the Willow Tree

Guest post by Erin Costello Wecker, Ph.D. 
Assistant Professor of English
Director of Composition
The University of Montana

At the 4C16 CFSHRC event, Lydia McDermott, Letizia Guglielmo and I co-hosted a mentoring table on preparing for the job market. Now that the job hunt season is gearing up, we are going to use the coalition blog to sum up a few of the key points to help prepare and empower job seekers in rhet/comp. This blog post offers some insight that was shared with me while I was on the job market and things that I learned while going through the process two years ago. Be on the lookout for additional advice from Lydia and Letizia in upcoming blog posts on this topic.

Willow tree with sun beams shining through the leaves

Willow tree with sun beams shining through the leaves

Be Flexible

Be flexible and open to different kinds of academic settings and positions, this includes TYC, WPA, small Liberal Arts Colleges, and larger state Universities. Sometimes when looking at all of the job openings it is daunting to envision which type of school or position you are looking for, especially if you are just finishing graduate school.

Begin by making a list of schools and then take time to visit their website. What is their mission statement? Who would be your colleagues and what type of research are they doing? Would your position be teaching focused, research focused, a combination of the two? What type of students attend this institution (i.e. focus on STEM fields, thriving Business School, loads of English majors)? Would you be working with graduate students?

Think About Fit

From this preliminary search you can get a sense of what type of work seems exciting. It is helpful to think of your own schooling background. What type of institutions did you attend? Generate a list of things you enjoyed and things you felt did not foster your academic development.

From that list a clearer picture of what contributions you would like to make to a school will become more evident, which will in turn help to refine your list of places to apply. Let your list guide you, but do not let it rule your search–remember where we started, be flexible and open to different kinds of academic settings. To that point, generate honest and focused documents for your teaching statement, research statement, and administrative statement and tailor your CV for two-three different types of positions.

Start getting ready soon. The job ads are already coming out. You can check them out here on the handy-dandy rhet map.

Be Like the Willow

A job search is demanding, but it is also exhilarating as there is promise in each new adventure. As the title suggests, willow trees are adaptive to climate and soil, grow fast, and have a distinctive shape with strong, well-developed roots. When I went on the job market I could not imagine leaving the city I loved, especially after calling it home for fifteen years; to my mind I had roots and I was not sure I wanted to uproot them. Yet as I begin year number two in my new job, in my new home, in a new time zone, with a new climate, and new people, I am reminded that possibility is what led me to this location.

A final bit of advice, to help wrap your mind around the changes that accompany a job search, take time to read your documents over and allow yourself to enjoy, for at least a moment or two, the accomplishments that have led you to a job search in the first place. When teaching writing we often stress the importance of process vs. product, yet when on the job market it is so easy to develop tunnel vision where landing a job is the only destination in sight. So, trust your talents and embrace the opposite actions of the willow tree: reaching skyward for light and remaining earthbound for rootedness, and when a gust of wind approaches just sway; I promise you will not break.

Exploring RSA16 Twitter Data

The Coalition’s Director of Digital Media and Outreach Patricia Fancher asked me to write up some reflections about the data visualizations that I created with a corpus of tweet data from the 2016 Rhetoric Society of America conference. I took up the offer, because I wanted to get to know the Coalition more and also take up this opportunity to reflect a bit more about the tweet data.

If you need some context, I created some chord diagrams (see Fig. 1) that represent some isolated relationships between particular keywords used by people who tweeted about different sessions during the conference. I shared my work on the RSA Facebook page, and Patricia also shared it on the CRSHRC Facebook page.

Feel free to interact with the diagram on my website in a new tab, then come back to read on.

Screenshot of keyword chord diagram from #RSA16 Twitter feed.

Figure 1. Screenshot of keyword chord diagram from #RSA16 Twitter feed.

Generally, chord diagrams represent inter-relationships between different datum in a matrix. In this case, I developed a matrix of keywords and the number of times the keywords are mentioned together in a tweet. In the diagram, keywords are represented by the arcs that makeup the radial part of the circle. The length of the arc represents the total number of cross-mentions of each keyword. The chords linking different arcs represent the number of times the keywords are mentioned together in a tweet. Also an important note: any asterisk by a keyword means that I used a regular expression pattern to consolidate tense and closely related keywords. (See this example regex pattern for embodiment.)

Patricia suggested some of the following questions for me to consider:

  1. “How may twitter reveal the different coalitions of feminists or coalitions of rhetoricians, where we identify coalitions through grouping/chords?
  2. (How) Is tweeting a feminist practice? Does any of this material help to recommend the practice of conference tweeting to feminists/academics?

Regarding the first question, Twitter and conference tweeting have a lot of layered complexity that I can’t account for with my data work here. In my opinion, tweeting during a conference doesn’t automatically help me to develop clear connections for and between different coalitions and colleagues — not without substantial work to seek out and forge those connections (cf. Patricia’s work with the Coalition and how Women in Technical Communication uses the #womenintc hashtag). Again, my opinion about tweeting and coalition work is not grounded in my data work here. However, I think if conference organizers created a team of people who planned, collected, processed, and analyzed social media data, they could help colleagues carry out coalition-building and invent new feminist social media practices.

Inventing new feminist practices with social media data could become a more integral part to conference planning, which touches on Patricia’s second question. For instance, there seem to be connections between keywords related to race, latin/x, and disability (see Figures 2 and 3). The connections between race and latin/x make some immediate sense to me, but the links between those 2 and disability seem worthy of further investigation. With more planning and support upfront, I could have processed the data differently to analyze interesting relationships such as these. At the very least, I would have been able to supplement the chord diagram with a list of the tweets and their tweeters for each chord. Conference organizers, coalitions such as CRSHRC, and scholars could use this information to connect people and developing research.

Screenshot of chord between Disability* and Race*.

Figure 2. Screenshot of chord between the keywords of Disability* and Race*.

Screenshot of chord between the keywords of Disability* and Latin/x.

Figure 3. Screenshot of chord between the keywords of Disability* and Latin/x.

A more robust social media strategy could also help scholars consider trends surround particular kinds of research and scholarly domains. For example, the link between Archive* and Digital* is strong (see Fig. 4), which makes me wonder: What topics and problem areas are scholars concerned about between these two keywords. What is being archived digitally? And by whom? Rhetoricians invested in this research domain could start mapping trends and scholars, and analyze the tweets related to such work. The same holds true for strong links between Method* and Gender, Race*, and Feminist* (see Fig. 5). By providing this type of information, teachers could start asking their seminar students to conduct analysis of these trends as a complimentary method to traditional literature reviews.

Screenshot of chord between the keywords of Archive* and Digital.

Figure 4. Screenshot of chord between the keywords of Archive* and Digital.

Screenshot of keyword Method* and its chords.

Figure 5. Screenshot of keyword Method* and its chords.

Another social media strategy could include identifying a lack of overlap between keywords and research domains, which perhaps deserve more attention. After reviewing the chord diagram, I find it interesting that there was no or little overlap between Race and Disability and the following keywords: Object, Digital, Material, and Machine. Mapping and archiving weak connections is just as important as those with recurrently strong cross-mentions.

Future considerations about conferences and Twitter Data

By reflecting on this diagram, I hope to provide some new avenues to explore, take-up, curate, and guide coalitions and colleagues with data from conference social media practices. Much of these ideas, visions, and questions could become a reality if conference organizers created and released basic data points that could be combined with social media data sets: panels with panel titles, abstracts, keywords, session labels, times, etc. As a researcher, if I had this data and setup a number of people from across the discipline to tweet all of the panels, then I could conduct an analysis across time and against other panels at the time. I could also potentially explore ratios related to keywords, or even how the panelists’ keywords relate to the keywords used to describe the panel. Social media researchers could also conduct feminist studies of representation of conference panels and/or how panels are represented in and through social media practices. Overall, conference organizers could potentially create and facilitate numerous new scholarly functions, if they released panelist-defined data in a usable data and file format.

What other ways could conference organizers utilize and organize people who tweet to help facilitate better tweet data? If a conference created and released this panelist-defined data in a usable format, I see potential field-building opportunities too. Session times could be mapped onto people who attended and tweeted the panels. Panelists, or whomever interested after-the-fact, could then review those tweets and scholars who wrote them to make new connections and encourage future participation.

These are just a few ideas that I have been mulling over since working with this Twitter data. What questions and comments do you have about social media data and conference organization? Feel free to share your ideas on the Coalition’s Facebook page or tweet at me, @lndgrn, and use the hashtag #confdata on Twitter.

Follow Our Guest Tweeters!

We thank all of you for following @CFSHRC on Twitter and Facebook. We’ve only been on social media for a couple of years, but we’ve already build a strong following and curated a rich set of conversations relevant to anyone interested in feminism and rhetoric. #thefeministsarecoming to social media and we’ve got a lot to say!

And now, we’re working to improve the way we use our social media platforms. We want to create a genuinely multi-vocal space that represents different coalitions of feminists in rhetoric and composition. Follow our social media experiment this summer as 5 different women take turns curating our twitter feed. (3)

Follow our curated twitter feed @cfshrc with Patricia Fancher, Marie Novotny, Ruth Osorio, Christine Martorana, Latoya Sawyer, and Karrieann Soto

July 18-24: Patricia Fancher is a lecturer in the Writing Program of the University of California Santa Barbara. Her research intersects rhetoric of science and feminist rhetoric, and she has a special interest in Alan Turing as well as the women who worked at Bletchley Park. She is the Director of Digital Media and Outreach for the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. In her free time, you’ll find Trish with her fat orange cat, who aspires to be internet famous.

July 25-Sep 7: Maria Novotny is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric & Writing at Michigan State University and a project partner with The ART of Infertility. Her research examines how infertile individuals must navigate across health and cultural systems and the challenges that this navigation poses as well as their dependence upon private and peer-led networks to exercise agency in these systematic spaces. In 2015, Marie received the CCCC Gloria Anzaldua Rhetorician Award for her research on infertility activism.

Aug 8-21: Ruth Osorio  is a PhD candidate in rhetoric and composition at the University of Maryland, College Park. She teaches courses in composition, digital writing, disability studies, and professional writing. Her dissertation examines the rhetorical strategies of disability activism in activist, queer, digital, and professional spaces. When not teaching or writing, Ruth is spending time with her daughter, spouse, and chihuahua rescue mutt.

Aug 22-Sep 4: Christine Martorana is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the Writing Program at the College of Staten Island – CUNY. Her research interests circulate around feminist agency, feminist activism, and composition pedagogy. In her teaching, she espouse a collaborative, interactive, and multimodal approach, a pedagogical perspective through which she invites students to adopt more expansive notions of what it means to “write” and consider the diverse and impactful ways they function as rhetoricians both within and beyond the academic community.

Sep 5-18:  LaToya Sawyer doctoral candidate in Syracuse University’s Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program. Her research interests are Black women’s discourse, literacy and rhetoric, Black feminism and computer-mediated-communication. LaToya is a Hollis, Queens native, writer and educator. Her dissertation explores Black women’s language and identity performance as agency in social media spaces. She has taught in community-based and university educational settings within the African American community, the U.S. and China.

Sep 19-Oct 2: Karrieann Soto Vega is a PhD Candidate at Syracuse University, where she studies Puerto Rican Nationalist rhetorics as enacted by the figure of Lolita Lebrón. Her research interests run the gamut of decolonial feminist rhetorics, sonic and visual rhetorics, multimodality, new media, and cultural rhetorics, among others. For the year 2016-2017 she will be a Teaching Assistant at Syracuse University’s Women’s and Gender Studies Department.

Interested in contributing as a CFSHRC guest tweeter? Contact Trish Fancher at pfancher [at] writing.ucsb [dot] edu

The Critical Work of the *Peitho* Associate Editor

A guest blog by Peitho editors Jenny Bay and Patricia Sullivan

The call for Peitho‘s assistant editor describes the job in this way:

The Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition (CWSHRC) seeks an Associate Editor for Peitho, its biannual peer-reviewed online journal. The Associate Editor is responsible for book reviews in each issue; for following up with authors who receive revise and resubmits and, if desired, finding mentors to assist them with interpreting reviewer comments and refining drafts; and for coordinating efforts with the journal Editors. Additionally, the selected applicant can expect to participate in Editorial Team meetings, CWSHRC Advisory Board meetings, and the CWSHRC Wednesday night open meeting held annually at the Conference for College Composition and Communication. For full consideration, applications are due 12/10/14.

From our perspectives as editors, the associate editor contributes work that is critical to achieving the feminist goals of the journal in terms of mentoring less experienced researchers and honoring feminine ways of coming to know. Let us say more.

This post addresses two questions from our perspective: what does the above description mean to us, and who should consider applying for the position of associate editor of Peitho?

What is the job?
We are trying in Peitho to serve two mistresses: one that preserves the scholarly double-blind review that is preferred for academic promotions and the second that seeks to mentor scholars by using feminist support. The editor(s) oversee(s) the first role and the associate editor oversees the second.

Mentoring is a major plank for the journal, and it is one of the associate editor’s major responsibilities. The coalition believes in peer mentoring of researchers; thus, we institutionally support scholars by having the associate editor oversee mentoring for those scholars whose article submissions to Peitho call for revision. This does not mean that the associate editor does developmental editing for all submissions that receive “revise and resubmit.” Instead, authors will be advised that mentoring is available and is coordinated by the associate editor. Those who contact the associate editor will be paired with an editorial board member and that person will work together to plan how the revision can go. The “mentor” will ultimately help the author assess when the revision is ready for resubmission. The associate editor keeps this work on track as best she can.

Peitho is also a journal that believes in book reviews. So handling book reviews is the other major part of the associate editor’s job. The associate editor solicits book reviews that are appropriate for the journal and helps manage their submissions and copyediting.

Who is needed?
Our ideal associate editor will be someone with tenure and/or years of experience with the study of women in rhetoric and composition. A wise woman such as Lisa Mastrangelo, our out-going associate editor, is needed.

We also want to solicit someone who has a vision for the future of feminist scholarship and work in the field.

Not all scholars in the Coalition hold positions that include work with graduate students, and those scholars have much mentoring to share. This position would help the associate editor demonstrate the mentoring of less experienced scholars for promotion purposes. It would also provide an outlet to give advice and assistance to newer scholars.

For full consideration, applications are due 12/10/2014. The online submission form is available on the Peitho webiste. Please direct questions to Peitho editors Jenny Bay and Patricia Sullivan.