Reminiscing 20 years of #FemRhet with Dr. Jennifer Bay

20 years ago in the fall of 1997 when she was a graduate student, Dr. Jennifer Bay attended the first ever Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference. Since then, she has missed only one of all the FemRhet conferences as the conference coincided with her daughter’s birth. Now, Dr. Bay is Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Purdue University and her research interests includes: Engagement Theory, Digital  Rhetorics, Feminisms and Rhetorics, and Professional/ Technical Writing.

Sweta Baniya, PhD Student at Purdue University and also one of the Social Media Curators for the #FemRhet2017, prepared a special podcast where Dr. Bay talks about her first as well as past 2 decades of experiences with the conference, her experience of co-editing Coalition’s journal Peitho, and provides excellent advice to graduate students and conference attendees. We hope you will enjoy this special podcast prepared on the occasion of 11th Biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference.

Listen in SoundCloud here.


Transcript #FemRhet Nostalgia with Dr. Jennifer Bay

Sweta:  Hello and Welcome to the special podcast of 11th Biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference due to be held next week at University of Dayton, Ohio. My name is Sweta Baniya, I am PhD Student at Purdue University and also one of the Social Media Curators for the conference. In this podcast, I have invited Dr. Jennifer Bay who has attended the Femnisms and Rhetoric Conference since its inception to talk about her two decades of experiences with conference.  Dr. Bay is Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Purdue University. Her research area includes Engagement Theory, Digital Rhetorics, Feminisms and Rhetorics, and Professional/ Technical Writing . I hope you will enjoy this talk with Dr. Bay.

Sweta: Hello Dr. Bay! Welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Bay: Thank you for having me. I am very excited to be here!

Sweta: Thank you for your time. We are equally to excited to have you here and hear you talk about your wonderful experiences with the FemRhet Conferences and also about your research!  You have been involved with FemRhet since its inception, can you share your wonderful memories with FemRhet? Could you also tell how has it been contributing towards Feminist Scholarship in Rhetoric and Composition?

Dr. Bay: Well, the first Feminisms and Rhetorics conference was 20 years ago in Corvallis, Oregon at Oregon State University, in late fall of 1997. I remember it well because it was the same weekend unfortunately as Princess Diana was killed. And, as we were leaving Corvallis, we saw the newspaper headlines. I found out about conference  because at the time I was the graduate student at University of Texas-Arlington, and Jan Swearingen, who was a professor of mine at UT-Arlington encouraged graduate students to apply. So, several of us went and presented at the conference. I also remember specifically because we got these great conference bags and I think I still have mine!

The conference was really important for a number of reasons. First, there had been so many conversations in the field about feminist rhetorics, but there hadn’t been a place to really talk about them. We had really some key and crucial publications that had come out and work by Susan Jarret, and Andrea Lunsford, and Jackie Jones Royster and those figures of course spoke at the Coalition of Women Scholars “Wednesday meetings” which had been happening for couple of years but there was not an entire conference devoted to feminism and rhetorical study. So, you’ve got to understand that the network for sharing information was very different than what we experience today. We had listservs and email to share information, but that was about it. As a group of scholars, it was difficult to share work, or to share new publications, ideas, et cetera in an efficient and specially in a communal way. The conference, I think was a way to build community and to support and foster new work in the field. And, that’s the kind of way I saw it as a graduate student that time.  And, if you look at the program for that first conference which is available online, it was filled with what I would call the “luminaries of the field” or people we think are the luminaries today: Jackie Jones Royster, Cheryl Glenn, Andrea Lunsford, Shirley Wilson Logan, Lisa Ede, Susan Jarratt, Kris Ratcliffe and others. As a graduate student, I just felt so blessed and lucky to attend and hear some of the developing theories of feminist rhetorics.

Sweta: It is very exciting to know that you have been part of this conference for so long and you have had such a wonderful experiences with various luminaries of the field. That leads me to ask you about Coalition’s journal Peitho– You were the editor of the journal along with Dr. Patricia Sullivan. How was your experience? How often do Graduate Students get published?

Dr. Bay: I will kind of link up a little bit with that discussion just had about the first Feminisms and Rhetorics  conference to this because the journal Peitho was originally a newsletter and that newsletter if you look up one of the copies online, was one of the ways that the scholars were able to circulate their ideas, and new works that were out about feminist rhetorics in different streams feminisms and how they should have rhetorical theories and vice versa. So, eventually, the coalition decided to take that newsletter and make it an academic journal. Lisa Mastrangelo and Barbara L’Eplattenier were the first editors of it. And, then Dr. Patricia Sullivan and I took it over. And, as editors of Peitho, one of the things that we were really committed to was to the idea of mentoring as an important component of the journal which obviously is also important part of the conference and part of the coalition and its mission. So, we worked hard to mentor graduate students at Purdue University who were working on the journal with us as editorial assistants, providing them with training and feedback, collaboration to help us build the journal’s outreach. Dr. Sullivan and I also developed a mentoring program for writers who had promising manuscripts and who wanted additional advice and help in developing those manuscripts for publication. We definitely wanted and encouraged graduate students to submit their scholarship to Peitho as the journal serves really as platform for cutting edge and emerging scholarship in feminisms and rhetorics.

Sweta: I am sure a lot of graduate students had a great learning opportunity via this mentorship program. And, you are continuing this mentorship during the conference as well    . You are one of the leaders of the seminar on Feminist Rhetorical Science Studies. Could you tell us more about it?

Dr. Bay: So the session that is happening that I am part of emerged from an edited collection by Amanda Booher and Julie Jung on Feminist Rhetorical Science Studies. Part of what this collection (which is going to come out this fall from the Southern Illinois University Press) tries to do is carve out a space for what they define as “Feminist Rhetorical Science studies”, or the feminist engagement of posthuman frameworks rhetorically. And that’s kind of mouthful I realize but what I think is really happening in the book and in our session is to think about these multiple approaches for what has been variously called new materialism, posthumanism, or feminist new materialism, and think about how we might carve out explicitly rhetorical and feminist approaches to those areas. And I say areas as there is a lot of subtle nuances to those theories. So, the collection, and the workshop really looks at ways we can bring a feminist perspective to the rhetorical work being done in science studies using new materialist perspectives. Much of the theory behind the book comes from Karen Barad and other feminist-new materialists who consider the role that new materialism can play in understanding science. And, I think there is a lot at stake in how we understand scientific practices, procedures, and approaches. Science is what makes our world. So to speak, and understanding how the material dimensions of scientific procedures are both rhetorically constructed with implications for diverse bodies and people is really significant and I think it is an emerging area that more scholars are going to get involved in.   

Sweta: Wow! The session sounds interesting and important to scholars who are interested in new materialism. I am sure those who have signed up for it are going to have a great time. Now, I would like to talk briefly about one of your research areas – that is Engagement. Can you tell us more about it?

Dr. Bay: So, one of the areas that I work in and that I feel like defines what I do is engagement and engagement theory. And, that really to me refers to interactions and experiences among different worlds. That can mean lots of different things. It can cover academics engaging with local communities through their teaching, students learning experientially via internships or service-learning, or it can be academics engaging with any outside entity to develop solutions to real world problems. So a lot of what engagement means to me is taking this knowledge that we are developing and working within a university setting and making sure that it both resonates and that it can be deployed and share with people outside of the university setting. So, in the work that I do, I try to apply and implicitly if not explicitly the feminist perspective to engagement, and that can be teaching interns about how race, class, or gender operates intersectionally and rhetorically in a workplace, it can be mean doing service-learning projects with non-profit that address social problems that are felt most acutely by women or other marginalized groups, it can mean taking kind of complex theory that we might look at in the university whether that is rhetorical, postmodern, feminist and really seeing how it shows up in an everyday setting. So, I try to really take the work whether it is highly theoretical or whether it is very practical and make sure it has some kind of connection beyond just university classroom or just the university research.

Sweta: Thank you for sharing about your research. I have one final question. Would you like to give some advice for Graduate Students and those who are participating in the conference?

Dr. Bay:  Well, one of the things that I would encourage to graduate students and anyone new to conference is to do is to really listen closely to the speakers you hear. And, to not only learn from their scholarship and research but also from them as theorists but also from them as human beings and rhetoricians.

I think it’s so easy for us in a digital world, to think that we can multitask really well and go to a conference setting and tweet, and Instagram, and all these great things and I love to do those things too. But I think listening closely and carefully is something that I know I would want the audience members in my talk to do and I think that most of the speakers would like that as well. So listen closely especially for what you hear, and also may be what you don’t hear that you might have questions about or you are confused about. On that end don’t be afraid of asking questions especially to major speakers. Many times we think they have it all worked out when in actuality they are still working through many of theories and ideas that they might have up there. It may seem that they are not and they have it all together but actually they want they want to hear your feedback, they want to hear your questions, they want to develop their theories and their ideas completely. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Invite others to join you in conversations. I think some of the best work can come from collaboration, conversation with others. Meet students from other universities, meet other faculty from other university, and go out to eat with them and find out what they are doing, make connections, and think about how you might want to share your work and get feedback from one another. Related to that I think it is scary to send out the work but I would encourage you to do it. You will get feedback on it, which will improve it. More than that you will also be preparing it in a way that it’s more than just for you. You will recognize that you have to develop it for an audience that is out there. You have to think about what are the audiences’ needs, how this contributes to a larger body of work in the field, how it pushes us forward in our understanding of feminist and rhetorical theories that are out there. So, don’t be afraid of sending it out. And then, finally, just take care of yourself. Graduate school can be very overwhelming. Sometimes you want to cut corners but you can’t do good work if you are not at your best. So I think we forget sometimes to take care of ourselves in the work that we do, so I would encourage the graduate students listening to definitely take time for themselves and take time for themselves, take care of themselves.

Sweta: Thank You Dr. Bay for your time and giving this inspirational talk. We are excited see you at FemRhet soon!

Dr. Bay: Well, I look forward to seeing you too and meeting new people there!
Sweta: Thank you all for listening! I hope you enjoyed this podcast! Please engage, interact, and collaborate with us by following us on our social media. Our Twitter handle is @FemRhet2017, our Facebook is , and our Instagram is @FemRhet! We will be actively using these accounts to talk about the conference, presentations, events, and much more. And, we all are excited to see you all at #FemRhet2017 soon! Have a good time.