Erin Schaefer

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I am a second year doctoral student in the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures department. I am interested in studying narratives about emotions as well as those about the mind, both in popular culture and in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. I explore how pedagogies about rhetoric and writing can be brought into fruitful conversations with these fields.

I have explored these areas in my teaching by integrating discussions of the brain’s plasticity along and mindfulness practices as a way of shifting students’ understanding of their own agency as writers, learners, and citizens. In addition to examining questions of agency, I am interested in exploring what these interdisciplinary conversations might mean in terms of prejudice. I believe that digital tools can be used to support students in self-aware, critical learning.

This past year, I taught WRA 202: Introduction to Professional Writing. My favorite project for this course was “Creating a Deliverable for a Client: The Michigan Environmental Council.” Students created Facebook posts calling the general public’s attention to rather complex environmental issues. These students took a variety of forms, including infographics and a video. In their individual reflections on these projects, many students commented on the challenge of trying to convey a lot of information within the constraints of social media. They also reflected on the sometimes difficult but ultimately rewarding task of receiving and responding to feedback: from the instructor, from a guest reviewer, from peers, and from the client.

This fall 2018, I’ll also continue my participating in the Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Teaching fellowship program. This program encourages fellows to explore scholarship in teaching and learning. We have the opportunity to collaborate in teaching projects/research with faculty in the James Madison College, where students do work in public policy and public affairs. In spring 2018 I will implement a collaborative study course at the James Madison College (see abstract below).

Abstract: MC 300: Listening to Multiple Contexts: Connecting the Embodied with the Social. 

  • Most educators would probably agree that an important aspect of students’ education – in addition to gaining knowledge of the multitude of social issues that exist – is for those students to learn how to listen deeply to the marginalized voices that face these social issues. The ability to listen, however, requires an understanding of social contexts and embodied contexts. This two-credit MC 300 collaborative study will use an interdisciplinary approach to teach both. Students will learn about the complex social contexts that exist during listening, including the difficulties that some marginalized voices have in being heard. They will also learn about the embodied contexts involved in listening, including how one’s brainwave activity, physiological, and psychological states act as additional mediators during listening. Students will be encouraged to adopt a responsible, reciprocal, self-aware, and empathetic stance in relationship to both sets of contexts, culminating in a multimedia project informed by listening. They will also teach and work with younger students (either high school or junior high school students), in creating a similar, smaller project. In the process, they will apply and model this deep listening for these younger students.

Read more about my academic and professional background by visiting my Curriculum Vitae.

For fun, I love playing sports (e.g., volleyball, tennis, bowling, softball, and ping-pong), playing games (board and “classic” nintendo systems), taking too many pictures of my cats, watching movies, and being in nature.


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