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Jay Kirby

I was drawn to West Virginia University because of the MA program’s focus on rhetoric in both theory and practice along with faculty interest in emerging media technology. In John Jones’ introduction to technical writing class, I not only gained a foundation in the theories surrounding technical communication, but I also learned how conversations in the field were propelled and mediated through new technologies. Brian Ballentine’s humanities computing class showed me how ostensibly “non-technical” fields leveraged new technology to undertake fascinating research. And our technical editing class with Catherine Gouge introduced us to the technologies used in the publishing industry.

Outside of class, professors at WVU encouraged me to find new avenues to pursue my research. After my first year, Brian Ballentine encouraged me to attend the 2013 Computers and Writing conference. Seeing new and exciting work by current researchers was a blast, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that world. During the summer of 2014, I presented on a panel about digital constructions of ethos with John Jones at the Rhetoric Society of America conference. That same summer, I presented a paper that I began in Laura Brady’s writing pedagogy class at the 2014 Computers and Writing conference.

My work at WVU developed this nexus of rhetoric, composition, and media and prepared me to enter the interdisciplinary Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program at North Carolina State University. My background from the PWE program has allowed me to hit the ground running with research about networks, technical communication, and the value of “knowledge work” today.

In addition to my research, classes, and professional experience at WVU, the PWE program prepared me to teach in myriad classes with multiple media. I taught both classes of WVU’s first year writing program, and I taught upper-level classes in technical communication. Moreover, I was able to teach classes in traditional classrooms, in computer classrooms, and online. The faculty helping me with these classes—Tom Sura, David Beach, and Brian Ballentine—afforded me flexibility to try new ideas, new approaches, and new activities. I believe the experience and flexibility of teaching at WVU positioned me well to begin teaching at my new institution.

I now teach freshman English at NC State in an interesting format. My “hybrid class” meets half in-person, and half online. Further, I am able to leverage multiple technologies in my classroom, which has fully mobile desks, chairs, and whiteboards along with multiple screens for sharing work from computers. The experience I had in multiple formats of classes at WVU made the transition to this hybrid class quite smooth because I already had assignments, activities, and readings that would work well both online and in-person.

When I arrived at WVU, I was eager to learn about this thing called “technical communication.” Now, as I pursue this work in doctoral seminars and research at NC State, I constantly recall readings, conversations, and work from WVU and relate them to my new experiences.