Diversity in English | Beaufort County Now | ECUís English department values inclusivity, diversity

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Diversity in English

Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Lacey L. Gray.

Trees on ECU's campus frame the cupola on a fall day.

    Each year, faculty and staff of East Carolina University's Department of English, housed in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, recruit and mentor a diverse population of students. This includes four alumnae who were featured in a national roundtable on Black Technical and Professional Communication hosted virtually by Virginia Tech in December and attended by more than 500 people.

Constance Haywood
    "Being Black in academia can be isolating, depending on who you are, what kind of work you want to do and whether there are people around you who support your endeavors," said Constance Haywood, who received her master's degree in English from ECU '17 and is pursuing her doctoral degree in writing, rhetoric and American cultures at Michigan State University. Haywood's research interests include Black feminist rhetoric(s) and literacies, online community-building and digital research ethics.

    "When I came into ECU's English graduate program, I was pleasantly surprised that there were multiple graduate students working alongside me who looked like me and could relate to me both culturally and professionally. The department solidified the importance of Black presence and voice in academia. Their dedication to diversity through the recruitment of Black students (and the invitation of Black thought into classrooms) not only shaped my graduate experiences but continues to shape my own work," Haywood said. "Long story short, in order for the tough conversations to take place, Black people need to be in the room. At ECU, there were quite a few of us in the room."

    Dr. Marianne Montgomery, chair of the Department of English, said, "The Ph.D. faculty have built and sustained a commitment to diversity of students from traditionally underrepresented groups. The program is a model for how a focus on equity, diversity and inclusion can have a transformative effect at ECU and beyond."

    Drs. Cecilia Shelton '19, Temptaous Mckoy '19 and Kimberly C. Harper '12 each received their doctoral degrees in rhetoric, writing and professional communication from ECU.

    "My time at ECU provided a space where I could exercise my intellectual muscles and grow into a scholar that is prepared to do work in a number of contexts. ECU allowed my values and strengths to emerge. My mentors, colleagues and community were and continue to be valuable collaborators and champions of greater inclusion and justice in technical and professional communication," said Shelton, assistant professor at the University of Maryland.

    Shelton draws on Black feminist theory and prioritizes the perspectives, goals and experiences of Black people — and other marginalized communities — as a way to insist on more equitable solutions to social, political and organizational problems.

    Mckoy, assistant professor and co-coordinator of graduate studies for the Department of Language, Literature and Cultural Studies at Bowie State University, said, "ECU prepared me to work in my field. Diversity and inclusion work requires a great deal of mental and emotional labor, and ECU assisted me in developing solid skills for identifying a work-life balance."

    Mckoy's research redefines the field of technical and professional communication and challenges it to be more inclusive of the communicative and learning practices of Black communities.

    Harper is an assistant professor and director of the technical writing concentration at North Carolina A&T State University and founder of "The Space of Grace," a podcast on Black maternal health and reproductive justice.

    "ECU gave me the tools to see the world through a wide lens," Harper said. "I was able to participate in professional conferences, travel internationally and lay the foundation for my research. With the support of English faculty, I honed my research and writing skills and learned how to become a scholar-activist. I am grateful to the faculty and staff who played a role in my journey."

Dr. Cecilia Shelton
Dr. Temptaous Mckoy
Dr. Kimberly C. Harper

    Between two and six students graduate each year from ECU's doctoral program in English, said Dr. Matt Cox, associate professor of English and director of graduate studies.

    "We are proud of our placement of these graduates at higher learning institutions across the nation and even in other countries," he said. "Our students represent diverse backgrounds and also research and teach in diverse areas. ECU English graduates are making a name for themselves and for our department and our university."

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