Comp/Rhet Virtual Reunion

Screenshot of the Comp/Rhet virtual reunion (21 April 2023)

One of the benefits of not having a Ph.D. program is we’re able to focus on our M.A. students, getting to know them well as scholars and as people.

The downside, of course, is that after two years, they move on to other opportunities.

Many of us stay in touch over social media, but that’s inconsistent, and partial at best. This year, as the faculty in the Composition and Rhetoric Track discussed options for a track event, we realized that what we really wanted was to hear from our graduates in a more meaningful way than social media tends to allow. And while many of us are suffering from Zoom fatigue, we wanted to actually see people and hear their voices. And so we organized a K-State Composition and Rhetoric Virtual Reunion.

While we weren’t able to track down all of the graduates from the last 15 years, and while not everyone was able to attend, on the evening of April 21st, twenty of us turned on our cameras and microphones and spent an hour just catching up.


(Note: I’m literally the one taking the photo. Why am I the only one who looks completely unprepared?)

We got to hear about new (and not-so-new) jobs as technical writers, program managers, learning specialists, assessment specialists, academic advisors, teachers, professors, and freelance writers. Over and over again, graduates shared how much they love their jobs, which just warms this professor’s heart.

And while the event was largely social, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask our graduates how the program helped them get to where they are now. One concept came up time and again: flexibility – both in terms of the track itself and what graduates can do with the skills they learn.

For example, Carly, who is currently working as an industry project manager and team leader, noted that the track “fostered the critical thinking skills required for my position, as well as gave me a deeper understanding of effective communication and human psychology. A large part of what I do now involves finding and resolving problems, miscommunications, interpersonal conflict, and understanding the needs of the organization as a whole.” Emilie echoed the ways that the communication skills she learned helped her succeed in her current job, describing how, “I was able to hone my writing skills to be more efficient in my written communication. And, as a graduate assistant, I learned how to teach those skills to others, which still serves me in my current role, as I am a subject matter expert, so to speak, on language, helping my team to best communicate about our product to internal and external audiences.” That flexibility also continues to serve Cheryl well, who said, “I’ve done so many different things over the years, but technical writing has given me an edge in all of them (web content management, aviation training, teaching professional writing, student services coordination, medical information, and college financial planning).” Mary, a recent grad, explained, “I was able to tailor my courses to fit my professional goals post-graduation. I am very thankful for the versatile skills I learned because it has given me great flexibility in the job market post-graduation!” Finally, John admitted that he initially had no idea what comp/rhet was; once he learned about the field, though, “Comp Rhet became EVERYTHING for me.”

I’ve often said that composition and rhetoric – as a track, as a field – suffers from a PR problem, as John points out. People think it’s a degree in grammar and punctuation, but really, it’s the study of language and power; persuasion, representation, and identification; and writing and communication in nearly limitless contexts.

Our faculty publish on everything from the role of the body in knowledge production to Mongolian literacy practices to the material culture of writing and even the human knee. (Three of our faculty were able to award copies of their most recent books to randomly-selected attendees.) Recently, our students have written about topics as diverse as the rhetoric of sound in video games, the intersections of disability studies and the law, online writing ecologies, pedagogical approaches to linguistic equality, user experiences of online writing center platforms, the troubling history of eugenics in Kansas fairs, the rhetoric of witchcraft, and Indigenous histories of Land Grant Institutions.

The common thread is a careful attention to symbolic representation, language, and social contexts. As Katie explained, “The comp/rhet program helped me dig deeper into my understanding of writing as a craft—how it is done, how it is learned, how it is managed on individual and communal levels in different contexts. I’ve been able to apply those knowledges to my work with writing clients, technical communication projects, and fiction writing.”

Our graduates have taken these skills into diverse fields and unique places: some staying in Kansas, others moving as far away as Alaska and Japan. One of our current students, Kinsley, said the track has a “particularly homey feel”; we think that might be why, years after they left our program, graduates set aside time on a Friday evening to hear the latest K-State news, to see their friends and faculty, and to reconnect. We, too, were truly happy to see you all.

— Abby Knoblauch, Associate Professor


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s