After graduating from UNCG in 2010, I started an MA/PhD program at Penn State University in 2011. I will graduate with my PhD in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition in 2017. I did not think I would pursue a PhD when I declared English as major during my sophomore year at UNCG, but the engaging academic environment in the department led me to consider a career as an English professor. My professors encouraged me to pursue graduate studies and prepared me for that next step.
The wide range of literature courses I completed at UNCG gave me a strong foundation for my literature seminars during my MA coursework. I learned disciplined writing habits from creative writing courses and from completing my undergraduate honors thesis in poetry with Terry Kennedy. Most significantly, my courses with Hephzibah Roskelly introduced me to the study of rhetoric. During my junior and senior years, Professor Roskelly gave a fellow UNCG student, Sunny Yarborough, and me an opportunity to work with students and faculty at Bennett College on an archival research project about the history of women’s civic engagement at both institutions. We focused on events like the 1960 student sit-ins in downtown Greensboro, piecing together the roles that women played in this pivotal moment in civil rights history. We thought a lot about how narratives about the sit-ins were constructed to move the focus away from these women, why more people on campus didn’t know the full story, and what would change if the well-known histories featured women more prominently. Throughout the project, I learned how paying attention to rhetoric—how language is deployed, how arguments are shaped—can deepen our understanding of history and the ways historical narratives are used in the present. That experience is what led me to decide to concentrate in Rhetoric and Composition for my MA and PhD work.
As I made my way through my graduate coursework, I kept coming back to those stories from Greensboro, and I eventually decided to make that work the focus of my dissertation. My dissertation project explores contested narratives about civil rights and racism in Greensboro over the past 50 years, starting with the sit-ins. Not only did my English degree from UNCG give me the skills to get through graduate school, my experiences there helped me to define my research as a rhetorical scholar.
Laura Michael Brown
Class of 2010