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Benesemon Simmons (recommended by Khirsten L. Scott, on behalf of DBLAC) is pursuing a PhD in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric at Syracuse University. She teaches WRT 105 and WRT 205 and serves as a writing consultant. Her research interests include Black Feminist Pedagogy, Critical Race Theory, and Activist Rhetoric.
How do you hope higher education will change in the next ten years?
I hope higher education will acknowledge its complicity in white supremacy and work towards dismantling these structures. I hope higher education will implement anti-racist practices that will allow access and opportunity for everyone. I hope that higher education will not just use inclusive rhetoric, but be intentional about incorporating equitable practices through admissions, employment, retention, curriculum, and housing and demonstrate accountability through surrounding communities (for example). Ultimately, I hope higher education uses its power to prioritize the marginalized identities it professes to stand by.
Is there an instructor or scholar that helped shape your career in rhet/comp? How?
Dr. Aja Y. Martinez has helped shape my career in rhet/comp. Her scholarship, instruction, mentorship, and leadership have helped me grow personally and professionally, but her presence has facilitated my survival in the field. As her work interrogates race and power, she embodies the courage and commitment that her research requires and the action it commands. I am inspired by her activism and her dedication to education, and I strive to model her brilliance in and outside the classroom. A large part of my confidence is because of the foundation she has laid: she centers marginalized voices in practice and in principle and has taught me to value my voice, ideas, and lived experiences. Her influence and example is a major reason I have taken up Counterstory in my research because I understand the need for an intervention against discourse that minimizes or misrepresents racism and I am interested in contributing to this conversation. Counterstory is essential to academia and the field of rhet/comp, and Dr. Martinez helps emphasize this, and encourages others to recognize this as well, including myself.
What is it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program?
Being a part of the Bedford New Scholars program gives me an opportunity to interact with other graduate student instructors from different universities, and to engage with creative projects and practices guided by the Bedford/St. Martin’s team. Ultimately, this program is an opportunity to learn and develop as a scholar, instructor, and student of composition. We’ve shared teaching resources and received feedback, reviewed and discussed college textbooks and other educational materials, explored innovative digital platforms for the classroom, and participated in relevant conversations surrounding student performance and academia. We focused on how we can support our students and each other. The Bedford New Scholars program creates a network of colleagues that help you navigate publishing in education but also pedagogical strategies in the classroom.
How will the Bedford New Scholars program affect your professional development or your classroom practice?
I learned a lot by participating in the Bedford New Scholars program, and I believe the summit especially provided many things to consider and carry back to the classroom. A shared assignments activity, where we all presented our own, gave me new ideas about how to approach different areas that our students might find difficult or confusing. Specifically, exercises that included genre and synthesis were helpful to think about different ways to explain major themes in a writing course. It was also useful to explore composition texts for the classroom within groups. This allowed me to rethink how and why I use specific texts as an instructor, and emphasized the importance of prioritizing effectiveness for students. Moreover, practicing with Achieve [Macmillan’s digital learning solution] together was valuable because, while navigating the platform as a teacher, it pushes me to consider methods of revision for students more and how they can better engage in the process. Finally, I found Dr. Kendra N. Bryant’s presentation on “The Courage to Teach” to be very engaging and energizing. She challenged us to interrogate and question our pedagogical style and choices, and to examine them in relation to our teaching philosophies and the backdrop of power systems that our individual institutions represent. Her presentation was powerful and was a great way to put our students and classrooms into perspective considering the violence and social justice issues that surrounds these spaces. Ultimately, Dr. Bryant reminded us to lead with love.
Benesemon’s Assignment that Works
During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Benesemon's assignment. For the full activity, see Analyzing Primary Sources.
The purpose of my Assignment that Works is to help my students analyze secondary sources for research. The first part of the assignment asks students to complete an annotated bibliography, and the second part asks students to write an essay using two of the annotations and analyzing their rhetorical features, their relationship to each other, and their relevance to the research inquiry. This assignment helps students of composition become familiar with the annotated bibliography as a genre, locate sources for their research, and consider connections between sources specific to a research topic.
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