Graduate Student Spotlight: Brittany Knutson

Black and white profile photo of Brittany Knutson

One of this year’s recipients of a dissertation proposal development fellowship through the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is Brittany Knutson, one of our graduate students. Knutson is a feminist rhetorical scholar with a timely and important research program. Her current project is specifically interested in women’s testimony.


“I’m interested in the institutional capture of victims’ voices—in the courtroom specifically—in cases of gender violence and sexual violence,” she says. “There are all kinds of horrible things that happen when victims’ voices are taken up in a way they weren’t intended to be taken up, or when they are silenced in courtroom settings.”


This subject allows Knutson to ask questions about what institutions are capable of, and more specifically, how institutions can listen.


Though Knutson is in her second year of her PhD, she also completed her MA in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota. As a first-generation college student, the path to academia was not always evident to Knutson. In a story that speaks to the feminist roots of her scholarship, Knutson recalls the moment when the work of Judith Butler made her need to know what career would allow her to write.


“I remember just being like, ‘Oh my god, what job must this human have that they can write this thing,’” she says. “I remember thinking that if five-year-old me knew that academics existed, I would have said I wanted to be one when I grow up.”


The dedication to an academic career has yielded several noteworthy accomplishments. In addition to the fellowship from the SSRC, Knutson as published book reviews in multiple top journals in rhetoric and received multiple top-paper awards from both regional and national conferences in the discipline.


When discussing her accomplishments, however, Knutson is quick to recognize the mentors that have helped make her successes possible. She cites, for instance, figures from her high school who encouraged her to think of higher education as a possibility in the first place. Her advisor, Dr. Emily Winderman, and other faculty members in the department are the most recent in this lineage.  


“I can trace my way here through mentors,” she says.  

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