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Featured PhD Alumna: Krista Kennedy

PhD 2009, Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication
November 30, 2016

Congratulations to Krista Kennedy (PhD in RSTC, 2009) on her promotion to Associate Professor at Syracuse University. Krista is also the new director of the writing major and minor. Her book, Textual Curation: Authorship, Agency, and Technology in Wikipedia and Chambers's Cyclopædia was published this month by University of South Carolina Press.


Krista Kennedy

You have been at Syracuse University since 2009. How did you decide it was the right place for you, and do you have any advice for students about to transition from student to faculty member?

I came to Syracuse University for the wonderful colleagues, both faculty and staff. There was a moment late in my campus visit when I had the overwhelming sense that these were the people I wanted to be working with. And that’s worked out: I have amazing, brilliant, dear faculty colleagues (both tenure-track and adjunct), and our incredible office staff members are also a strong reason to be here. Which I suppose is also a segue into answering the advice portion of this question: respect and appreciate staff members, because they’re the people who understand how things actually work. They don’t work for you; you work with them. And just as important: it’s okay to be quiet in the department during your first year or two and just watch, listen, and soak up the departmental culture as much as you can. If at all possible, get a strong sense of the landscape before you dive into service commitments and faculty meeting discussions.

Your book Textual Curation: Authorship, Agency, and Technology in Wikipedia and Chambers's Cyclopædia was just published. What was the most exciting part of that process for you?

Doing the primary archival research in London and Oxford was a tremendous part of the process of expanding the dissertation into a book. The chance to work in these two cities for several weeks was in itself exciting, since travel is such an ongoing education. Working in the United Grand Lodge of England archives really taught me about the generosity of archivists and the serendipity of archival work. What I thought would be a quick morning’s work to verify that there wasn’t much there that would be relevant for my project turned into several days of rummaging, conversation, and cross-indexing that changed the scope of my argument, my understanding about who was subscribing to the Cyclopædia, and how it furthered the Freemasons’ and the Royal Society’s efforts to evangelize Newtonianism across the Continent. Working in the Bodleian was equally pivotal, since they held the pamphlet in which Chambers laid out his call for crowdsourcing the second edition. I didn’t necessarily consider myself to be an archival researcher when I began this project, but I certainly did by the time I got home from that trip. It’s since become a significant part of my scholarly identity and methodology. When it came time to begin another project, I couldn’t imagine starting anywhere but in the archives.

What are you currently working on?

I’m in the early stages of a study on hearing technologies and user intimacy. A seed grant from SU funded a couple of trips to medical archives this year, and I’ve become especially interested in the ways that advertisements promised to make deafness invisible for a variety of rhetorical reasons.

What do you enjoy most about teaching and your day-today work?

Working with students through all the stages of building interesting, usable projects is always one of the best parts of the job, whether it’s recommendation proposals or digital spaces in an undergraduate class or a doctoral dissertation. I’ve also found that curriculum design can be a really satisfying element of a career, so a fair amount of my time has gone toward developing pilots within our major and building out our professional and technical writing offerings. As I’ve spent more years away from industry, I’ve found that I missed the large-scale planning work that I used to do there, so I’ve recently started to work on strategic planning initiatives at the departmental and college levels. So far, that’s been very enjoyable work.

What are your responsibilities as director of the writing major and minor?

I handle the day-to-day administration of the major and minor, as well as chair a committee that works on curriculum developments and other aspects of program management. We’re also in the midst of periodic assessment by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, so some of my energy for the next couple of years goes toward coordinating the assessment of the major and minor programs. For the past few years I’ve also been leading development of our Certificate in Professional & Technical Writing, which is now in the final stages.

What University of Minnesota Writing Studies / Rhetoric classes or professors do you most remember and why?

The wonderful thing about all of the professors I was fortunate enough to take classes with was the space and support they offered for developing one’s own project within the scope of the seminar topic. It was a chance to get great responses from so many different perspectives. My dissertation co-chairs, Laura Gurak and John Logie, were particularly supportive and really pressed me to figure out the scope and central research questions for the project that eventually became my dissertation.


Book cover for Textual Curation Authorship, Agency, and Technology in Wikipedia and Chambers's Cyclopædia by Krista Kennedy

What are you reading or what have you read lately that you think is great?

I’m really enthusiastic about Sean Zdenek’s new book, Reading Sounds: Closed Captioned Media and Popular Culture. It’s a careful, extensive study of not just juxtapositions of text, moving images, and disability rhetorics, as one might expect from the title, but also the rhetorical construction of captioners, captioning as technical writing, the ethics of captioning, and the role of media technologies. He also provides detailed discussion of his methods and methodologies, which makes it very useful for teaching how those factors play out in this sort of multifaceted study.

I try to keep a habit of reading popular books in the evenings before bed. Two recent favorites are Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove (Grand Central Publishing) and Steve Kuusisto’s gorgeous Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening (W.W. Norton).

You and your husband are seasoned road-trippers.  What is the most interesting thing you have come across on your travels recently?

Live lobsters at rest stops and a 25-foot windvane shaped like a ship were some memorable sights on our trip Maine this past summer. And there’s always plenty of interestingness just a bit down the road in the Finger Lakes wine country. It’s hard to go far in Upstate New York without being near an Underground Railroad stop, and we regularly make a short road trip out to Seneca Falls for shopping, which means we’re just down the street from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.