Featured PhD Student: Rachel Tofteland-Trampe
Where are you from?
Where did you previously attend school? What was your degree in?
I attended Concordia College in Moorhead, MN where I majored in Communication Studies and Sociology, and I minored in Art. I attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces for my master’s degree in Communication Studies.
Why did you choose Writing Studies at the University of Minnesota?
I wanted to continue to pursue my research interests in technology, rhetoric, and culture. I was excited that there were several faculty members with research interests that matched mine, and I looked forward to learning from such knowledgeable and respected researchers and teachers. In addition to offering a program of study that allowed me to dig into my interests further, the PhD program presented new areas I hadn’t explored yet, which was very appealing.
What is your research area and who is your advisor?
John Logie is my advisor, and I focus on technical communication research from a social justice perspective. Specifically, I am currently examining how inexperienced information and communication technology (ICT) users are engaging with technical communication at a community technology center (CTC) and how CTC tutors are serving as local technical communication experts.
What do you find most interesting about your research area?
My research has given me the chance to spend time serving as a participant-observer in a particular CTC where I have learned about how inexperienced ICT users are developing their digital literacies. I have really enjoyed learning about user experiences from their perspectives and seeing how meaningful it is for participants to become more independent, confident users.
Would you tell us about a project or course that was particularly meaningful to your professional development?
In Ann Duin’s WRIT 8550: Critical Perspectives on Networked Learning Environments course, I had an incredible experience building some of the foundational work for my dissertation research. I had shared my research interests with her regarding community technology centers (that I first began exploring in one of Laura Gurak’s courses), and she was able to connect me to a network of resources in the Twin Cities. Ann took the time to introduce me to some of her colleagues at one CTC, which led to opportunities to conduct informational interviews, observe CTC courses, and begin volunteering. This work prepared me well for setting up a successful community partnership with the CTC I partnered with for my dissertation research.
What class are you teaching and what is your favorite thing about teaching it?
I’m not currently teaching this semester because I have a research fellowship but most recently taught WRIT 3562W: Technical and Professional Writing last fall. One thing I really like about teaching this class is that students from all sorts of disciplines take the course, so students are bringing different interests and perspectives into the work we do. I also enjoy working with students to research for their analytical reports. One particular element of class I like teaching is how to conduct interviews with participants.
What are your interests / hobbies outside of academia?
Spending time with family and friends, baking, being active outdoors, and travelling.
What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing their PhD with Writing Studies?
Come in with a sense of what your goals are but be open to new opportunities and directions that present themselves along the way. There are a number of opportunities to work with faculty and colleagues (e.g. research assistantships, the Graduate Research Partnership Program (GRPP) research fellowship, and other formal and informal collaborations), so keep an eye out for those and take advantage of them. Enjoy this time you have to work with faculty and colleagues as you prepare for your next step in your professional journey.