Introducing Travis Webster
Introducing Visiting Assistant Professor
What is your current project, and what led you to it?
I recently defended and am revising for publication my dissertation, What Ex-Exgays Can Teach Us About Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Rhetorics. In the project, I traced how gay men from an online community use stories in order to enact activisms. From my data, I argued that through stories these men seek to impact intricate audience networks by offering uncomfortable stories to evoke GLTBQ awareness and by queering grand narratives about ex-exgay activism. I was actually part of the online community that was the focus of my project, so I had a deep commitment not only to the study’s participants, but also to the activist conversations ongoing in the group. The community represents a counter-movement against ex-gay ministries and sexual conversion therapies, whereby they/we speak out against such practices and enact activist rhetorical methods related to storytelling, pedagogy, and education.
I’m also working with two close friends and colleagues on a queer methodologies collection that arose from a 2011 CCCC panel. Further, I’ll be contributing to an edited collection grounded in revising narratives about activist writing pedagogies, whereby I’ll theorize about coming out as a rhetorical and pedagogical act in a recent writing, rhetoric, and gender course I taught.
What are you most looking forward to as you teach this fall? Can you tell us a little about your approach to teaching undergraduate composition, particularly with a cohort group such as the College Park Scholars?
My approach to teaching any writing course is to help students see themselves as writing professionals, whereby they leave the course feeling better equipped to write, read, and research for differing audiences and purposes both within and outside of the university and their respective fields. I’m particularly interested in helping students see audience interactions not as faceless abstractions but as budding and growing relationships. It is my goal that students build relationships with their audiences through writing—whether those relationships are in their professional and/or personal communities. I look forward to working with the College Park Scholars cohort to help them with continuing to develop their identities as writing professionals. From the research I’ve done, they look to be an amazing group of students to work with.
What occupies your time and interests when you aren’t teaching and researching?
When I’m not teaching and researching, I’m on the phone with or visiting my family and close friends in Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and Michigan. Family and close friends are my world. I also do my best to put in a 10K/day and a free-weight circuit workout every other day. I’m running a half-marathon in the fall (the International Peace Half-Marathon in D.C.). The goal is a full marathon in 2013! I also cook a lot, love sushi (especially yellowtail) and teas, and am a Words with Friends addict.
You’re coming to us from Michigan State University; tell us a little bit about how this experience has shaped you as a teacher and scholar, and what you hope to bring with you as you start anew here.
Through a rigorous curriculum and an amazing professional and personal support system, Michigan State’s Rhetoric and Writing Program, namely its faculty, encouraged me to trace relationships between my teaching, research, and administrative identities. In these professional contexts, I value relationship-building and rhetoric and writing-as-social-action and bring this positionality, these values, and the spirit of my teaching and research to my work in University of Maryland’s writing classrooms and its Academic Writing Program.
What was the last book you read that you really enjoyed?
In both cases, I was a little late to the game due to coursework, exams, and dissertation-writing, but I recently read Push by Sapphire and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Two of the most intense but beautiful pieces of fiction I’ve read in years.
What led you to this profession?
In 2001, I started work as a consultant at my undergraduate university’s writing center. From those five years of working with student writers of varied backgrounds and abilities, I was drawn to this profession and soon began reading scholarship and attending conferences in the discipline. Over ten years later, I’m still excited by and drawn to R/C’s growing conversations.