16. Rebuilding the University w/ Stephanie Bower & John Murray

In Episode 16, we talk to Professors Stephanie Bower and John Murray of the USC Writing Program about incorporating multimodal and experience-based assignments into their courses, building relationships with local communities, reframing service learning as a form of activism, and turning to abolitionist pedagogy as a model for dismantling and then rebuilding the University. Learn more about Stephanie here and John here, and be sure to check out some of the student projects from their recent courses:

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

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“Visual storytelling is a really important skill in rhetoric…Filmmaking and composition actually have a lot in common…If you really break down what goes into a documentary, it is what goes into a paper.” -John Murray

“Sometimes it seems like higher education is behind what they’re doing in K-12…You’re going to write yourself into extinction if you don’t realize how writing can be applied to these other media.” -John Murray

“You have something to learn, so don’t go in there heavy-handed. Don’t go in there taking something from the the community. Don’t go in there doing something for or about the community. You are collaborating.” -John Murray

“How do our opinions shift when we actually listen to the communities whose stories we’re partnering to tell rather than going in with our own assumptions about it? That’s I think a lot of the work we do in the class. And it’s such a relief to students…to have their perspectives be valued and…to be able to narrate and theorize from their own lived experiences.” -Stephanie Bower

“All this humanity coming at them beyond the academic information I think has potential to impact them for years to come, and impact not only how they see these populations when they research them, but how they see the world.” -John Murray

“If you imagine yourself as an activist, first of all, it enables you to recognize your own complicity within the systems…and so it becomes a shared responsibility to change those systems…It challenges that idea of objectivity.” -Stephanie Bower

“Abolitionist thinking isn’t about reforming or reimagining; it’s about dismantling and then rebuilding based upon what we want our values to be.” -Stephanie Bower

“What would it be like if you asked students…how what we’re doing in the classroom can make a difference outside in the world…How can we be thinking about this space as an opportunity to make change?” -Stephanie Bower

“The person has to be part of the educational experience…It’s not only academic success in college that helps you persist and succeed and complete; it’s social integration into college…Under-represented groups very often feel excluded socially in a classroom. And I think that’s a huge consideration to tie into composition…What are you expected to assimilate to here as you make an argument, as you make a case, as you express your voice? Are we expecting you to deny everything you were until you walked into the room so that you can assimilate into what’s been established?…Are we still holding back to standards that are really, in terms of the big picture, obsolete?” -John Murray

“Think like an academic, but don’t write like one.” -Stephanie Bower

“If there’s anything we want to keep about academia…it might be that sense of curiosity for its own sake.” -Stephanie Bower

This episode was recorded on June 9. Please be aware that, because we recorded via Zoom, there are occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @writingremixpod.

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