If my portfolio materials are making some kind of concerted argument about my early career, it’s this: achieving justice is at the back of everything I do in higher education. That is also true of my service to the university and to the community at large. This penchant for social justice was recognized early on, since my first (official) committee assignment was chair of the Equal Opportunity Committee, the group charged with keeping Graceland committed to its core principles of diversity and inclusion. In the last two years, that committee has launched projects to implement diversity training for all faculty and staff and helped with event programming on campaigns like Indigenous Peoples Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the university town hall on immigration, and the Campus Climate conversations on race and gender.
In that same year, I was also placed on the Honors Council, as it was being tasked with updating the program’s curriculum and practices. The first thing I took notice of was the program’s homogeneity and how out of sync these demographics were with the larger student population. As is the case nationally, the imagined meritocracy that allows Honors programs to self-segregate their students in advanced courses suffered a blind spot here at Graceland when it came to questions of race and class diversity. Right away, I started working with our campus TRiO representatives to create a mechanism by which to nominate students from our high-achieving low-income population for entry into the Honors program. We have been successful in nominating two students from those new majority backgrounds thus far and we hope to expand that program in coming years.
This same desire to see all students succeed landed me on the Enrollment and Persistence Committee as a faculty representative, where I tried to lend my perspective on the challenges and opportunities of meeting diverse students’ needs in the classroom. In fact, I have always been interested in finding ways to be more active in student recruiting efforts. That was the main impetus behind launching the Graceland Poetry Day Event in 2015, where I traveled with Graceland students to regional high schools to teach creative writing. A capstone event back on the Lamoni campus, in celebration of National Poetry Month, included workshops and readings with all local participants. I cannot be sure how that labor has bore fruits in terms of enrollment, but it did foster important working relationships with the Lamoni Educational Talent Search staff and local educators.
In another de facto recruiting effort, I’ve been deeply invested in building a more public scholarly presence for the Humanities division. I have created and managed the English Department Facebook group and Twitter account, published an English alumni podcast, and tapped into a network of colleagues to organize guest lectures on cutting-edge topics like “Indigenous Activism Across Media” and “A Hacker’s Guide to the Digital Humanities.” Last year, I was on the planning committee for Graceland’s Town Hall meeting on Immigration in the United States and this year I organized and presided over the Presidential Inauguration roundtable on the Protestant Reformation—to mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses posting. I am an avid supporter of student advocacy groups, too. I have been the faculty advisor for The Tower newspaper since my first semester at Graceland, and in the last year I’ve been approached—and agreed—to support students in creating a Graceland College Democrats chapter and a Gay-Straight Alliance group on the Lamoni campus.
Finally, in terms of renewing and sustaining the faculty and curriculum, I have been the consummate team player. Since 2015, I have been a member of three Humanities faculty searches and this year I was appointed to the Vice President for Academic Affairs search by President Draves. With colleagues, I helped design and implement the new multimodal Discourse sequence for the Essential Education program and recently overhauled the English major and minor to place more emphases on the literatures and cultures of historically-marginalized authors and peoples. In just a short time, my service to the university has quite literally re-shaped the faculty and curriculum in ways that will help set up Graceland University for success well into the future.