Dr. Chad Iwertz Joining Rhetoric & Writing Program in Fall 2019

Welcoming Dr. Chad Iwertz, Rhetoric & Writing appears on an orange background next to a picture of Chad. Chad smiling inside Yayoi Kusama's art installation The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, a mirrored room that infinitely reflects and repeats hundreds of twinkle lights of many colors. Because the room is mirrored on all sides we can also see distorted images of Chad repeated, as well as distorted reflections of his partner, Lorene, who is taking this picture

Dr. Chad Iwertz will be joining the English Department in Fall 2019 as an assistant professor in the Rhetoric & Writing program. He was kind enough to answer some questions to introduce himself to the department. Please join us in welcoming Chad to BGSU!

What do you anticipate will be the biggest change in your move to BGSU as a new faculty member?

Putting down roots. My entire academic career up to this point has been built on time-fixed affiliations with institutions. I’m excited for how this new relationship to time will shape my work and relationships with colleagues and students at BG. But even more so, I’m looking forward to how putting down roots will in time give me a perspective into how I can better support those grad students and faculty at BGSU who are also navigating temporary appointments.

What are your goals as an instructor and new member of the Rhetoric & Writing Program and English department?

I’m excited to be bringing my background in digital media and disability studies to the program and the department, and also to learn from and work with other faculty and students. One of the many things that attracted me to the department was the strong emphasis on collaboration in and outside the program. Unfortunately, that kind of commitment to collaboration is very uncommon across the country, and I believe that some of the strongest work in our field has been rooted in collaboration. I’m definitely on the lookout for graduate students and colleagues who would be interested in partnering with me on collaborative research and teaching initiatives, especially in disability and cultural rhetorics and multimodal composition pedagogy.

What type of research do you hope to conduct once you arrive at BGSU?

In the relatively short-term, I’ll be working toward publishing a monograph that profiles the composing habits and practices of professional disability service transcribers. Specifically, this work offers a theory of non-verbatim transcript writing and its influence on what we currently know and don’t know about real-time writing and the teaching of composition in rhetoric and writing studies. There’s a saying I use a lot when describing transcription methodologies: verbatim writing cares about what is said, and non-verbatim writing cares about what is meant. We have spent a lot of time (stretching all the way back into Ancient Greek and Roman rhetoric) thinking about what verbatim writing looks like, how it operates, and how it might represent an ethical translation of human speech. But we have invested relatively little to no time thinking through how and why we might write specifically to transcribe what someone or something means. I’m interested in this work for two reasons: (1) how non-verbatim writing creates communication access in a way that’s different from verbatim writing, and (2) how non-verbatim writing offers a different approach to ethically representing sound through text.

Beyond that, I’m also working toward developing a long-term relationship with the disability collections in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Within these archives, I’m interested in studying computer interfaces designed in the 80s that centered quadriplegic people in their design. These include the first prototypes for speech recognition technology, and nearly all have been written into history as massive failures. One is even heralded by Time as one of the 50 worst inventions of all time. I’m interested in how these technologies, and social reception of them, have shaped American attitudes toward disability and technology over the past half-century. And it’s my intention to recover these histories to showcase how disabled people have persisted despite intense technological ableism over that same period.

What do you think is most misunderstood about your area of interest (e.g. disability studies/disability rhetorics)?

I was recently visiting another institution (by which I mean not BGSU), and someone asked me if I thought that disability studies was just a fad having its 15 minutes of fame. I think it was an innocent question, asked kindly and genuinely, and represents an outsider’s general perception of the subfield since it is seen as relatively new and yet has already produced important, field-changing work.

But I admit it’s also an odd question to answer because it’s painful to think of disability studies, which at its core is committed to celebrating disabled people and unearthing the prejudices that disabled people face and have historically faced, as being a fad.

No, I don’t think disability studies and disability rhetoric is just a current fad. We’re also experiencing a significant renewal within the academy that involves recognizing the roles we’ve played in holding our fields back by rejecting disability as a valid and validating way of life, a renewal that will have a dramatic impact on the work that we’ll be doing for decades to come.

What lessons would you share with graduate students about your own work and career trajectory?

First and foremost: You are not alone in this. Graduate school can be the best – you meet great people, read and discuss important and pressing issues, and develop a scholarly and professional identity that you can be proud of. Very, very few people get that privilege.

But grad school is also meant to be hard, and that means it will test you in ways that you both are and aren’t prepared for, including what for me (as a semi-occasional extrovert) felt like shockingly long periods of social isolation. I would not have been able to get through it without a close-knit group of friends and mentors, and I don’t know anyone who has. Find that core group of individuals who you trust to hold you accountable for having a life outside of your work.

What else should English department members know?

Well, since I just mentioned being accountable for a life outside academia, I feel like I should mention a bit about what that looks like for me. A few years ago, I began playing ukulele with a small group of students and faculty at Ohio State. We called ourselves OSUke, and we met for a few hours every Friday afternoon to celebrate the end of the week and the start of the weekend by playing a wide range of music. (Side note—if you ever get the chance to try and play death metal on a ukulele, take it.) I know an affinity for the ukulele is already very present in the department, and I’d love to find ways to continue that tradition in some form at BGSU.

I’m a cycling enthusiast as well, though I did a lot more outdoor cycling when I lived in the Pacific Northwest than I have in Columbus. The city just isn’t well-equipped for commuting by bike, and in general I’ve found Columbus to be unfriendly toward cyclists. I’m excited to explore how Wood County and the surrounding areas might reignite this interest.

What are you reading right now (for work and/or for fun) that you would recommend?

I’m currently reading a few books recommended to me for new faculty: Robert Boice’s Advice for New Faculty Members, David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and Leo Babauta’s Zen to Done.

I’m also reading (and highly, highly recommend!) Melanie Yergeau’s Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness and Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction.

I’m more slowly reading, and at various places in, Octavia Butler’s Patternist series, David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, Jillian Weise’s The Colony, and (because I can’t seem to help myself) Dan Brown’s Origins.

And because I also count it as reading in this context, I’ll also mention that I’ve recently played the videogames Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Owlboy and recommend both.