RWDMS Faculty

Faculty: Commitment to Student Success

Faculty teaching in the Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies program at Northern Arizona University are committed to student inquiry, problem-focused discussions, and project-based learning. We encourage students to be active participants in the learning experience, and to co-create positive academic and professional experiences. We want students to engage with and participate in conversations related to global learning, diversity, and sustainable educational and environmental practices. Faculty profiles provide a brief glimpse into what is important in our professional lives.

Ira James Allen

Ira Allen is an assistant professor in Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies at NAU, and was previously an assistant professor of Rhetoric and Composition and director of the Writing Center and Writing in the Disciplines at the American University of Beirut. His research is in the areas of rhetorical theory and history, composition studies, political philosophy and political theory, translation studies, and writing center studies. Ira’s book The Ethical Fantasy of Rhetorical Theory is forthcoming in May 2018.

Studying rhetoric helps students develop wonderful capacities for being effective in the world and at the same time for being critical of the world. Rhetorical study improves our abilities to negotiate symbolic environments with an eye for what may be useful, personally and communally both, and with a sense of ethical responsibility. I love helping students build up these rhetorical capabilities and, equally, love helping teachers think carefully about how—and why—to foster these capabilities in their own students. My primary teaching aims are to help my students decide how rhetoric can be useful for them personally and to work closely together to deepen their rhetorical skills and strengths.

Nancy Guerra Barron

Nancy Guerra Barrón is a professor in Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies. She directed the Interdisciplinary Writing Program, a campus-wide writing-across-the-curriculum effort, for five years and focused her work primarily on providing support and resources for writing in academic, workplace, and digital spaces for faculty and students. She coordinated campus-wide symposia and established an interdisciplinary internship program. Her research and teaching interests focus on Xican@ rhetoric, diversity in education, literacy and minority studies, multimedia studies, food writing, archival research, professional and technical communication, and interdisciplinary writing. Her work on Latino students’ difficulties with higher education because of dual constructions of identity from and toward the Anglo mainstream has been acknowledged by College Composition and Communication, as an outstanding contribution to studies in Latin@ literacy studies. She has co-published Social Change in Diverse Teaching Contexts: Touchy Subjects and Routine Practices with Sibylle Gruber and Nancy Grimm. Her current book project is tentatively titled Latin@s Are Here to Stay: Moving On and Moving Up.

Our students’ enthusiasm, flexibility, curiosity, and patience for new approaches to writing, research, design, and presentation are inspiring and motivating as I often redesign my courses to better suit continually changing professional expectations. I find that our students are astute, super smart, and often only need a challenge or two or five with some guidance from me. When possible, I present students with situations to practice implementing their ideas for possible future clients. Our students are always ready to take their studies and redesign their findings to suit multiple audiences. This student behavior is contagious, and I am grateful for that.

Chase Edwards

Chase Edwards is the Writing Center Coordinator and a lecturer in Rhetoric, Writing and Digital Media Studies. Her teaching and research interests include interdisciplinary writing, media literacy studies, writing center theory, multimodality, and writing and technology. She is especially interested in engaging students in the learning process in order to promote critical and analytical thinking for positive change in local, national, and international settings.

I believe in the diverse student population at Northern Arizona University. I am dedicated to helping all students understand rhetorical principles as a means to strengthening arguments, performing analysis, accessing the language of their disciplines, conducting thorough research, thinking critically about digital media, and better understanding each other, the University, and the globalized communities they will be entering after graduation.

Laura Gray-Rosendale

Laura Gray-Rosendale is a professor in Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies, and she is a President’s Distinguished Teaching Fellow. Her research and teaching interests focus on memoir and theories of autobiography, history of rhetoric and composition, literacy studies, and popular culture studies. She directs the S.T.A.R. (Successful Transition and Academic Readiness) English Program, a curriculum that addresses the needs of students who are first-generation and/or in economic need. Along with various articles and book chapters, she has published the following books: Rethinking Basic Writing, Alternative Rhetorics (with Sibylle Gruber), Fractured Feminisms (with Gil Harootunian), Radical Relevance (with Steven Rosendale), Pop Perspectives, College Girl (winner of the Gold Medal Independent Book Publisher’s Award in Memoir), and Getting Personal: Teaching Personal Writing in the Digital Age. Currently she is the guest editor on two special volumes (on graduate education and basic writing) for the Journal of Basic Writing. She has begun work on a new book tentatively titled Living in Motion: Writers’ Stories of Triumph, Joy, and Healing.

I am committed to students producing both traditional academic analysis and creative projects. My classes are designed to be engaging, challenging, and thought-provoking. I teach freshmen through graduate students each academic year and love working with each group. I find great joy in working with both face-to-face and on-line students. I am continually impressed by the kind of work students at NAU produce. I am excited to work with you!

Sibylle Gruber

Sibylle Gruber is a professor in Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies and the director of the RWDMS program. Her research and teaching interests focus on feminist rhetorics, LGBTQ rhetorics, the rhetorics of sustainability, literacy studies, gender studies, rhetoric and cultures, digital literacy, writing theory and practice, and rhetorical approaches to travel writing, and she has published widely in journals and edited collections. Her books include Literacies, Experiences, and Technologies: Reflective Practices of an Alien Researcher, Social Change in Diverse Teaching Contexts: Touchy Subjects and Routine Practices (with Nancy G. Barrón and Nancy Grimm), Alternative Rhetorics: Challenges to the Rhetorical Tradition (with Laura Gray-Rosendale), Composing Identity through Language, Culture, Technology, and the Environment, Constructing Others, Constructing Ourselves, Weaving a Virtual Web: Practical Approaches to New Information Technologies, and Power and the World Wide Web, (a special issue of Computers and Composition: An International Journal). She is currently working on a collection of essays that explores the power of active and constructive participation in blog spaces.

I strongly believe that students want to learn and want to be challenged in our program. My courses are very fast-paced and require students to be engaged and willing to explore topics from composition theory, literacy theories, feminist theories, environmental rhetorics, digital literacy, and travel writing theories to research methodologies in rhetoric and writing. Learning always means being part of an exciting process that lets students explore new theoretical frameworks and lets them explore new topics in a critical and self-reflective way. Students in my classes take on new challenges, and they learn how to apply theory to practice in the classroom or the workplace. I am always pleased with the excellent work that students produce, whether it’s a theoretical paper or a major project they complete for their master’s program. It’s always a pleasure working with highly motivated learners who have learned to be mature and responsible members of their communities.

Tracey Hayes


Tracey Hayes is a lecturer in Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the history and theory of rhetoric, digital rhetoric and social media, and interdisciplinary writing. Her research and teaching interests include social media, digital literacies, publics/counterpublics, big data, and multimodal writing. Her research analyzes online protests and the complex rhetorical work occurring within these online spaces. Her most recent article #MyNYPD: Transforming Twitter into a Public Place for Protest was published in Computers and Composition.

We are surrounded by rhetoric in our daily lives. Helping students recognize, analyze, and respond to the rhetoric within digital spaces assists them in navigating their world during and after their time at NAU. Technology increases these complexities and I enjoy helping students critically analyze content to determine when content is factual or fake news, learn the importance of and how to limit their digital footprints, and understand ethical issues intersecting within online spaces.

Kim Hensley Owens


Kim Hensley Owens is associate professor of English (RWDMS) and Director of the University Writing Program. She trains, mentors, and supervises graduate teaching assistants and instructors who teach writing to first-year students. Dr. Hensley Owens’ research and teaching interests range widely, and include composition, pedagogy, feminist rhetorics, ethnic studies, ethnography, and rhetorics of health and medicine. She has published a variety of articles and book chapters, and her book, Writing Childbirth: Women’s Rhetorical Agency in Labor and Online, was published in August 2015.

I’m thrilled to be in lovely northern Arizona working with students from around the state and the world. I love to challenge students to find new ways to tackle interesting problems through writing, and I love to help them through that discovery process. My favorite part of teaching at every level is learning with and from my students—all students bring their own perspectives and through their research and writing discover new insights to share as well.

Alana Kuhlman

Alana Kuhlman is the Director of the Interdisciplinary Writing Program and a lecturer in Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies. Her research and teaching interests focus on how best to teach interdisciplinary writing, how to integrate feedback on writing in the professions, and how to provide effective writing instruction for multicultural students.

One of my favorite experiences each semester is the “aha” moment when students begin to connect the course writing lessons and rhetorical strategies to their academic fields and future professions. This is the moment when they recognize the value of what they are learning. Students are enthusiastic and motivated in my class because they choose to analyze and write documents relevant to their majors and professional interests. Throughout the semester, students further develop their critical reading and analytical writing skills, and I enjoy facilitating this process. I am consistently impressed with the care and effort students put forward, as well as the professional quality of their work.



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