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Professor’s leadership in organization presents opportunity to build on Faculty strengths in communication

Friday, November 3, 2017

This fall Vershawn Young, Associate Professor in Speech Communication and English, becomes the newly elected Assistant Chair for the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), an international organization dedicated to research and teaching in the fields of writing and communication theory.

Vershawn Young“I’ve been given an opportunity to bring my signature to the next four years,” explains Prof. Young, of his CCCC election. “There have been articles written that ask what happened to the 4th C, communication. I want to see communication and composition come back together and help to re-articulate what that relationship looks like.” As a professor in both Speech Communication and English, Prof. Young is already bridging that gap. “I hope that more schools make those connections, and that we look for ways to do it here at Waterloo as well.”

Advocating for language and literacy education nationally and internationally, the CCCC supports the teaching and study of composition and communication in post-secondary institutions by convening conferences, publishing research, and providing resources and expertise for teachers in the field. While U.S.-based, it has an international membership of roughly 7000 scholars and teachers.

“This Chairship is always seen as an honour - to be elected by your peers to this role means that people already look to you as a central figure in the field,” explains Associate Professor Jay Dolmage (English). “This is the case with Vershawn. He has already made significant strides in making change happen within the CCCC organization and within academia more broadly. This recognizes what he has already done, and gives him a platform to do even more.”

As Assistant Chair, Prof. Young will be responsible for planning the 2019 conference and he has his eyes set on a theme that will help to reestablish these types of connections in the field: performance-rhetoric. “I want us to think about the idea of performance in the classroom. It’s always rhetorical. Performance is all about rhetoric, whether it be digital performance, body performance, or the page as performance.”

The theme of performance-rhetoric is woven throughout Prof. Young’s research. His work on code-meshing expands on the concept of standard English to accommodate the voices of other language users.

Code-meshing book coverVershawn Young co-authored Other People's English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy.

As a faculty member at a Canadian institution, his recent appointment can help to both support the work of Canadian scholars and change the way that we teach our students writing and composition skills. CCCC has a large U.S .membership base, and those institutions require students to take a first year writing class. “There is a lot of enthusiasm from Waterloo,” explains Prof. Young, who has helped design first year communication courses across the faculties at Waterloo. “I’m American but having a professor based in Canada in this role brings attention to Canada and helps Canada to see what we can do when it comes to composition and communications teaching. Canada is in a unique position and I’m glad to see the enthusiasm on this campus for new teaching initiatives in the field.”

The appointment is a four- year term, one in which Prof. Young will begin as the Assistant Chair and move to the role of Chair during that term. “My goal is to make it through the four years with grace and enthusiasm and cheerfulness and energy. I was given some amazing opportunities early on in my career and had people in my corner supporting me and what I stood for. They helped me to blaze a path for myself and I want to do that for other people. I want to continue to support the work of new people; that’s where the change happens.”

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