TCR Grad Blog

Graduate director's blog for the Technical Communication and Rhetoric Program at Texas Tech University

Posts Tagged ‘MaySeminar’

Worst Speaker Ever

Posted by Joyce on November 20, 2010

Maybe it was just one person, but in our post-May-Workshop survey, one of our speakers was trashed for not being interesting, not being short enough, or simply being “the worst speaker I’ve heard in some time.”

I’d first like to say that I hear you and appreciate your criticism. However, I’d like to offer a rebuttal to your claims if you’ll indulge me. At the level of interest, arguments like the following may be answered by saying Yes, I suppose she could have been snappier or could have tried to apply her study to your particular utilitarian expectations, but what she did was scholarly and relevant to the field. As academics, we attend bureaucratic meetings, listen to student presentations, and consider a wide range of work in progress. Considering X flew across the country, invited by us to speak to us about her current work in progress, I think the principle of charity requires that we expand our expectations and empathetically listen and learn from someone who has clearly invested enormous time and intellectual effort.

X wasn’t very engaging/interesting to me (and I’m interested in rhetoric).

Contrary to these claims of irrelevance or interest, I myself found X’s talk to hit squarely in at least three of our stated emphasis areas, visual rhetoric, the rhetoric of science, and technology. I found it fascinating how what we know (epistemology) depends so greatly on tools and techniques of observation and how what’s believable depends on seeing something with enough detail to be visually compelling.

To put it bluntly, X’s talk was horrible; the speech was too long, and the topic was confusing and boring. I stayed for the talk because I thought it would be rude to leave

At least an honest assessment:

I did not find X’s talk particularly engaging. This is less a comment on the value of the outside speakers, which I enjoy, and more a comment on her presentation style.

and this:

X’s talk was surprisingly not useful. I found her talk to be a squashed version of a much longer talk, which she admitted, and her technical terms (gel electrophoresis) were for the scientific community rather than the rhetorical community. Odd. It was interesting, but not really informative, sort of like seeing an animal you cannot identify as mammal, reptile, bird, etc.

On almost any metric that’s relevant to our program, our mission, our stated emphasis areas, I think X was relevant and interesting, and she’s a scholar you are lucky to have seen and met. I certainly do not aim to please any single individual student in the PhD program through these invitations, but rather hope to offer you access to scholars and researchers you have read in your classes. Over your four- or five-year stint with us, you will have met, dined with, and heard influential scholars and theorists who define our field. You cannot simply sit back and say, “well, because my own interests lie solely in Classical Rhetoric, I have no use of hearing professor X talk about Design,” because if you do so, then you’re foregoing an incredibly valuable experience, one that we brought to you while you’re eating lunch. Nothing more than intellectual curiosity is required of you, along with a willingness to engage minds different from your own.

I do not know if this is possible, but I would like to see a more careful screening of speakers. While Y was wonderful, X was absolutely the worst speaker I have heard in some time.

As for this observation, all I can say is that you either haven’t gotten out very much or you’ve been blessed with a statistically unusual exposure to speakers, perhaps TED talks on YouTube or elsewhere. Perhaps you’re seeing only highly polished presentations. Or maybe you’re hearing conventional presentations of survey data. Or maybe you work in a school or industry that has a required stylesheet and presentation style, and thus everything you see has a certain professional sheen attached to it. Maybe you hear only consultants who are paid to deliver pithy and happy maxims to you. I don’t know why X is “absolutely the worst speaker [you] have heard in some time.”

All I can offer by way of rebuttal is the following. I have heard hundreds of academic talks during my time in the Academy, talks covering scores of topics, attempting a number of tight-rope intellectual feats, and aiming at a number of outcomes (research, theory, ideas, history, data, and so on). And I would put the visit by our esteemed visitor X in the top quartile. It was heartfelt, intelligently researched, and highly relevant for the field in general and our program specifically.

Given that the majority of us work, or seek to work, in institutions of scholarship (some of it esoteric and marginal to our own personal interests), I would argue that you need to see more of this type of presentation, not less of it. I myself (and I realize I’m committing the fallacy of the individual taste that I just belittled) would rather see presentations in the ratio of 2 of professor X to 1 of the pithy and entertaining consultant Y. Which is not to say that we won’t continue to invite a wide range of speakers, but rather to say that the world is large (and so is our discipline), and I find it astounding that some of you would be so quick to dismiss one corner of this discipline just because it was too lengthy or didn’t appeal to your particular needs, especially when we brought this expert to you, requiring nothing of you but a willingness to learn about this corner of our discipline.

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New Registration & Payment Site for May Workshop

Posted by Joyce on March 29, 2010

For this year’s May Workshop (the 2-week “boot camp” for those of you in the online doctoral program), we will be registering and paying for the workshop differently from previous years [here’s how we did it before, if you’re insatiably curious].

Student Business Services told us last summer that they were no longer interested in figuring out how to charge for the May Workshop using the academic registration and payment techniques of their office.  At this point, I approached the Conference Services office of the University College (used to be called the College of Outreach and Distance Education).  They said they do this all the time and could help with billing, refunds, and disbursement of moneys to housing, dining, and others.

So this year, those of you attending the May workshop will pay $1600 for your experience through the University College’s services and those of you who are taking courses (either organized or 7000/8000) will continue to register using Raiderlink and the TTU offices  of the Registrar and Student Business Services.  I know it will mean a separate registration, and I apologize for that.  But it also  will mean we’ll have a clear line of demarcation between academic activities and workshop activities, and that’s a line I’ve had to explain multiple times in the past (because it’s still confusing to me sometimes).

The registration form isn’t finished yet, but it ought to be deployed in a week or so.  It will consist of mandatory items and optional items, along with preferences and other things.  Mandatory items probably won’t be itemized, but will consist almost entirely of Housing, Catering Services, outside meals, student barbeque, final dinner, and the like.  Optional  items will be Rec Center ($14/week), Parking ($13/week), and  so on, and if you choose these optional things, then Conference Services will do the footwork for you so you don’t have to trudge over to Parking Services or the Rec Center.  They’ll also be able to produce a CEU certificate if you need one to show your employer. It’s a pretty good deal since we don’t go through  Banner and we have a dedicated staff to answer your May Workshop questions.

The deadline to register will be April 30, and  that’s a separate deadline from your Texas Tech course registration deadlines.  I don’t know if they’ll have installment options or not; it’s something we’ve inquired about.

More later in the week.

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Speakers for May

Posted by Joyce on November 23, 2009

I’m happy to announce that we have lined up our speakers for the May workshop 2010.

Week 1 will be Jeanne Fahnestock, probably speaking on May 20th.

Week 2 will be Michael Hughes, probably speaking May 28th.

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May 09 PhD Annual Review Schedule

Posted by Joyce on April 24, 2009

May 09 Review Schedule

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May Billing (for online students)

Posted by Joyce on April 2, 2009

The May Workshop isn’t technically a course, but you register for it this week and next week after I give you a permit, and the course number is (or it used to be) ENGL 0007 (kind of like the Bond’s 007, but one digit more dangerous). This course carries no credit and has no tuition, but it has a fee, and that’s how you are charged for the May Workshop. We take those fees and funnel them straight back out to housing, dining, and other costs associated with the workshop, FYI.

If you’re taking a class during May, you’ll register for it separately, and it will appear to be a summer course. Let’s take usability — you’ll register for the summer course ENGL 5388, sections D21 or D31 (D31 is for non-Texans in the online doctoral program, and D21 is for everyone else). Although the course looks like a summer course, you’ll have most or all of your work done when you leave Lubbock or within a week of leaving Lubbock. Your grades won’t be due until August (since it’s a sumer course), but your instructors will let you know how you did whenever the work is complete around June 10th or so.

If you’re taking another course in the summer, you’ll also sign up for it in April, and it’ll appear as a normal summer course on your fee bill. You won’t start the work in this summer-long online class until the first week of June, so there shouldn’t be any conflict with the courses you did in the May workshop.

Thus, if you’re taking courses (and let’s use a Newbie as an example), you’ll sign up for ENGL 0007, ENGL 5388, and ENGL 53xx (your summer course), and all three courses will be payable and due in 3 or 4 weeks.

If you’re finished with courses, you’ll sign up for 1-3 units of ENGL 7000 or 8000 for the summer, along with ENGL 0007.

I haven’t given out permits for the May workshop yet because I’m working with SBS to get the billing correct — since it’s not a course, it’s always ideosyncratic, especially in this transition year to our new Banner computer system. I hope to have it all worked out in a few days.

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May 09 Speakers

Posted by Joyce on November 20, 2008

Dear TCR faculty and graduate students,

I am pleased to announce to you that our guest scholars who will be visiting us and presenting their research during the May doctoral workshop this coming year will be Karen Schriver, May 13-14 and James Porter & Heidi McKee May 18-19.

The May doctoral workshop will run from Monday, May 11th through Saturday evening, May 23rd.

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Online PhD May Workshop Dates

Posted by Joyce on August 6, 2008

  • 2009: Sunday afternoon, May 10th – Saturday evening, May 23rd
  • 2010: Sunday afternoon, May 16th – Saturday evening, May 29th
  • 2011: Sunday afternoon, May 15th – Saturday evening, May 28th
  • 2012: Sunday afternoon, May 13th – Saturday evening, May 26th

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