CHSS Professors Edit New Collection on Citizenship & Advocacy in Communications
By Sheryl E. Taylor
Dr. Godwin Agboka, associate professor of technical and professional communication and Dr. Natalia Matveeva, associate professor of communication studies, recently edited the new collection, “Citizenship and Advocacy in Technical Communication: Scholarly and Pedagogical Perspectives".
The collection represents the work of scholars and teachers from 15 different institutions, and teachers, researchers, and practitioners offering a variety of theoretical frameworks, empirical studies, and teaching approaches to advocacy and citizenship.
Specifically, the collection is organized around three main themes or sections: considerations for understanding and defining advocacy and citizenship locally and globally, engaging with the local and global community, and introducing advocacy in a classroom.
How does this collection contribute to the conversation about advocacy and citizenship?
Matveeva: The collection carefully assembles topics, theories, and practical assignments that speak to the complexities of undertaking advocacy work, including local grant writing activities, cosmopolitanism and global transnational rhetoric, digital citizenship and social media use, strategic and tactical communication, and diversity and social justice.
Agboka: These issues and areas that are highlighted to help technical and professional communication students and practitioners to see themselves as citizens of a global community, where they engage issues that affect vulnerable and disenfranchised people.
Why is such a publication critical during this time?
Matveeva: In the 2012 report produced by the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement formed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the group calls for the greater civic participation of colleges and universities in the communities they are located and recommends “strengthening students’ civic learning and democratic engagement as a core component of college study.” AAC&U has sounded the alarm that without increased civic participation by students and faculty “the United States risks becoming a second-rate democracy and an increasingly fragmented society.”
Agboka: As scholars and teachers of social justice, we see advocacy work as important in not only connecting us to communities, but also in imbuing in our students a sense of social responsibility, engaged citizenship, and social justice towards their communities of practice when they join the workforce, whether locally or internationally. Ultimately, we see advocacy as the process of using a combination of academic and practical skills and knowledge systems to enact social justice with the goal to improving the quality of life for communities.”
One of the main themes is introducing advocacy in the classroom; how is that of value to our students?
Agboka: The classroom, we believe, is an important site for discussing some of the most complex and critical issues in our communities, because it represents, among others, a diversity of cultures, social classes, racial groups, gender communities, and sexual orientations.
Matveeva: Essentially, introducing issues of advocacy prepares students to come face-to-face with the expectations of the workplace, enact social justice by helping vulnerable populations address a problem, negotiate socio-political issues, and develop practical skills that a traditional classroom assignment would not provide.
The book, published by Routledge, is part of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW) Series in Technical and Professional Communication. Godwin and Matveeva are ATTW members.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. Annually, UHD educates more than 14,000 students; boasts over 45,000 alumni and offers 43 bachelor’s and eight master’s degree programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College).
UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates of any four-year university in Houston and Texas and is noted nationally as both a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a Minority-Serving Institution. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.