Intersections Fellow Highlights: Beth Buyserie, Lili Yan, and Elizabeth Grace Wong
Dr. Beth Buyserie is the Director of Composition and an Assistant Professor of English.
CIGSR: How has intersectionality shaped you as a teacher and researcher?
I was first introduced to Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality when I was a Ph.D. student in Cultural Studies. As a white cisgender woman with invisible disabilities, one who also identified as a first-generation college student from a working-class background, I initially thought that I understood the concept of intersectionality: that our identities are not siloed, but instead work in complex ways to shape who we are. Additionally, I recognized how oppression is also intersectional. However, because intersectionality stems from the lived experiences of Black women, I also recognized the ways in which I, as a white woman, could not (and should not) ever claim full understanding of the concept. Over time, in addition to Crenshaw’s powerful definition, I personally began to identify intersectionality with questions and unknowability. As I began questioning my sexuality in my mid-30s, I reflected even more on the concept of intersectionality, questioning how much I had previously understood about the concept and identity itself. In what ways were my intersectional identities challenging me to be an agent of change? In what ways were my intersectional identities preventing me from fully understanding another’s experience? And how might my intersectional identities allow me both to recognize and challenge my complicity in inequitable systems?
At a webinar on intersectionality in Spring 2022, Dr. Mecca J. Sullivan referred to intersectionality as a queer creative practice. I love that description. I’m both drawn to it and limited by it, both of which stretch my thinking. I’m learning that intersectionality is a continual process, that our intersectionality shifts and is in constant flux. I rely on these concepts as I teach undergraduate research and graduate composition pedagogy classes. In these classes, I can emphasize the fluidity of our questioning, the messiness of writing, the unknowability of our claims, and the constant shifting of our knowledge and lived experience. I don’t know yet if I can claim this as a queer creative practice, but I hold the term close as I continue to reflect on my teaching.
CIGSR: Can you share one specific practice you use in your in the classroom that is impactful?
As a teacher of composition, I foreground intersectionality to teach synthesis and research. Like many composition teachers at USU, I utilize a library module designed by the USU Librarians in collaboration with Cree Taylor, Cana Uluak Itchuaqiyaq, and Rachel Quistberg, a module that guides researchers to seek multiple perspectives from multiply marginalized and underrepresented scholars. In class, we apply this intersectionality-focused module to ask unanswerable questions: “Whose perspectives are we missing? How can we intentionally seek these perspectives? How does our own lived experience and personal authority influence our research? And what can we never know about our topic?” I also draw on intersectionality as I introduce students to the heart of my pedagogy: the connections among language, knowledge, and power. In groups, students define and question these concepts, separately at first. Eventually, they synthesize their conversations to ask how language, knowledge, and power influence texts, writing, and research. We then question how our intersectional identities and lived experiences both shape and limit our writing and research practices.
Links to intersectional research/teaching:
- “Reading Yourself Queer Later in Life: Bisexual Literacies, Temporal Fluidity, and the Teaching of Composition” in Literacy Studies in Composition, vol. 9, no. 2, 2022,https://licsjournal.org/index.php/LiCS/article/view/2191
- “Languages of Power and Resistance: Future Teachers Writing for Social Justice” in Prompt: A Journal of Academic Writing Assignments, vol. 6, no. 1, 2022,https://thepromptjournal.com/index.php/prompt/article/view/88/262
- “Productive Disruptions: Resilient Pedagogies that Advocate for Equity.” Co-authored by Rachel Bryson and Rachel Quistberg. In Resilient Pedagogy: Practical Teaching Strategies to Overcome Distance, Disruption, and Distraction, edited by Travis N. Thurston, Kacy Lundstrom, & Christopher González, Utah State University, 2021, pp. 37-53. https://doi.org/10.26079/a516-fb24.
- “Enacting a Queer Pedagogy in the Composition Classroom.” Co-authored with Ricardo Ramírez. In ELT Journal, vol. 75, no. 2, 2021, pp. 193-202. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/ccaa072
- “‘Yes, We Count’: Weaving Fluid Identities of Disability and Sexuality into First-Gen Pedagogies.” Amplified Voices, Intersecting Identities, Vol. 2: First-Generation PhDs Navigating Institutional Power in Early Academic Careers, edited by Jane Van Galen and Jaye Sablan, Brill|Sense Publishers, 2020, pp. 95-103.
Link to Department Page: https://chass.usu.edu/english/directory/beth-buyserie
Lili Yan is a Han Chinese from Southeastern China, and a current PhD candidate in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences. She is broadly interested in research about learning, culture, and technology.
CIGSR: How has intersectionality shaped you as a researcher?
My dissertation work focuses on the design and impact of culturally centered learning activities on sixth graders, and I developed this inquiry while working as a graduate research assistant on a broader project (funded by the Spencer Foundation) that aims to cultivate connections between disciplines, cultures, and knowledge systems for the sixth-grade curriculum. This study approaches how sixth graders develop relationships with culture amidst the global pandemic, in which we realize how the intertwined relationships between scientific challenges, culture, and politics shape our immediate daily experience. Intersectionality, therefore, provides me with a lens to further investigate that what we learn and how we learn are a result of co-mingling relationships.
Elizabeth Grace Wong is a doctoral student in the Combined Clinical/Counselling Psychology specialization, and her research at the moment is about positive identity strategies and experiences of religious/spiritual LGBTQ+ BIPOC.
CIGSR: Can you share one specific practice you use in the classroom that is impactful?
In the classroom, I often have students engage in creative knowledge making— For midterms or finals students can choose what they want to produce (collages, comics, magazine covers, poetry, knitting, mixed medium, photography), which was a way for them to explore their interest on a particular topic in a way that matters to them. I just find that there are so many ways of engaging with the world that isn’t through an essay. We aren’t always moved by an essay (but we also can be). Opening up different mediums for students to further reflect on their learning helps them make knowledge that feels connected.
Link to department page: https://psychology.usu.edu/directory/graduate-students/wong-elizabeth