May 20, 2020
Humboldt State University faculty members Professor Janelle Adsit, Department of English, Professor Renée Byrd, Department of Sociology, and Professor James Woglom, Department of Art, are recipients of the 2020 McCrone Promising Faculty Scholars Award.
Selected for exhibiting potential in a specific field, each faculty member will receive $1,500 to assist a program of creative activity, scholarship, or research. In addition, Environment & Community graduate student Mox Alvarnaz won the Alistair and Judith McCrone Graduate Fellowship, which is given to graduate students who have demonstrated strong potential in their field.
The awards honor HSU President Alistair McCrone and recognize the accomplishments of HSU’s excellent newer faculty members and students.
English Professor Janelle Adsit has made her mark as a scholar and theorist of creative writing and writing pedagogy. Considered a groundbreaking and innovative figure in Creative Writing Studies, she has changed the conversation in the discipline and moved the field toward new pedagogical ideas and programmatic design, particularly with her pioneering book Critical Creative Writing: Essential Readings in the Writer’s Craft. The book is an anthology of 25 readings on key debates in creative writing, from the ethics of appropriation to the politics of literary evaluation. One of her other books, Toward an Inclusive Creative Writing: Threshold Concepts to Guide the Literary Writing Curriculum, is routinely cited as a key resource in the field, as well. In addition, she and Sociology Professor Renée Byrd, also named a 2020 McCrone Promising Faculty Scholar, co-authored Writing Intersectional Identities: Keywords for Creative Writers.
Colleagues say her research has potentially transformative ramifications for English Studies as a whole. Her work, from the theoretical to the practical, reflects a commitment to promoting equity and access in institutions of writing, publishing, and education.
Since her arrival at HSU in 2016, she has worked hard to provide opportunities for students in publishing, production, and editorial work. She has also worked to grow the longstanding student literary journal Toyon into a multilingual and multimodal publishing venue. Her work will have a profound and lasting effect on the way that we imagine aesthetic achievement and teach the craft of writing.
“I want to encourage HSU students on their own paths as activist-writers,” says Adsit. “I am fortunate to be able to contribute to, and learn from, the community at HSU in this way.”
Sociology Professor Renée Byrd’s scholarship is vital to the academic fields of critical prison studies, Black feminist theory, and Ethnic Studies, and equally vital to the work of activists and advocates who seek genuine transformation and not mere reinforcement of existing systems of oppression and hierarchy.
In the Fall of 2019, Byrd’s first book (with co-author Janelle Adsit), Writing Intersectional Identities: Keywords for Creative Writers, was published by Bloomsbury Academic. The book is a guide to the theoretical concepts needed by today’s writers to engage questions of authenticity, embodiment, and power in the worlds we construct in our writing.
She is currently finishing her first solo-authored monograph, Punishment’s Twin: Carceral Logics, Abolitionist Critique and the Limits of Reform. The book helps readers critically navigate the complex political moment we are living in where a bipartisan consensus has emerged on criminal justice reform. Byrd uses critical discourse analysis to critique mainstream approaches to reform, arguing for an abolitionist praxis which fundamentally transforms the logics which made it possible to lock up over 2 million people without significant public debate.
“I am determined to build a wide-ranging research agenda, producing many books over the course of my career at HSU,” Byrd says.
Byrd is described by her peers as an “innovative thinker,” as providing a “substantial contribution to the fields of criminology, justice studies, and social theory,” as demonstrating “theoretical breadth and critical imaginary,” and producing work which is “powerful and cutting edge”.
Sociology Professor Michihiro Clark Sugata brought up an aspect of scholarship not often commented on: “Dr. Byrd’s work is brave. It requires a tremendous amount of courage to not only challenge dominant systems of thought but also to call into question the practices of one’s own disciplinary peers. As a serious scholar herself, Byrd unabashedly challenges her academic peers to rethink their framings of previously incarcerated women, and how their work may be unknowingly co-opted by the state to render its violence more humane and acceptable.”
A highly productive scholar with an impressive record of publication, Art Professor James Woglom is deeply engaged in his field of study. He has been published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and book chapters and has presented at several national and international conferences.
Particularly notable is his commitment to social and community awareness and to addressing educational inequalities and lack of access to art education. His book (co-authored with Stephanie Jones) On Mutant Pedagogies: Seeking Justice and Drawing Change in Teacher Education reflects that commitment to social justice. The book was widely praised for its innovative use of a graphic novel format and won the Society of Professional Educators Outstanding Book Award and the American Educational Research Association’s Qualitative Research Special Interest Group’s Outstanding Book Award in 2017.
In addition, he, along with former HSU Art Education faculty and students, helped develop three art educational programmatic structures that offer arts instruction for community members: The Studio School, a student-run learning space that provides arts education instruction for local students; The Art Education Docent Program, in which students and teachers from local public schools are invited to visit HSU’s on-campus galleries and engage in arts activities; and The Art Education Service Learning Program.
His grant writing is focused on expanding arts access to underserved children in Humboldt County. In 2018, he was awarded a $6,347 California Arts Council Art Education Exposure grant, which supports trips for local
students to galleries at HSU and the Morris Graves Museum, allowing students from “aesthetically underserved Humboldt County elementary schools” to have first-hand experiences of art.
Environment & Community graduate student Mox Alvarnaz represents what HSU most wants from graduate students: a keen mind, a deep capacity for critical thought, and a commitment to social change. Their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to decolonizing curriculum and practices has left a legacy for the Environment & Community program.
Already in their career, Alvarnaz demonstrates a commitment to all aspects of academic life, including research and service. They have taken a leadership role both within the E & C program and the campus community. Alvarnaz is an organizer with Humboldt Mutual Aid, a grassroots disaster relief network that’s currently providing a range of services to community members during the COVID-19 pandemic, and collaborates with the California Faculty Association on organizing campaigns around student debt and other issues.
Given their unique aptitude, Alvarnaz was allowed to enroll in Sociology Professor Renée Byrd’s graduate Qualitative Methods course as an undergraduate. This course engaged theoretical work by Kum-Kum Bhavani and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Decolonizing Methodologies) and a wide array of texts challenging our epistemological certainties. In classroom discussions, Alvarnaz consistently demonstrated an ability to see the wider scholarly conversations, think outside the box and ask unique questions. E & C faculty have no doubt that Alvarnaz will change the world and build radical social theory in connection with our most innovative liberatory movements.
Within the E & C program, Alvarnaz has become a graduate student representative who participates in E & C faculty meetings, bringing concerns of students to faculty and communicating faculty decisions back to students. In this role, they have helped to reshape the program toward issues of social and environmental justice, especially including perspectives of Indigenous people and people of color.