Class Discussion Board: Introductions

Message no. 1 posted by Marshall Kitchens on Tue Jan 08, 2002 08:26

As of this morning, we have 7 students in this course, so we should be able to get to know each other fairly well. Luckily, among those 7 students are 6 different fields, so we can also learn something from each other about our respective fields: psychology, anthropology, sociology, education, communication, and marketing.

Take this opportunity to describe your own background to the rest of the class. Explain who you are, what field you are in, why you signed up for this class, what experiences you have had with research and writing in the past, what experiences with research and writing you anticipate engaging in your career, and how you want this class to help prepare you for that.

Message no. 2 posted by Marshall Kitchens on Tue Jan 08, 2002 08:45

Instructor Background

Ethnography has been a steadily growing interest of mine since my experiences after my B.A. as a high school English teacher in a psychiatric hospital and as a juvenile probation officer in Louisiana -- both being experiences that raised concerns for me over power dynamics among individuals within institutional settings and the influences of such differences as race and class, for example, on those dynamics. I've been teaching composition and cultural studies for the past 9 years, 4 in Connecticut at the University of Hartford and University of Connecticut at Hartford and 4 at Wayne State University as a graduate student. This is my second year as a professor at Oakland University.

My training and background in ethnography comes through the field of composition/literacy studies, which is quite a bit less formal (and relies less on strict coding and quantitative analysis) than in sociology and anthropology and much less structured, I think, than ethnomethodology and conversational analysis. Last year, I completed my PhD at Wayne on Literacy, Technology, and Justice in Postindustrial Detroit. My dissertation involved self-reflexive educational ethnography (participant-observation research in the computer classroom and at a local senior citizen community center); observations, interviews, and surveys concerning student experiences with and attitudes toward computers and the Internet; and pilot classroom projects that asked students to employ ethnographic research strategies to provide multi-perspectived accounts of Detroit's local (and historical) cultures. These projects relied heavily on interviews and oral histories and involved building web sites to archive their work (which I've just learned was lost, unfortunately, to a server crash).

Lately, in my teaching I've been focusing on the ways in which principles of ethnographic research can provide students with sophisticated writing and reasoning strategies -- introducing students to basic principles of ethnographic fieldwork and leading them into research and writing projects in which they put some of those principles into practice by investigating specific sites for such issues as negotiations of power, symbolic meaning, social construction of group identity or member roles, or a combination of those issues. The main emphasis in these composition courses, however, is how to turn raw data into readable and thoughtful prose. It's a tough process.

My current research interests involve the experiences and attitudes of underrepresented college students at OU and WSU in relation to the use of computers and the Internet. I'm in the preliminary stage right now, looking over the literature and testing my instruments. I'm hoping to ramp up by this summer for fairly intensive fieldwork, interviews, surveys, etc.

This is the first time that Rhetoric 337 is being taught here at Oakland University, so I'm looking forward to running it as a pilot project with lots of feedback from students on alternative designs for the course. And as I teach, I plan to learn much from the experience and from my students so that my own ethnographic research is more thick and more sharp.

Message no. 4 posted by Elizabeth Roycraft on Tue Jan 08, 2002 10:48

My name is Elizabeth Roycraft, and I am a senior in anthropology with a concentration in archaeology. I have had ethnographic-like assignments for previous classes. A few examples include a participant observation and research project on Unitarian Universalists for my sociology of religion class, and interviewing various Indian friends of mine for a class on the Asian American experience.
As an anthropology student, I feel that I should be able to know how to write a decent ethnography. While I do plan on going into archaeology, I think that the basic principles of writing a research paper remain the same.

Message no. 5 posted by Lindsey Larkin on Tue Jan 08, 2002 19:06 Subject

My name is Lindsey Larkin and I'm a senior sociology major. Before attending Oakland I was a political science major in the James Madison program at Michigan State. I ended up shifting my focus, and politics ended up as a "hobby", and thankfully not a career aspiration. I've also been involved with numerous non-profit organizations such as Peace Action, Student Peace Action Network, NARAL, Affirmations, and PFLAG. In the future, I would like to link my interests by researching issues raised by these non-profits sociologically. The areas of research I'm interested in include feminist sociology, women's health, human sexuality, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered issues/Queer theory, and social movements. I took this class because the type of research I'd like to do would be qualitative, using interviews and participant observation. It seems with qualitative research the ability to write and describe what is observed is vital.

I've has some research experience. I worked as a research assistant with Terri Orbuch this past semester on her early marriage and divorce study. I've also done some quasi-ethnographic projects in my sociology classes at Michigan State, for example, observing people's behavior in elevators. I'm excited about this class and I'm looking forward to learning a lot from everyone.

Message no. 6 posted by Andrij Hnatiuk on Wed Jan 09, 2002 18:44


My name is Andrij Hnatiuk but people call me Andrew! I am a sophomore at Oakland and hope to major in Marketing. Lately I have found myself curiously interested in education. I currently work part time at William Beaumont Hospital as a courier leader. I play soccer, volleyball, swim and ski whenever time permits.

My past experience with research is limited. Most of the research I conduct supports my never ending quest to acquire more gadgets and gizmos. Wireless technology incorporating audio and video is most appealing to me. Working for Beaumont I was part of a team that wrote white papers for the ISO 9001 certification of my department. Having limited knowledge on anatomical pathology, a great deal of research was involved. From an Ethnographical perspective the team had to observe certain procedure sequences and document them.

I am unsure at the moment how I will engage the knowledge gained from this class in my career. There are always two sides to everything and having the ability to observe, interact, document something in its most pure state is a skill which I hope to develop.

Message no. 7 posted by Andrea Bleil on Thu Jan 10, 2002 00:04

Hi everyone. I'm Andrea Bleil and I'm a sophomore at Oakland. As of right now I don't have a major but I have a feeling I'll end up in either Marketing or Communications. I was informed of this class through Professor Kitchens and as soon as I saw the site I thought it would be something that I would really really like. Although I don't think I have as good of a grasp on the whole concept of ethnography as I would like to have right now, I am definitely excited to learn more about it. I have a lot of experience writing and researching, but unfortunately not in this particular field. Even though I am not sure exactly how this course may fit with my future career plans, whatever they may be, I am hoping to learn a lot in this class and I think it will be a good experience.

Message no. 8 posted by Lindsay Salisbury on Thu Jan 10, 2002 10:28

Hello everyone, My name is Lindsay Salisbury, I am 21, and a junior here at Oakland University. Outside of school, I am a single mother who is kept busy most of the time by her 10 month old, Joseph. I just recently changed my major to Communications. I hope to use this class to help me with research and writing in my future career. I have little experience, and am eager to learn more about this whole concept of ethnography. (so bare with me!)

Message no. 14 posted by Michelle Kurpinski on Sat Jan 12, 2002 11:54

Hello everyone, my name is Michelle Kurpinski, and I'm a junior this year with a major in communications. At the moment I'm pursuing a minor in Spanish, but I'm also contemplating another minor, in public relations. Further on in life I plan on pursuing public relations, working for a corporation such as Nordstrom's, but on the other hand, I am also considering going on to law school. I've tried to stay involved while attending Oakland. I was in the Gamma Phi Beta sorority for three years, and while in it we held fund raisers and helped numerous other philanthropies along with the OLHSA walk for warmth every year. I have also been involved briefly with the pre-law society and Fuerza. As far as my knowledge goes in the field of ethnography, I pretty much have none for the most part. This class will definitely be a learning experience for me and I can't wait.

Message no. 16 posted by Monica Kurpinski on Sun Jan 13, 2002 14:07

Hey everyone, my name is Monica Kurpinski and I am currently a sophomore majoring in Communications, and minoring in Advertising. I came upon this class through my sister who is also in this class. To be honest, I had no knowledge of what exactly this class would entail but as soon as I looked into it I knew this class was something I really looked forward to becoming a part of. I hope to pursue a career that deals with traveling, meeting all different types of people, and giving them what they want hence my career in communications. In order to do this, I believe you need to have knowledge of the different wants and needs of people today which is a reflection of where they come from and I think this class will give me a better understanding of that. I am very interested in learning about other cultures and am involved in the Latino Organization here at OU called Fuerza. Our group mainly focuses on the appreciation for our Latin heritage but we also learn about other cultures, and have some Native Americans, African Americans, and other ethnicities involved. As far as previous experience with research and writing, I have conducted various studies on things such as gender roles, environmental behavior, the effects of ones social class and so forth. The majority of these studies were conducted through my Psychology and Sociology courses that I took last year. I am very excited about this class and look forward to meeting some very interesting people.