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RSA ... Message from the President

Dear Members and Friends of the Rhetoric Society of America:

I write to thank all of the organizers, leaders, and participants in this year’s Institute, hosted by Syracuse University.  Although the event had to be held virtually, it was RSA’s first official Event subsequent to the necessary cancelation of the RSA 2020 conference.  For their flexibility, stamina, and clear vision, I want all to join me in giving organizers Charles E. Morris III, professor of Communication and Rhetorical Studies, and Patrick W. Berry, associate professor of Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition, our collective gratitude.

The Institute took up the important work of interrogating #RhetoricsSoWhite, the acknowledgment of, in the words of Past President Kirt Wilson, existing “racialized systems of power, institutional practice, and knowledge creation” in the discipline of rhetoric.  Seminar and Workshop Leaders took up this investigative intervention with the horizon of transformative justice by addressing salient issues in contemporary rhetorical studies, including questions of ethics, decoloniality, politics, culture, race, gender, technology.

Thanks to those who supported the realization of this Institute, including Ezikio López, Lois Agnew, Jessica Enoch, Kendall Phillips, Gwendolyn D. Pough, Erin J. Rand, and Mikayla Torres, Kristi Johnson, as well as Leslie Dinauer, Casey Boyle, Eric Detweiller, Geoff Clegg, Krista Kennedy, and Jerry Hauser.

Seminar and Workshop Leaders invited and fostered such discussions, and they are listed in order of programming:  Malea Powell, Andrea Riley-Mukavetz, Joshua Trey Barnett, Jennifer Clary-Lemon, Jo Hsu, Benny LeMaster, Patricia Roberts-Miller, Ryan Skinnell, Adam J. Banks, Damien Smith Pfister, Carmen Kynard, Bryan McCann, José Manuel Cortez, Romeo Garcia, Jenna Hanchey, Diane Davis, Nathan Stormer, James Cherney, Jenell Johnson, Jeffrey Bennett, Jordynn Jack, Angela J. Aguayo, Casey Kelly, Jeffrey Q. McCune, Jr., Robert Asen, Daniel C. Brouwer, Sarah Burgess, Isaac West, Jessica Enoch, Pamela VanHaitsma, Karrin Vasby Anderson, Vanessa B. Beasley, Shawn J. Parry-Giles, Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz, Krista Ratcliffe, Stacey Sowards, Caitlin Bruce, Leslie Hahner, Andre E. Johnson, Kristy Maddux, Christa J. Olson, María Alejandra Vitale, Annie Hill, Ashley Noel Mack, Lisa Corrigan, Abraham Khan, Denise Bostdorff, Stephanie Kerschbaum, J. David Cisneros, Lisa Flores, Michael Lechuga, Kundai Chirindo, Dave Tell, Rebecca Dingo, Shui-yin Sharon Yam, Damián Baca, Bernadette Marie Calafell, Jonathan Alexander, Katherine Mack, Casey Boyle, Jim Brown, Jennifer Sano-Franchini, Catherine (Cate) H. Palczewski, Jenny Rice, Lisa Storm Villadsen, Sarah Jackson, Claire Sisco King, Marina Levina, Byron Hawk, Diane Marie Keeling, Thomas Rickert, Øyvind Ihlen, Sine Nørholm Just, Lisa Keränen, Jens Elmelund Kjeldsen, Lisa Melonçon, Shaunak Sastry, and J. Blake Scott.  An impressive group of scholars, to be sure, and I ask forgiveness in advance, acknowledging that I surely missed someone.

We are grateful to Karma R. Chávez, who delivered the keynote address, which presented a powerful charge to RSA members, individually and institutionally, as we collectively think of our future as an inclusive discipline.  Her keynote address can be seen here,

The Institute was also an occasion to celebrate the winners of our various awards.  Presented by Ersula Ore, our Chair of the Awards Committee, we honored José G. Izaguirre III and Jenell Johnson as recipients of the 2021 Charles Kneupper Award; Shui-Yin Sharon Yam as recipient of the 2021 Fellows’ Early Career Award; Megan Poole, “Technical Beauty:  Rhetorics and Aesthetics of Science,” as the winner of the 2021 RSA Dissertation Award; Lisa Flores Deportable and Disposable: Public Rhetoric and the Making of the “Illegal” as the winner of the 2021 RSA Book Award; and the Society for the Third Sophistic (Clemson University) as the recipient of the 2021 Outstanding Student Chapter Award.

We acknowledge all the hours spent in the production of these award-winning projects, but also the (often) invisible labor of mentors and others who supported the work.  We also thank the selection committee members, whose labor we will render anonymous, here, for the sake of peer-review fidelity.  But we can acknowledge Ersula Ore and members of her steering committee who oversaw the various subcommittees:  Tamika Carey, Candice Rai, Stephanie Kerschbaum, Ashley Mack, and Vince Pham.  Please see the video awards: .

And, of course, we thank all of the participants in the Institute.

We acknowledge our loss, as we announced in an e-Bulletin earlier, of Dan Brouwer, who was a scheduled Institute Workshop Leader.  We have been made aware that a fundraising effort is in place to establish a Lasting Memorial for Dan, an endowment in his name at ASUs Hugh Downs School of Human Communication (

Whilst we mourn this loss, we celebrate the success of the Institute and look forward to our 2022 RSA Conference in Baltimore (May 26-29): The Charge for Change ( ). The portal is now open for submissions, and the deadline is August 15, 2021.  Vanessa Beasley, conference organizer and RSA President Elect, suggests that participants in the Institutes’ seminars and workshops may want to consider submitting a panel together, as a way to continue momentum realized during their time together.

The conference will also provide the opportunity to commemorate the loss of Janice Lauer Rice, and we remind all of the Janice Lauer Endowment Fund, which provides funds to support graduate student participation and achievement within RSA.

It is no understatement to say that the year 2020, which has consumed most of 2021, as well, has been a difficult year, which has occasioned loss and mourning but perhaps fostered a forward-looking vision.  With that affirmation, let’s remember those we have lost but also celebrate, together, our opportunities to create an inclusive future as a society.

With every best wish,

Michelle Ballif

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