I do not tend to focus on having a set career goal that I am working toward when I choose projects to participate in, topics to spend hours digging into, or work I put out for others to consider; however, I do regularly choose to reflect upon the trail of mementos that I have left behind me as I forged ahead1.
Currently, my areas of interest, as a PhD candidate in Organizational Communication are:
Taking my interests in physical infrastructures and materiality, I can see linkages to this from as far back as early childhood while growing up around plumbing and construction as well as having watched as a parent went to school to become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) in my early teens. Growing up around floor plans; ventilation, electrical, and plumbing blueprints; and spending days off from school around construction sites, all influenced my early imagination which was expressed through self-made box forts out of water heater boxes, highly imaginative drawings of floor plans for houses with improbable room themes, and small cities made out of locally forged materials. As I got older, my parent returned to school in their 30s and my days off from school were then spent in anatomy & physiology classes, science labs, and being the live model for practicing splint making and studying muscle groups. All this exposed me to how human bodies can function and can adapt with(out) the use of tools. With all of this in my trail of mementos, as I entered college and took classes that taught me about intersectional feminism and communication I got to thinking more about the mementos and how we communicate belonging through relationships, community organizing, policies, and (lack of) accessibility in our building layouts. I was also introduced to how websites are (not) accessible by colleagues and public figures with a variety of (dis)abilities. Notably, the work of Molly Burke has been very educational for me.
As a scholar at the, among many, intersections of being white, cisgendered, bisexual, and disabled I am constantly challenging myself to wrestle with recognizing my privileges, reinterpreting my limits on access to power, and unearthing socialized hegemonic narratives engrained in my vantage point. One example of navigating equity in accessing institutional support that I routinely return to when I think about diversity, equity, and inclusion comes from my first year of community college. As a first generation college student on any college campus, I was very much at a disadvantage when it came to getting information about resources and knowing what to expect of the institution as many of my peers, faculty members, and support staff tended to be used to many of these processes and it might did not occur to them that the explanation they provided began at Step D rather than Step A. This disparity can be exacerbated by a number of intersectional issues (ex. race, (dis)ability, gender presentation, etc.) and it is the effects/outcomes of the interaction of individual identity with agents/processes of institutions that I am deeply concerned with both understanding and amending. Of note, my dissertation work examines the way in which an institution communicates which bodies belong through their bathroom design and layout decisions.
In addition to being interested in how identities are supported/limited by institutions, I am interested in how individuals come to identify with the various institutions they interact with as well as what barriers exist to their being able to identify with a particular organization. Connected with my interests in physical infrastructure and materiality, I am particularly interested in the ways that an organization is built could have an impact on how people either do or do not forge an identity as part of the institution. For example, there has been much discussion about gendered bathrooms being an infrastructural barrier to identifying with an organization for folks who identify as non-binary or are/have transitioned. The process of negotiating how to exist comfortably in the space is impacted by the physical infrastructural limit that cis-normative & bi-gendered bathrooms communicate. Even beyond gender, navigating physical space and belonging presnets many challenges for folks of other marginalized identities. And for those at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, some organizations may not be worth setting foot within.
As something that will come to no surprise to folks who work for large organizations, there is commonly a disconnect between the expressed values of the organization and the lived reality of those working for the organization. It is not uncommon for organizations to claim that values like diversity, equity and inclusion are of critical importance to them, but, just below the surface, one can see that there is a lack of supporting action for this claim. This disconnect is often thought of as an act of intentional malice–and I do not doubt this as a possible factor–but I think that there’s more to it than that. Borrowing from a childhood trauma perspective, I think that when those in a position of power and authority make a promise it is not uncommon for it to be a messy way for someone to miscommunicate their hopes. They may want to do what they promise, but they announce that promise before they have the plans for how to make it happen and that haste is often driven by popular discourse. This is not an effort to downplay the pain these actions have caused nor alleviate responsibility for these actions from the powerful decision makers of these organizations, but I believe that in approaching understanding the motivations that can drive this kind of harmful miscommunication I am better able to make suggestions for change that do not put these organizations on the offensive.
So as to not duplicate my full webpage on empathy and the modeling of it, I will briefly share that, in the work I’ve done, empathy is about approaching knowing what another is feeling, simulating feeling what another is feeling, and communicating compassionately. I treat empathy as a metatheoretical approach in my work which means that it shapes the ways that I plan, conduct, and disseminate my work with, by, and for communities.
1 It is critical that we begin to recognize how both the trail of mementos as well as the act of forging ahead are not fully autonomous decisions. Often, our choices are dictated by, as Maslow would convieve of them, base needs like the ability to eat, sleep, and live in a secure shelter. These needs continue to come at a cost under the contemporary socio-political conceptualization of what life looks like. While I value the work that I’ve done, I do think that it is critical to recognize this major influence on my decision making publically and call on others to do the same.
Academic For a complete list of my published work look me up using my ORCiD# 0000-0002-9925-6676
Irby A, Macey E, Levine N, Durham JR, Turman JE. Grounding the Work of Grassroots MCH Leaders in Storytelling. Health Promotion Practice. 2023;0(0). doi:10.1177/15248399221151175
Other Professional Writing LASER PULSE, “Secondary Data Management & Organization”
Research & Consulting
Working title:If These Stalls Could Talk (details forthcoming)
Feminist consultant and Co-author with “Nice” to “ewww”: An inductive thematic analysis of responses to initiation messages containing sexual content on online dating tools at Purdue University with Amanda Lilly in West Lafayette, IN; October 2020- March 2021
OCMC, University of Kentucky, Virtual, Presented “A Community Based Empathetic Scholarship Model” for a Lightning Talk (October 23-24, 2021)
Second Coder and Co-author with ‘who wants a dick pic? 👉🏽👈🏽’ at Purdue University with Amanda Lilly in West Lafayette, IN; October 2020- March 2021
Oral Historian and Researcher with Central State Hospital Oral History Project at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis under Dr. Emily Beckman in Indianapolis, IN; September 2018- August 2019
Storytelling Educator and Researcher with Grassroots Maternal and Child Health Leadership Project at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis under Dr. Jack Turman in Indianapolis, IN; September 2018-May 2019
Graduate Researcher with Division of Mental Health and Addiction Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Grant at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis under Eric Teske in Indianapolis, IN; October 2017-December 2018
Project Assistant with Making Mathematical Reasoning Explicit (a grant funded by NSF) at Washington State University under Libby Knott and Anne Adams in Pullman, WA; June 2015-July 2016
Peer Advocate with Green River Peer Mentoring and Service Learning Program (formerly Connect 2 complete C2C) under Dyane Haynes in Auburn, WA; April 2013- June 2014