Bloomfield College Professor, Student Co-Present at Oxford University

By Alicia Cook

At Bloomfield College, professors are more than just teachers. They collaborate and connect with students in and out of the classroom. Students work with faculty on research and bond over shared co-curricular and extracurricular interests. There are many opportunities for Bloomfield College students to engage in independent research projects, often in collaboration with faculty members.

In the spring of 2015, Assistant Professor Fiona (Freddie) Harris Ramsby taught a writing and research course with "Monsters" as the theme. This class was the first in a chain of events that would lead the Bloomfield College professor to not only co-present with a Bloomfield College student at a conference at Oxford University, but also be published in scholarly journals.

Dr. Harris Ramsby is very invested in conducting joint research projects with Bloomfield students and was happy to find a familiar face in her class.

“While teaching the class, I had an exceptional student by the name of Mubarak Muhammad,” recalled Dr. Harris Ramsby, who received her Ph.D. in Rhetoric from the University of Utah. “Given that Mubarak basically volunteered for every extracurricular activity I was involved in, I asked him if he would like to co-present at a conference at Oxford University.”

Dr. Harris Ramsby learned of the conference while doing research for the writing and research course. The conference was run by Inter-Disciplinary.Net, a group based out of Oxford University in England.

According to their website, Inter-Disciplinary.Net is an enabling resource which supports the exploration, development and publication of work that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. It has been holding conferences and publishing work the last 16 years.

Traditionally, the group hosts several conferences at once and in the summer of 2015, there was one being held at Mansfield College at Oxford University. 

Though most of the presenters historically all hold doctorate degrees, like Dr. Harris Ramsby, she was confident in Mubarak’s undergraduate work and his ability to hold his own. After the professor expressed her desire to attend the conference with Humanities Chair Dr. Angela Conrad, she learned Dr. Conrad and her husband, Dr. Roberto Osti, were also teaching monster content; Dr. Conrad in her fantasy literary class and Dr. Osti in his art classes.

Together they submitted a panel, got the funding, and all four Bloomfield College members attended the conference. Travel for the trip was partially paid for out of the federally-funded PBI grant.

The conference consisted of scholars from all disciplines and all nationalities participating around one theme: monstrosity. The professors and Mubarak met people from Australia, France, Germany, and Croatia.

As a result of the conference, all participants were asked to submit a 3,000-word essay for an e-journal.

“We were also informed that participants would be selected to be included in a hard copy journal,” explained Dr. Harris Ramsby. “Participants in this had to add about 3,000 words to their already existing e-journal submissions. So it meant a bit more research.” 

The whole process took about a year and they received the wonderful news that their paper was selected for the hard copy journal. Its release is slated for spring 2017 and will be published by the Interdisciplinary Press.

The abstract reads:

In Rhetoric and Writing 107 at Bloomfield College, New Jersey—Monsters and Monstrosity: Research and Synthesis—a first year writing student, Mubarak R. Muhammad, and I conducted an analysis of what we call ‘under-the-fingernails’ rhetoric. Pulling from both conservative and liberal online publications, we gathered comment-feed responses to news stories about deadly clashes between the police and black males. Indeed, spring boarding off Judith Butler’s comments in a January 12th New York Times interview, we looked for evidence of how young black male bodies in urban settings are metaphorically monsterised via a public perception of superhuman threat that justifies police violence against them. Gathering this public rhetoric, Muhammad translated the comments into a spoken word poem to illustrate how his life as a young black male at a predominantly black college is shaped by these monstrous discourses. Finally, given the proliferation of circulating monster metaphors in public spaces, we ponder the role urbanization plays in the monsterisation of these bodies.

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