The idea began in a graduate seminar led by Kara Alexander, a rhetoric and composition professor in Baylor's English department. The course, Digital Writing and Literacy, encouraged students to think critically about digital composition and to consider how multimedia outlets like YouTube change the way we think about writing, research, and teaching. One of the projects in the course was to create a digital video essay that explored the literacy practices in a real community.
"At the time, we had just come back from an academic conference," says Dustin Morrow. "My friends and I noticed how different presentations were - which ones were very effective, which ones were hard to sit through."
When they looked more deeply into it, it became obvious that graduate students who presented at the conference were doing something completely different from more-seasoned professors.
"When we looked at the 40 or so speakers, we noticed that almost all of the graduate students read directly from a formal paper," says Morrow. "More experienced presenters used a variety of strategies, and those presentations were, in our opinion, the best."
That's when Morrow and his team realized that no one had ever really taught them about academic conferences.
"We know we are supposed to go, and we know we are supposed to present and network, but it felt like no one ever told us why and how to do it well," Morrow says.
As the project developed, Morrow began to realize what a resource tutorials on graduate life could be. Soon after, the graduate school began production, and "Rodney's Guide to Graduate School" was born.
The first episode on academic conferences can be seen here. Further episodes will explore ideas like funding, writing a dissertation prospectus, and adjusting to life on campus.
"It's been an amazing experience," says Morrow. "It speaks so much to the way we do things at Baylor. If you have a good idea, you will be given the resources and the support to make it a reality."