One of WRAC’s newer assistant professors is Sarah Klotz, who joined the department in Fall 2018. Sarah studied at UC Davis and received her PhD in English with an emphasis in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies in 2014. Prior to her arrival at MSU, she held positions at Butte Community College and the University of Southern California.
As a member of WRAC, Sarah teaches three sections of WRA 101: Writing as Inquiry. This class gives her the opportunity to watch students grow as writers, a fact that she greatly appreciates. “I love working with students who are just getting to the university and helping them use writing to develop the skills, ambitions, and habits that will serve them throughout their college years,” she says. “I especially enjoy seeing students develop their thinking through the written word as they delve into new ideas and complicated social problems.”
In addition to her teaching commitments, Sarah is currently focused on the completion of her book, The Fantasy of Benevolence: A Rhetorical History of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. “The project is based on archival materials from the first off-reservation boarding school for Native American young people that opened in 1879 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania,” Sarah says. “I have been working with student writing from the school and trying to understand how Native students resisted the English-only curriculum that was meant to strip them of their tribal identities, languages, and kinship relations.” Additionally, Sarah hopes to learn how other parties, such as the school’s administration and the general public, managed to view such actions as benevolent. She also aims to critique modern educators who still function with the fantasy of benevolence that she identifies in the history of literacy education in the United States. The book is due to Utah State University Press this summer.
Sarah’s path to this type of research was a rather straightforward one. During her sophomore year of college, she worked in archives and special collections, reading nineteenth-century women’s writing as part of her major in Women and Gender Studies. She started graduate school as an archival researcher and retained that interest throughout the past decade. “I love working in archives because lesser-known, unpublished works can tell us a lot about how language and power are working a particular historical moment,” she says. “I am fascinated with the stories that we can recover in archives and this is what brings me back to that methodology again and again.”
Next year, Sarah will begin a tenure-track Assistant Professor position at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is excited to begin this position and continue her research. “My first order of business will be to design a Native American/Indigenous Rhetorics course and continue work on making the Carlisle School archive available and accessible to the public.”
While Sarah’s work will ultimately lead her away from Michigan State University, she has enjoyed her time with WRAC and “the opportunity to work with brilliant peers who are also kind, generous, and supportive.” Sarah also has some advice for current students. In essence, she believes they shouldn’t try to figure everything out too quickly. “I think students at all levels, from first year college students to those about to file their dissertations, should take time to be in uncertainty,” she says. “Often we are pushing our writing forward to achieve worthy goals, and that's great, but the best new ideas come from sitting in the discomfort of not knowing, and then doing a ton of thinking, talking with others, and researching to get to a new level of insight.”
Written by Tim Snyder
Photo provided by Sarah Klotz