Carnegie Mellon University
May 12, 2017

PhD in Rhetoric Student Accepted to Pre-Doctoral Program at Emory University

Derek Handley is a PhD in Rhetoric student who has been accepted to Emory University as a fellow.Derek Handley is a PhD in Rhetoric student at Carnegie Mellon English researching African American rhetoric, rhetoric of place, and narrative theory. Derek works full-time at the Community College of Allegheny County and at the US Naval Academy. Derek was recently selected as a 2017-2018 James Weldon Johnson Institute Pre-Doctoral (JWJI) Fellow at Emory University

What will you be doing as a James Weldon Johnson Institute Pre-Doctoral Fellow?

As a JWJI fellow, I will continue to research and write my dissertation which is currently titled “Strategies for Performing Citizenship: Rhetorical Citizenship and the Black Freedom Movement.”  Also, I will attend the weekly Race and Difference Colloquium Series on Emory’s campus, where speakers from other universities present their academic research on contemporary questions of race and difference.  I too will have to give a presentation on my work present in the Department of African American Studies’ Dark Tower series.

Why did you apply to this fellowship? How are you expecting this fellowship to shape your work within your dissertation?

According to the fellowship application, the JWJI fellowship “seeks to support research projects across the spectrum of the humanities disciplines that examine the origins, evolution, impact and legacy of race, difference, and the modern quest for civil and human rights." I knew that my project on urban renewal during the civil rights movement fit part of that description. In addition, my project will benefit from having access to the resources available at Emory University. Also, the fellowship will expand my academic network which will complement the wonderful relationships I developed here at CMU. But more importantly, the JWJI fellowship will make it possible for me to concentrate solely on writing my dissertation. Up to this point, I have been working full time at the Community College of Allegheny County and at the US Naval Academy while attending CMU as a part-time graduate student.  

What part of this experience are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to meeting and working with scholars in other disciplines that focus on African American language and culture. I’ve experienced some of that here in CMU’s Center for African-American Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE) which has been an excellent resource for my scholarly goals. I’m excited about the potential interdisciplinary project ideas that may developed during my year at Emory.   

How has your CMU English education helped you prepare for this experience?

The expertise at CMU is amazing. The faculty here has been helpful and supportive of my research goals.  Because of my CMU English education, I am taking with me a strong skill set to Emory. In my classes, I’ve had the chance to explore post civil rights African American rhetoric, intercultural communication, public policy, public advocacy, argumentation theory and community literacy. I’ve learned various methods of research while also becoming a stronger academic writer. Choosing CMU for graduate school was a great decision.

Since the original publication of this interview, Derek has successfully defended his dissertation "Strategies for Performing Citizenship: Rhetorical Citizenship and the Black Freedom Movement" and has accepted a faculty position at Lehigh University