Dr. Russell Carpenter came to Eastern Kentucky University in fall 2009 as the first director of the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity where he is also Assistant Professor of English. While a Texts & Technology student at UCF, he studied writing center spaces through the lens of cultural and political geographies in an attempt to understand how technology might enhance the ways we teach and learn in these spaces. He puts this research to work in the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity.
Dr. Carpenter serves as Vice President of the Southeastern Writing Center Association (SWCA) and chaired the 2012 conference held at EKU. He is also Vice-Chair in the National Association of Communication Centers (NACC) and received the Von Till Outstanding Newcomer award from the National Association of Communication Centers in 2010 for contributions to scholarship and service. He chaired the 2012 NACC conference as well. Dr. Carpenter is also President-Elect of the EKU chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi academic honor society. In addition, he sits on the editorial board for Praxis: A Writing Center Journal and moderates commcenters, a national listserv for communication centers. Dr. Carpenter also delivered the keynote at the 2013 NACC conference held at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. In summer 2013, he will serve as a leader for the International Writing Center Association (IWCA) Summer Institute.
Since arriving at EKU, Dr. Carpenter has published several books, including Higher Education, Emerging Technologies, and Community Partnerships with Dr. Melody Bowdon (2011). With Bowdon, he also co-edited a special issue of the Community Literacy Journal on digital technologies and community literacy. Carpenter recently completed Cases on Higher Education Spaces: Innovation, Collaboration, and Technology (2012) based on his administrative work in the Noel Studio. With Dr. Sohui Lee, he also edited The Routledge Reader on Writing Centers and New Media (2013). Two of his current projects include a digital book, Sustainable Next-Gen Learning Spaces, and a design textbook for composition students.
As director of the new Minor in Applied Creative Thinking, he also co-authored Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking with Drs. Charlie Sweet and Hal Blythe. The next book in the series published in February 2013: Teaching Applied Creative Thinking with Drs. Sweet, Blythe, and Apostel. In 2012, they also co-founded the New Forums series on Applied Creative Thinking.
What is your current job title and institutional/organizational affiliation?
RC: I am the Director of the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity at Eastern Kentucky University. I’m also an Assistant Professor in the Department of English. I teach one course per year for the Department of English. This semester I’m teaching Composition 1, but in the past I have taught courses like Developmental Writing. I’m also involved in a new minor we are developing here in Applied Creative Thinking and I will be teaching and approving courses in that minor. Vanderbilt and Alabama are our baseline programs for this. We are excited about this and will draw from the foundational theories of creative thinking for designing our curriculum.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
RC: The research component is what I find most interesting. We have had some opportunities to study student behavior and the composition practices of students as they integrate technology into their work. We recently collected about 100 hours of video footage of students creating ePortfolios and are currently in the process of analyzing that data. The opportunity for scholarship and research that comes with directing a space like this is fantastic.
What are some examples of digital or analog texts that you deal with in some capacity in your current position?
RC: We consult on everything from ePortfolios to Prezis to digital videos and all at various points in the process. I would say we work with a pretty good variety of textual media. We also use lots of touchscreen devices and have access to a media wall. It’s fun to watch students isolate, produce, and combine these texts in different ways.
How do you incorporate technology into your current work?
RC: Here in the Noel Studio, I see technology as supporting pedagogy. Technology is a big part of what we do in the Studio and we want to create meaningful opportunities for students to interact using the technology. We also want to create technologies that are more visual, usable, and mobile in order to allow for new types of communication practices. Right now, we use iPads, laptops, and other mobile technologies that are often brought by students into the space. Flexible learning is important, as is the ability to change the orientation of technology and of space. For example, we sometimes rearrange the studio into different physical configurations, such as using the media wall as a gallery space. This can extend the goals of particular communication pieces. Students passing by become impromptu audiences for these works. We try to incorporate flexibility into the space through modular furniture and mobile technologies.
How relevant was your course work to your current career?
RC: I could not imagine another Ph.D. program preparing me as well for this job as T&T did for me. I feel so indebted to T&T for where I am now. It was so useful to me for what I am doing now, especially in dealing with training, technology, and consultants. It was a major change doing what we did with the Noel Studio, not only with the space, but also with our consultants. For example, we are doing our consultations in a more interactive way to make them more intensive and integrate technology to move students through different spaces that promote interactive learning. This was a big change from sitting down with pieces of paper or responding to linear, print-based texts. I think our model is so much more rigorous now because of the theory and practices I learned in T&T. It has shaped everything I do here at the Noel Studio. I can’t imagine a more appropriate program for students who want to do highly satisfying research and the types of academic and administrative work that bring in rich theories of technology. The program gave me a unique, forward-thinking view and perspective.
Can you describe a recent project or publication you have worked on that was especially exciting to you or that you are especially proud of?
RC: There are a few. Melody Bowdon and I published a book about community partnerships. This book in particular has helped me to see some opportunities for bringing members of the community into what we are doing. This led our Advisory Board to suggest integrating a community component into our strategic plan. Overall, this collection is something that we are excited about and has changed my thinking about the relationship between our work and the community. For example, since our studio has opened, we have helped to open two additional studios in Madison County high schools. We work with their technology integration specialists and recommend best practices.
I am working on another book right now that focuses on space which is an extension of my dissertation work. I’m exploring how the integrated concepts followed by the Noel Studio are becoming more and more prevalent at other universities, but it is pretty early on at this point. It should hopefully be out by the end of the year.
How did the Texts and Technology program help shape your current research agenda?
RC: I read technology through nearly everything that I research. Throughout my research agenda, whether studying creative thinking for the new minor or the relationship between multimodal composition and spaces in the Studio, technology transcends nearly everything that I do. From a practical perspective and from the theoretical lenses that I have learned, all of my research extends from the base body of knowledge I encountered in the program. It also helped me to become a better writer and a more savvy researcher. The advantage that it gave me was that it taught me to be a thinker – both creatively and critically. I think I can sometimes see opportunities for research and scholarship that others cannot because of this training. The ePortfolio research project, for example, showed a compelling case for the importance of a studio-based format on particular students’ projects and work. Before the Noel Studio, students did not have an outlet for this type of work.
Is there any particular moment from your T&T experience that stands out as an especially memorable moment for you?
RC: There are quite a few. I remember the Intro class being so much fun to see what we were reading each semester in the course and then trying to think about how these various scholars and texts fit together. Sitting around the conference room in Colbourn Hall and starting to hear the various backgrounds and experiences from these students was really exciting and this course really gave me my first exposure to the body of work we would explore in the program. It was also in that class that we were thinking about our theoretical lenses – what lens are we going to read our research through at any given point in the program? This came in very handy later during the dissertation phase. In my work now, these are approaches I use every day. We have an emerging research cohort here and the starting point for our conversations is always drawn from T&T somehow. I knew these course conversations were special at the time, but I didn’t realize until later how much they would impact my career.
What was something important you learned outside of the classroom while enrolled in the program?
RC: I appreciated that we were encouraged to pursue professional development outside of the program. One experience I had was co-presenting a paper at 4Cs, which was in San Francisco that year. I appreciated the opportunity to apply my T&T scholarship to an outside project or publication.
What other advice would you give to current Texts and Technology students to help prepare them for their future careers?
RC: The advice I would give was a piece advice I got in the program: take calculated risks. Push yourself to really explore technology while in the program, especially unfamiliar tools and technologies. Then, compose with or apply those technologies to the theories you are reading about – it is the perfect time in your career progression for these types of projects and they have the potential to be really rewarding when you are seeking publication or employment. These competencies will also enhance the dissertation project later on down the road. Whether it is Second Life, video, or something else entirely, try them out and then read the theories through the experiences of engaging with those technologies.
Any closing thoughts?
RC: T&T was the ideal program for me. I can see T&T students taking on leadership positions as students continue to compose through and with technology.