Georgia State University (GSU) has helped to shape the career goals that I have now set out for myself. They have changed greatly over the last four years. When I first came to GSU I thought I was going to be a journalist. I thought this was the career for me but as I continued taking different classes at GSU like Editing and Practical Grammar my views changed, especially when I took my Introduction to Rhetoric and Composition class with Dr. Elizabeth Burmester. That class taught me how the definitions of rhetoric and critical thinking can coincide with one another and how each word has more meaning to it then the basic definition that is given to us. Each one of my rhetoric classes thereafter has helped to shape and strengthen my definition of rhetoric as well as my voice as a writer. My definition today of rhetoric is the power of persuasive speaking or writing that has an impressive effect on an audience. I have also learned that rhetoric is a part of our everyday life. It isn’t just found in speeches or the written word it can be found in commercials and ads. It can be spoken by our teachers our friends by anyone. Having a concentration in rhetoric has broadened my point of view in the world and has opened my mind further to other possibilities.
The first true rhetoric class that I took was Editing with Professor Donald Gammill and helped me to make the decision of taking my classes in the following semester like my Introduction to Rhetoric and Composition. For this class, it kind of solidified for me that in any piece that you write you have to state the facts without showing your opinion on the matter. It all started with our final project where we had to choose a work that we felt needed work and needed grammatical attention. My choice had been from my Cultural Perspectives class where I had to interview someone who had a different religion than I did. Something that I wasn’t aware of at the time and found to be interesting. I had chosen Non-Denominational Christianity and interviewed my neighbor and attended church with them one weekend. When I submitted it to Professor Gammill I was nervous because I wasn’t sure that the piece was very good; I knew that the grammar definitely needed work and that the sentences needed help with their structure and still today I feel that it needs work done to it like further grammatical problems and sentence structure too. My feedback from Professor Gammill was just that but he told me something else, that I had a truly authentic voice in my piece. I wasn’t biased; I never stated my opinion that I only laid out the facts. He had such a positive reaction to this on how the piece was written and the way that I explained everything that was going on like I understood it all for the first time; which I was. In that moment I felt that that is how every piece should be, I thought that this is how everything I write should show. When he was telling me though about my “authentic voice” he mentioned to me something that changed me, which was that my voice was rhetorically effective. Now at this time, I had occasionally heard in high school about rhetoric being a persuasive tack tick used in the media, and after reading that I researched what that meant. It made me more curious about rhetoric and making this my concentration and it leads me to the following semester with Dr. Elizabeth Burmester.
My class with Dr. Burmester changed my concentration from nothing to Rhetoric and Composition. She showed us what it meant to be persuasive in not only an essay but in life. She taught us how to handle both sides of the story and how to not be biased in our pieces, but also how to give our opinion in the end. That was something that I took away from our CTW’s. I was never able to figure out how to give my opinion as well as lay out the facts at the same time without seeming biased towards the other and that really showed in my work for her class. With Dr. Burmester’s help, I began to understand what she had meant, though I didn’t get it quite as quickly in her class. Before this class I thought that rhetoric was just persuading others to believe your point of view and only your point of view, but to have a strong argument and to be able to persuade another to see what you are saying you must be able to lay these facts out even if some facts can hurt your case. That is something that I learned as well in my other classes of rhetoric. For the piece that I chose from this class for my portfolio I felt was my worst piece in the class. And even though I have tampered with it and changed my sentence structures and grammatical problems I tried not to tamper with it too much because I wanted to show where I started and the hard work it took to get me where I am.
The class that helped to solidify this information of facts and details was Persuasion: History, Theory, and Practice with Dr. Kelly Elmore. With one particular project, she had us analyze a document or article that we found most interesting and to find holes in it as well as important key facts that helped the case. I found that this truly helped my understanding of rhetoric in a piece. I had chosen a piece called Sexism Hurts Us All in which they discuss the side of how sexism hurts men not just women. This is something that I have always agreed with being a feminist. I felt that sexism is something that hurts everyone and as I read this piece I felt that their argument was very strong, but as I read it again as Dr. Elmore suggested I started to notice some flaws that were inside the piece itself such as they only used one study to prove their facts. One study doesn’t prove much especially since it was in another country with the different culture; that has a heavy weigh in on the matter. Re-reading it and making these marks proved to me that you need more than just a little fact to assist your argument even though I did agree with everything that they said and all the work that was contributed from the study, they needed to go that extra mile to get your point across to your audience. And for this article, the audience was for those who are unaware of how sexism does hurt us all. This class helped me to realize the misconception that rhetoric is not based on facts but the only persuasion to get the audience to agree with the argument no matter what. Rhetoric is persuasion and when it is done right, someone will be persuaded by the facts, not by lies. There wasn’t much that I had wanted to change for this piece, other than grammatical errors; I felt that I really got my point across in this piece. I felt strong about my analysis of the piece.
Although these are only three of the many classes that I have taken for my concentration in Rhetoric and Composition, these ones are the ones that I felt showed my milestones in my writing. Each of these teachers has brought further understanding to me what rhetoric is and what it means. Each teacher that I have had has helped me to determine my purpose and my goals of life through the first steps to get there are still hazy. I know though that my previous professors are able to help with these concerns and questions of what I need to do next and where I need to go. My writing style and set up hasn’t changed very much as I have gone along in my college career, though starting the work early definitely has. My voice in my pieces though has evolved with each new professional opinion that I have been given. My time at Georgia State University wasn’t what I had expected, but it was everything that I needed and more.