Meet New Assistant Professor Ashley Beardsley

Dr. Ashley Beardsley will be joining the English department faculty this fall. Dr. Beardsley specializes in social media and participatory culture, digital literacy, digital writing research, community literacy, rhetorical criticism, craft rhetoric, feminist rhetoric, feminist research methods, publishing, and editing. 

M&L: How did you get interested in English studies, and what motivated you to earn a Ph.D. and make a career of it? 

AB: I gravitated toward English, in general, because I loved reading. I was that kid who stayed up late to finish a chapter (or a whole book). So when it came time to apply for college, I knew I wanted to be an English major and continue on to become a professor. Initially, I wanted to study, write, and teach poetry, so I pursued an MFA in Writing and Poetics. Still, I began teaching composition classes during my MFA and realized I wanted to know more about rhetoric and writing studies.

M&L: As a scholar, teacher, and administrator, you’ve devoted yourself to writing studies. What do you love about writing studies as a teacher and an administrator? 

AB: What I love is that writing studies can focus on a variety of writing across genres and mediums. Writing doesn’t have to mean a research article, though it can. Writing studies encompasses creative writing, social media, and so much more, which is why I was drawn to it. So what excites me about teaching and administrative work is seeing how a course/curriculum/writing center/etc. Extends beyond the classroom and university setting into students’ lives.

M&L: What are you writing yourself these days? Are you working on a scholarly article, a book, or a creative? 

AB: I like to have short and long-term projects going simultaneously. Currently, I’m working on a book review of Leigh Gruwell’s (2022) Making Matters: Craft, Ethics, and New Materialist Rhetorics. I plan to send the first draft to editors during the fall semester and hope to have it published in 2023.

My big project is my book. I’m revising my dissertation, Feminist Food Rhetoric: Women’s Rhetorical Strategies Across Instagram, Food Podcasts, and Community Cookbooks, and adding two new chapters. In addition, I’m currently working on a new chapter about #BakersAgainstRacism—a worldwide bake sale that began as a way to support the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd’s murder—to explore how social activities use digital tools in addition to in-person activism, how hashtags contribute to digital food activism, and the way bake sale participants use Instagram’s platform for social activism.

I have a few other projects simmering, too. So stop by my office and ask me about #SourdoughRhetoric!

M&L: What have you been reading lately? 

AB: Almost whenever someone asks what I’m reading, I can answer with Stephen King. I recently read the Institute (2019) and am working through Dreamcatcher (2001). When not reading horror, I try to read a new release or a book by an author I’ve never read before. Most recently, I read Brit Bennett for the first time. After that, I chose The Vanishing Half (2020) and couldn’t put it down.

M&L: What might students be surprised to learn about you? 

AB: I’m a self-taught baker and have baked cupcakes and cakes for three weddings. I specialize in making allergy-aware baked goods, which stems from my dairy allergy.   

M&L: What has been the best part of your experience at Western so far? 

AB: The ENG 280 class I taught during my campus visit stands out. I came in jazzed to talk about using infographics to visualize genre systems, and the students matched my energy. Even though it was a single class session, I saw students’ dedication.