Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Matthew Cox

Matt Cox

Dr. Matt Cox is an assisstant professor of technical and professional communication in the Department of English at East Carolina University. He holds a BA from Indiana University, an MA from Utah State University, and a PhD from Michigan State University.

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Where are you from?

A small town called New Haven, Indiana. It’s just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana (the second biggest city in Indiana) in Northeast Indiana (about midway between Chicago and Detroit). Lots of flat farmland and Amish communities around. The local Meijer (like a super Wal-Mart) in my town even has its own covered hitching post for Amish shoppers!

What brought you to ECU?

While I was on the job market, I was very sensitive to whether my research in queer/LGBT rhetorics and professional identity was received well and would be supported. Especially in TPC, often folks will see that kind of work as “too cultural” or somehow “not related to tech comm” (though I disagree vigorously, obviously). The English Department at ECU supported me from the start and I have always felt I could do the research here that I am good at and know the most about. I was also drawn to the PhD and Masters programs that are growing and beginning to receive notoriety in our field. I am very proud to be a part of all of this!

What is your field and how did you first become interested in it?

My fields are technical and professional communication/writing and queer/LGBT rhetorics. I see these both as existing firmly in rhetoric and writing studies (though some see TPC as more adjacent than within rhetoric and writing studies). Rhetoric and writing studies are, in turn, a part of the larger family of English studies.

What degrees do you hold and where did you earn them?

I received my BA in English (specializing in British literature – specifically the Victorian and Romantic periods) from Indiana University, Bloomington in 1996. I then received an MS in English in Technical and professional communication from Utah State University in 2006. I earned my PhD in rhetoric and writing in 2012 from Michigan State University where I concentrated in cultural rhetorics.

What life experience prepared you for your role at ECU?

I worked from 1996 through 2007 full time as a production editor in the book publishing industry and as a technical editor and writer in the computer software industry. These were absolutely essential experiences for me in terms of learning how to be an effective and thorough collaborator and communicator.

What recognitions and achievements are you most proud of and why?

Experiences come with age I suppose, and at this point in my life, I’m very proud as a first generation college student to have gone all the way through to my PhD. I’m from a blue collar background (the son of a police officer and a baker and tailor) and no one in my family or extended family has ever had a PhD. It’s been an exciting journey. But, now that I’m here, I’m really the most proud of being able to help the students I work with achieve those same goals. It’s so cool to be able to do that.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love networking. Helping make connections (to both people and ideas) for colleagues and students (and myself). I’m a natural extrovert and networker. To me the world is a huge playground and I think it’s important for us to impart on our students that same curiosity and excitement about the world and their education about that world.

Describe one of the most rewarding courses you’ve taught in your time at ECU.

I have enjoyed each of them so far in their own way because they allow me to draw on the experiences I’ve had and to pass those on to students. But I also learn so much from my students. They are so diverse and bring with them their own stories and aspirations. I have particularly enjoyed the graduate Cultural Rhetorics course I taught in the spring of 2015. Thanks to technology, we were able to have so many wonderful scholars (both established and up-and-coming) in our field stop by via Skype to talk with our class. Being with our energetic and smart grad students is so energizing for me.

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