Prof. Allison Hitt received her Ph.D. in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric from Syracuse University and her M.A. in Professional Writing and Editing from West Virginia University. In her research, she studies the relationship between disability and technology and addresses how multimodality can help create more accessible social practices.
How would you describe your perspective on teaching?
Teaching is about giving students access to knowledge, so my teaching practices are greatly influenced by Universal Design for Learning—the idea that all educational environments must be accessible to the widest range of students possible. Universal Design recognizes that there are multiple ways to learn and compose and offers a flexible framework for instructors to create access points for students to meet the same learning outcomes. Universal Design places disability at the center of its framework but often these accessible practices benefit all students—disabled and nondisabled.
So for example, a class note taker is a common accommodation for a writing class, but note-taking benefits everyone, right? Having access to class notes can be really useful for d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing students or students who have difficulty processing auditory information, students are learning English as a second language, students who sit in the back and can’t adequately see the board, or even someone who is just having a bad day and doesn’t retain much from class discussion. Note-taking is a universally designed practice because it presents multiple options for students to engage and learn.
Are you working on any projects at the moment?
Right now, I’m working on the final revisions for my book, Rhetorics of Overcoming. It’s an academic text that examines the overcoming narrative that is so threaded into disability discourses. There’s this idea that people must overcome their disabilities in order to fit in or be successful, so I’m trying to reposition that: what if instead of viewing disability as a deficit, instructors make space for the multiple ways that disabled students learn and compose and reimagine these differences as strengths?
What are you currently reading, if anything?
The book sitting on my desk right now is The Crunk Feminist Collection, which is a collection of essays written by Black women about race, gender politics, and intersectionality. The essays mainly come from their blog posts from The Crunk Feminist Collective. Most recently, I read the section on self-care.
What are your hobbies or interests?
I am most at home in the mountains and woods and try to hike as much as possible. My dog, Queenie, is my hiking bud. I also love to bake, although I have to bake for students or colleagues because I’ve been known to eat a cheesecake by myself…
When I find time for it, I cross stitch self-care sayings, like “You are enough,” “Self-care is radical,” and “It’s okay not to be okay.” Sometimes I sell them, but mainly I gift them. The practice of stitching gives me time to slow down, reset my brain, and do something that I enjoy, but it’s also something that I hope inspires other people to practice their own self-care.
Who are your biggest role models?
As an academic, my role model is my mentor from my Ph.D. program who always made time for me to flail in her office, who responded thoughtfully yet critically to my work, and who instilled in me the need for ethical research. We stay in touch through email, and she’s my go-to when I’m having a life crisis.
As a feminist, one of my recent role models is Jameela Jamil who constantly leverages her privilege as a celebrity to call attention to systemic inequalities, such as racism, ableism, and body shaming.
As I grow older, I’ve realized that the memory of my mom is my model for how to navigate the world. She was a professor who would do anything for her students (including driving single mothers to the grocery store), who advocated for my autistic brother to be treated fairly in our public school system, and who could bake a delicious blackberry-peach cobbler while belting Mariah Carey Christmas songs.
What is a piece of advice you would offer students?
Make time for yourself. Yes, you are students and should be working hard to meet your academic goals and expectations, but you’re also human. We often get caught up in the world of work, work, work and forget about our personal goals and caring for our emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. Finding that balance is difficult as a student (and, sorry, it’s difficult as an adult), but it’s necessary. Honor your emotional needs. Take that extra 30 minutes to eat something nourishing. Unplug for 15 minutes and take a walk. Make time for friends, family, and activities that nourish you.