New faculty Q&A: Sara McKinnon (Communication Arts)

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Sara McKinnon ponders home and hospitality, but not in the Martha Stewart vein. A scholar of transnational feminist theory and intercultural rhetoric, McKinnon examines what happens when women fleeing persecution in their own countries seek asylum in the west. Are they welcomed on humanitarian grounds? Does their plight serve to enrich another, larger agenda? McKinnon delves deep into the gender discourse that has emerged in the institution of U.S. political asylum since the 1980 Refugee Act.

A Michigan native, McKinnon comes to UW-Madison’s Department of Communication Arts from Arizona State University. She hadn’t heard much about us, but says “it has been fantastic fun discovering all of the cool and quirky things about the city and about Wisconsin culture.”

Welcome, Sara! Tell us about your teaching and research.
My research is in the areas of intercultural rhetoric, globalization/transnational studies, legal rhetoric, and transnational feminist theory. Currently, my project examines the way gender and gender-based violence are framed in U.S. refugee and asylum law.

Why are you excited about being at UW-Madison?
I am excited about the intellectual energy about campus. People are talking to one another, working together, and busy! It is very inspiring.

What courses do you teach?
CA 260: Communication & Human Behavior, CA 969: Intercultural Rhetoric, CA 610: The Rhetoric of Globalization & Transnationalism.

What can students expect from you in the classroom?
In classes like CA260, I try to mix up lecture with discussion for a more interactive learning environment. In upper division classes my goal is to act as facilitator so that class discussion centers on the right questions and points of analysis.

If you could give your students one piece of advice, what would it be?
Visit your professors’ office hours! Get to know them, and more importantly, let them get to know you.

You are brand new to Madison. What’s the best thing you’ve done here so far?
Relaxing at the Union Terrace with buddies, enjoying the sunshine and beautiful scenery.

How do you unwind?
Riding my bike, cooking, gardening, and taking vacations along the shores of Lake Michigan.

What’s your favorite part of campus?
Allen Centennial Gardens. I go there to read, catch some sun in between meetings, and drool over the beautifully arranged plants and flowers.