Ph.D. Students

Profiles of the Ph.D. students in the English Department at the University of Louisville
Photo of Olalekan Adepoju

Olalekan Adepoju

writing studies | ESL teaching | discourse analysis | digital rhetoric

Olalekan Adepoju is a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Composition. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Education and Master of Arts degree in English from University of Ilorin, Nigeria and University of Ibadan, Nigeria respectively. His research interests lie primarily in writing studies, discourse analysis, ESL teaching, and sociolinguistics among others. He has continued to pursue these interests by publishing papers on the subjects and other issues of academic interest to him in peer-reviewed journals.

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Charlotte Asmuth

rhetorical genre studies | writing program administration | writing in the disciplines

I’m a Ph.D. student with an M.A. (concentration in composition and pedagogy) from the University of Maine. Broadly, I’m interested in exploring how people understand the work that they do or don’t do within institutional settings and how they use documents (like assessment rubrics, personal statements, etc.) to accomplish that work. I’m especially interested in bringing insights from Rhetorical Genre Studies to bear on work in writing program administration and teacher development, and in using corpus analysis as a teaching tool in the writing classroom. Outside of teaching and academia, I enjoy spending time with my elderly pit bull, perfecting my chocolate chip cookie recipe, and dreaming of my next coastal bike trip.

Michael Benjamin

literacy studies | critical pedagogy | cultural rhetorics

Michael is a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Composition. He earned an M.A. in English at St. John’s University, where he served as a graduate assistant in the University Writing Center. He has also taught English in Slovakia as a Fulbright Fellow and taught first-year composition at multiple universities across New York. His current research interests include writing center studies, critical pedagogy, popular culture, and literacy. He also enjoys nerding out about hip hop, food, anything Queens, New York-related, and pro football.

Morgan Blair

second-language writing | English for specific purposes | basic writing 

Morgan Blair is a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Composition. She earned an M.A. in English at Brandeis University and two B.A.’s in English and Humanities from the University of Louisville. Her professional background includes marketing and communications, international student services, humanitarian project development, and EFL instruction. She is taking contemporary American poetry and writing center theory courses here in Fall 2021. Morgan enjoys international travel, hot yoga, and tennis. Most of her favorite fictional quotes can be found in Chuck Palahniuk novels. If she could use a fictional alias, it would be “Harry Potter,” the character she most wanted to be as a child.

Photo of Caitlin Burns

Caitlin Burns

archival research | feminist methodology | activist rhetorics | rhetoric of social media

Caitlin Burns is a Ph.D. student in the Rhetoric and Composition program at the University of Louisville. She earned her B.A. in English and M.A. in Composition, Rhetoric, and English Studies at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, where she was also a first-year writing instructor and assistant director of the University Writing Center. Her research interests include archival research, feminist methodology, activist rhetorics, and the rhetoric of social media. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, yoga, and hanging out with her cat, Jack.

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Stephen Cohen

writing | health rhetorics | disability | narrative theory

A California native, I earned my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University before moving on to earn an M.A. in English at California Polytechnic State University in the very happy town of San Luis Obispo. During my stay on California's central coast, I taught Composition courses at Cal Poly and Literature and Critical Thinking courses at Allan Hancock and Hartnell Colleges. My research interests are at the intersection of narrative theory, identity, and disability studies, and I'm currently teaching Composition, Business Writing, and Introduction to Writing Studies courses at Penn State Abington.

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Aubrie Cox

writing center studies | sonic and visual rhetorics | embodiment | hybrid genre

Aubrie Cox is a Ph.D. student in rhetoric and composition, and has an M.F.A. from Temple University and an M.A. in creative writing from Ball State University. Her background includes micro poetics, publishing, and first year writing pedagogy. She is working on a hybrid genre manuscript on writing with disability, and is interested in the way disability informs her research practices. Since moving to Louisville, she has served as the assistant director for the University Virtual Writing Center and has joined the Young Professionals Board for Sarabande Books. Her current research explores nostalgia and public memory through an oral history project surrounding the former landmark record store ear X-tacy in Louisville, KY.

Christina Davidson

composition pedagogy | feedback literacy | empathy studies | multimodality 

Christina Davidson is a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Composition. She earned her M.A. in English at Indiana University Southeast and her Master of Arts in Teaching at Bellarmine University. She worked in the writing center during her time at Indiana University Southeast and taught a variety of courses. Her research interests include multimodal literacies, composition pedagogy, feedback literacy, and empathy studies in relation to composition. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, birding, cooking, and spending time with family.

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Cooper Day

environmental rhetoric | ecocomposition | public memory | writing in the disciplines

Cooper Day is a Ph.D. Student in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville. He earned an M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition at Texas State University, focusing primarily on students transfer of writing skills beyond the first-year writing classroom. He earned a B.A. in Writing and Rhetoric at St. Edward’s University with a focus on professional writing. His research interests include environmental rhetoric, public memory, ecocomposition, WAC, WID, transfer, science and technical writing, and professional writing.

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Lauren Fusilier

multimodal pedagogy | digital literacies | writing center studies | environmental rhetorics

Lauren is a Ph.D. student pursuing a degree in Rhetoric and Composition. She earned an M.F.A. in fiction from Florida State University and has spent five years teaching first-year composition and working in Writing Centers in New York City. Her current research interests include multimodal pedagogy, the intersection of digital literacies and Writing Centers, and accessibility issues. She loves hiking with her hound dog Darlene, cooking Cajun food, and exploring Louisville’s art scene.

Jessica Gottbrath

critical language awareness precarious rhetorics narrative theory

Jessica Gottbrath is pursuing her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition after having previously earned an M.A. in English and an M.A.T. in Education from the University of Louisville. Her previous studies focused on narrative theory and the development of language and identity through imaginative play. Having taught for several years, she returns to the world of research to explore socially just pedagogy in composition courses. Beyond the classroom, Jessica enjoys food podcasts, crosswords puzzles, and playing board games with family and friends.

Kendyl Harmeling

antiracism | labor studies | writing center studies

Kendyl Harmeling is a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Composition. She earned her Bachelor's in American History with a minor in ethical Philosophy from Western Connecticut State University. She then came to the University of Louisville to begin studying Rhetoric and Composition for her Master's, where she researched community creation and systemic imposter syndrome. Presently, Kendyl has incorporated her studies in Rhetoric and Composition pedagogy and her former research in American History into her current research interests of antiracism, unmasking systems of white supremacy within universities, and labor studies.

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Tobias Lee

translingualism | transnational composition | writing program administration | mobility studies

Tobias Lee is a Ph.D. student currently on fellowship.  With an M.A. in TESOL and a B.A. in English Literature, his background is in English for academic purposes, second language writing, and ELT.  He has taught for thirteen years in universities across southeast Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, most recently in Qatar. His research interests lie mainly in transnational composition, with occasional forays into community engagement and public memory.  He still puts two spaces after periods, and if he's not studying, he's probably on a bike ride.

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Shiva Hari Mainaly


My name is Shiva Mainaly. Currently, I am a Ph.D. student in rhetoric and composition at University of Louisville. I am from Nepal. To be a Ph.D. student at UofL is a sheer joy and jubilation. An ardent believer of rhetoricality, I believe that everything has its own rhetoric. My year-long exposure to rhetoric and composition during the coursework has pushed me to embrace rhetoric as an inseparable part of each communicative and non-communicative practice. Regarding literacy, I have formed a different mindset. Treading on the path of what Avital Ronell says about stupidity, I am, nine times out of ten, convinced firmly by Ronell's claim that the pursuit for literacy starts from the acceptance and examination of stupidity. Any situation-specific stupidity reveals the limit of literacy the people of that situation laud so frantically. When it comes to choosing research methods and methodology, I err on the side of plurality. My research interest is on the cusp of the transition from the pristine and singular brand of rhetoric to the rhetoric of... the rhetoric of space and place, the rhetoric of public art, monumental rhetoric, and the rhetoric of iconography and inscriptions.

Rachel Morgan

composition pedagogy | writing center studies | political rhetoric | digital rhetoric

Rachel Morgan is a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Composition. She earned her M.A. in Composition, Rhetoric, and English Studies at the University of Alabama where she worked in the writing center and taught first-year writing courses. Her research interests include composition pedagogy, writing center studies, political rhetoric, and digital rhetoric. In her spare time, she enjoys reading fantasy novels, listening to podcasts, and spending time with family and friends.

Caitlin Ray


disability studies | medical rhetoric | graduate student writing | teaching pedagogy

Caitlin Ray is a PhD Candidate in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville. She received her M.A. in English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and B.A. in English and Theatre at Hamline University (in St. Paul, MN). Her research interests include medical rhetorics, disability studies, science communications, and writing across the disciplines. Her master’s thesis examined the rhetorics surrounding fibromyalgia, and current research looks at the role of commonplaces in healthcare and how that impacts rare disease communities. She is currently a Graduate Writing Consultant at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, working primarily with medical students at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Annika Reitenga

rhetoric of health and medicine | sports literacy | health literacy

Annika Reitenga is a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Composition. They earned their B.A. at Birmingham-Southern College, where they majored in English and minored in Writing. Annika received their M.A. from The University of Alabama, where they studied Composition and Rhetoric English Studies. Annika is interested in the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine, specifically in the overlap between rhetoric and eating disorder studies. Their master’s thesis investigated the rhetoric of detoxing, specifically when promoted as a weight loss tactic and marketed on the social media site, Instagram. In their free time, they enjoy going on runs, visiting local coffee shops, and lounging around with their cat, Baby.

Todd Richardson

archival research | health rhetorics | disability studies | writing center studies

Todd Richardson is a PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition. He earned his Bachelor of Arts and his Master of Arts degrees in the field of History at Texas State University. Later, he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from SNHU’s Mountainview MFA Program with a concentration in Creative Nonfiction. His research interests include archival research, health narratives, disability studies, and writing center studies. When he’s not studying, he enjoys grilling, playing with his daughter, and gardening.


Taylor Riley

creative writing | feminist rhetorics | journalism

Taylor Riley is a graduate teaching assistant pursuing her Ph.D in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville. She earned her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Kentucky and her M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction Writing at Spalding University. She has worked as an award-winning professional print and online journalist for a decade with work in USA Today, Courier Journal, regional magazines and as an editor at several community newspapers. Taylor has also published essays in national literary magazines and online publications like Refinery29. She enjoys reading, listening and watching anything on true crime, drinking all the coffee and snuggling with her black lab mixes, Molly and Max.

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Joseph Sharp

epideixis | sophistic rhetoric | sovereignty | fürstenspiegel

Jeb Sharp is a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville. He has earned a B.S. in English from Troy University and an M.A. in English from Auburn University. Outside of academia, he has worked as a newspaper reporter and taught English in Japan. His current research interests include rhetoric in the medieval period, sophistic rhetoric, and political theory. Having come from the small town of Troy, Alabama via the very small town of Kutchan, Japan, he is enjoying adjusting to life in the city.

Narjis Sherafati

language in rhetoric and composition | professional writing | feedback

Narjis Sherafati is a PhD  student in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville. She earned her B.A. in English Translation from the University of Payame Noor and her M.A. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) from Mazandaran University. She has worked as a researcher, teacher, and author. Narjis has also published the result of her thesis as a book, in addition to several published papers. She is interested in researching second language writing in relation to rhetoric and composition, rhetoric and professional writing, and feedback. Outside of academia, Narjis enjoys reading, listening to music, painting and exercising.

Steven Shoop


multimodal theory | disability | film studies

Steve is a PhD student with a fellowship at the University of Louisville where he studies Rhetoric and Composition. He earned his B.A. in English (Film Concentration) and his M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition from Salisbury University in Maryland, where he wrote his M.A. thesis exploring pedagogical strategies for using film to teach accessible multimodal composition in first-year composition. His current research interests include multimodal theory and semiotics, and their applications to composition pedagogy, digital literacy, disability access, and film. Outside school and work, he enjoys spending time with his niece and nephews, playing Dungeons and Dragons, quoting 25 year-old episodes of The Simpsons, and of course, watching and discussing movies and television.

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Brittany Smart

medical rhetorics | digital & multimodal literacies | narrative studies in research/writing | feminist rhetorics/pedagogies

Brittany Smart is a graduate teaching assistant pursuing her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville. She earned her B.A. and M.A. in English from Northern Kentucky University, where she published a paper in Sigma Tau Delta’s Pentangle magazine, wrote journal articles and book reviews, and edited novels for McWood Publishing in Cincinnati. Brittany has also published poetry in magazines such as Levee and Gravitas, and some of her favorite poets include John Keats, Muriel Rukeyser, Rainer Maria Rilke, and H.D. In her free time, she enjoys snuggling with her chihuahua, Cosmo.

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Walker Smith

queer and Native rhetorics | affect | digital media | archival research methods

Walker is a Ph.D. student in rhetoric and composition at the University of Louisville. He earned his M.A. at Oklahoma State University, where his thesis challenged the status of the U.S. as the center of queer theoretical production, and he has taught first-year writing and developmental writing at Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma City Community College. His current research interests include rhetorical theory, especially as it intersects with queer theory, gender and sexuality, and Native studies; theories of digital media, film, and multi/transmodality; and how we use archives to make knowledge and teach academic research. He is also a volunteer at Church Clarity, a crowdsourced project that scores churches based on their LGBTQ and women-in-leadership policies.

Liz Soule

Liz Soule

writing center studies | writing in the disciplines | first-year composition pedagogy

Liz is a Ph.D. student at the University of Louisville. She graduated from Salem State University with a B.S. in Education and a B.A. in English. Liz has spent the majority of her graduate career working in the University Writing Center, and more recently, has worked primarily with writers in the health sciences. Her research interests are rooted in writing center and composition studies, more specifically writing in the disciplines and first-year composition pedagogy. Outside of academia, Liz enjoys swimming, cooking, video games and making best friends with strangers' dogs on the street.

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Alex Jordan Way


translingualism | composition pedagogies | translation | multilingual writing

Alex Way is a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Composition. He has taught English for Academic Purposes (EAP) at Kanazawa University in Japan, and English Composition at Washington State University where he received his M.A. His research interests include the sociolinguistics of writing, translingual pedagogies, translation as a pedagogical tool, and non-alphabetic literacies. In his free time he enjoys running, traveling, and learning languages.