CLA Welcomes Critical Rhetorical Scholar to Faculty This Fall

September 7, 2020

Dr Katrina HannaA critical rhetorical scholar, Dr. Katrina Hanna has always been interested in structures of power specific to intersectional analyses of race within the context of education.

Her desire to understand how we use language to construct truth and its effects on society, culture and power imbalances cultivated an academic hunger within her that she says is still not satisfied.

This fall, Dr. Hanna will bring that thirst for knowledge to CSULB when she joins the College of Liberal Arts as an assistant professor of rhetoric and communication studies. She says that CSULB’s diverse student body and strong emphasis on teaching attracted her to the campus.

“I love and value research, but my heart is in the classroom,” she says. “The number of first-generation students, the number of historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups that are also students; those are the kind of kids that I want to coexist with. CSULB just checked all those boxes for me.”

  Dr. Hanna will be teaching Communication Criticism and Gender Communication classes in the fall. She credits undergraduate communication courses for igniting her passion for the discipline and hopes she can make a similar impact on her students.

“I had originally gone into undergrad with the intention of being a high school teacher,” she says. “Then I went and took an Intro to Communication Theory class, and it changed my life.”

She says the class, an overview of the main communication fields, sparked her interest in the concept of rhetoric as it relates to how truth is constructed in the world.

“So much of what we believe to be truth, we make up using language,” she says. “We don’t scientifically know what’s morally right or wrong. We use language to construct those things.”

Dr. Hanna uses this rhetorical analysis to challenge her students to examine the language they use to talk about education and how that shapes what “learning” and “success” mean in the context of neoliberal education. Dr. Jennifer Asenas, chair of the communication studies department at CSULB, says Dr. Hanna’s use of rhetorical field methods, which incorporates ethnographic and rhetorical theory, will augment the rhetorical and qualitative work in the department.

“We are very excited by the methodological expertise Dr. Hanna will bring to CSULB,” Dr. Asenas says. “We are confident that she will help her students unpack their own experiences and observations about the world to understand how power and privilege operate not only theoretically, but on their everyday lived experiences.”  

Before joining the faculty at CSULB, Dr. Hanna was a graduate teaching associate at Arizona State University and an adjunct instructor at Phoenix Community College, where she taught public speaking and communication courses. She holds a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Arkansas Tech University, a master’s degree in communication studies from Kansas State University, and a doctorate in communication from Arizona State University.

In recognition of her exceptional work in the graduate program at Kansas State University, Dr. Hanna received the Graduate Student Council Teaching Award for Graduate Student Teaching Excellence in 2015. Advancing to the state level of competition, she received the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) Excellence in Teaching Award for the 2015-16 academic year. Chosen out of the top graduate students from all of the Midwestern universities, she was invited to Chicago to speak about her experiences as a teacher.

Dr. Hanna’s passion for education extends well beyond the classroom. While completing her doctorate, she became involved with Girls on the Run, a non-profit program that works to encourage the development of self-respect and healthy lifestyles in pre-teen girls. As a volunteer coach, Dr. Hanna conducted a semester’s worth of field notes, observations and active engagement.

 “We were working on this concept of empowerment, looking at how these young girls often empower the coaches and how we can encourage young women to enjoy sports and not have to worry about certain gender norms,” she says.

In addition to teaching, Dr. Hanna has published articles that examine culture, society and politics through rhetoric. Her most recent publications include “Dr. King’s struggle then and now: A look into Black musical artists’ struggle for economic and social justice” in the Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric and “Framing public memory: Developing moral vernacular discourse through photographs of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School” in the Ohio Journal of Communication.

As part of her ongoing research, Dr. Hanna has three publications under review related to her work as a critical rhetorical scholar: “Negotiating place, narrative, and identity: Engaging rhetorical field methods at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum”; “(Re)structuring empowerment: Volunteer barriers and agency to gender disparities in female youth sport contexts”; and “‘This really can’t be how things work’: Extending Duerringer’s (2013) Monopoly activity.”

Profile story by Kevin Bollman