WRTC Welcomes Professor Ja’La Wourman!


Ja’La Wourman will join WRTC in Fall 2021 as an Assistant Professor. Currently a doctoral candidate in the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures program at Michigan State University, Wourman is excited to join WRTC. 

wourman-jala-310x370“One thing that especially attracted me to WRTC was that it’s a stand-alone writing department like the one I come from,” she says. “This kind of major offers a more holistic experience, giving students the advantage of understanding all the opportunities for the uses of writing, rhetoric, and technical communication.”

Wourman is a member of JMU’s College of Arts and Letters cohort hire, a group of seven new outstanding tenure-track faculty working in the areas of racial and social justice, minority cultures, and race relations.

“It’s awesome to have an initiative like this that can help us understand how people's cultural experience, identity, and racial and ethnic backgrounds enrich their voices to make changes in the world.”

Wourman’s background includes eight years in Japan. “I was a military brat, my father is a retired Naval officer, and I grew up in Japan and got to travel throughout the world when I was young. Those experiences shaped how I see the world in a multicultural way, and how I’ve navigated through all of my educational and professional experiences.”

Based on her experiences and her research, Wourman looks forward to bringing her values to WRTC. “I believe in using cultural experience and a cultural lens to explore and apply written and visual communication.”

Wourman also brings expertise in the area of race and culture in professional and technical communication, with a specialization in digital media and African American rhetoric. She has taught courses on writing as inquiry, composition, and writing, rhetoric, cultures & communities.

She has a vision of a different kind of professional workplace. “The traditional professional approach was that you just do the work, do your job, and that was that. But we know now that we can’t separate our identity from how we perform our work.”

Wourman looks forward to helping WRTC majors understand the value of the skillset they’ve developed. She vividly remembers having to teach herself how to be a professional writer on her first job. On teaching freshmen, she said, “I’m looking forward to be able to connect with students in their first year, particularly when they’re being introduced to rhetorical theory in an introductory course such as WRTC 103. Rhetorical reading and writing can sometimes seem complex, but when you think about it, it’s all about how we interpret and make sense of ideas and messages in the world.”

“I was a copywriter for a large church and I had to learn on the job. No one taught me how to do that,” she recalls. “It made me realize that students are not always taught these technical skills. I wanted to help young people in that way. The value of the WRTC major is partly to know how to sell the transferable skillset you’ve developed to the employers who need this expertise.”

Wourman’s dissertation explores the experiences of Black women entrepreneurs through ethnographic research. “I love telling the stories of how black women succeed in the business world through their own initiative and creativity,” she says.

WRTC Director Michael Smith was impressed with Wourman’s experience and pedagogy with students at all levels. “She really enjoys teaching and has some really refreshing approaches and goals for her students.”

“Her research on Black women entrepreneurs is valuable for many reasons,” Smith observes.  “The flexibility and ingenuity embody what WRTC offers—digital and print experience for writers and technical communicators in multiple roles, working for different organizations, designing logos, editing newsletters, writing long-form content. This is very much what employers need.”

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Published: Friday, March 26, 2021

Last Updated: Friday, March 26, 2021

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