Meet Shenika Hankerson

The English Department Spotlights are designed to introduce the various members of our Department: faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Shenika Hankerson joined our faculty as an adjunct faculty member in 2002; left to pursue her PhD at Michigan State in 2012; and returned in the fall of 2014 as a Lecturer in Composition.

Tell me about your background. Is there anything about you that you would like us to know?
I have over 15 years of experience working within educational institutions. I started with K-12 then transitioned to postsecondary education. Within this realm, I have been fortunate to have numerous opportunities working as a literacy and multicultural specialist for various projects and programs including curriculum development initiatives, teacher development initiatives, and assessment and evaluation initiatives. I am very grateful for these diverse experiences and truly believe that these experiences have shaped my research and teaching in beneficial ways.

Did you always want to major in English? If so, what attached you to the field?
Absolutely. I have always loved writing. As a young child, I would always ask my teachers for extra sheets of the large, light-brown, handwriting paper so I could write stories. My love for writing stories and beyond continued well into college and contributed to my decision to major in English.

You are currently pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric & Writing Michigan State University. What made you decide to go to graduate school in this field?
My research interest in African American Language (AAL) and composition practices emanates from my own experience working with African-American students over the years. In 2012, when I decided to pursue a PhD in order to obtain further knowledge in this area, I knew a Rhetoric & Writing program would be a perfect fit as these type of programs, like the Rhetoric & Writing doctoral program at Michigan State University, typically fosters research and preparation across the fields of rhetoric, composition, literacy studies, and sociolinguistics.

When did you decide you wanted to be a college teacher?

I decided that I wanted to be a college teacher after my adjunct instructor of English experience at Jackson College in 2001. I absolutely loved working with this population of students (college students) and knew after the first semester of teaching English at Jackson College that it was something that I wanted pursue on a full-time basis.

Was there anyone specific who inspired, encouraged or motivated you?
There are quite a few people who inspired, encouraged, and motivated me over the years. However, my high school teacher, Mrs. Woods, encouraged me to pursue a B.A. in English. She also inspired me to teach English.

Tell us about your dissertation research and why you chose your project. Are you able to mesh your research and teaching?
My research focuses on how users of African American Language fare in the unique, yet under-examined contexts of writing. In my research, I explore the social and cultural processes in language learning and development, especially in connection with equity and successful writing experiences and outcomes. This research, which is aligned with my dissertation, is reflective of my teaching as well. As an English teacher, I am committed to fostering successful writing experiences and outcomes for all students.

What research do you hope to pursue when your dissertation is complete?
My recent work has centered on the relationship between racial/class/linguistic identity and writing and achievement in urban African American adolescent and young adult culture. This is research that I am interested in continuing to pursue.

What do you like about teaching at Wayne State? How is it different from teaching at Michigan State?
I love the diverse student culture at Wayne State University. Each student brings his/her own insightful knowledge and background into the classroom. I truly enjoy working with our diverse population of students
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You won two awards last year from the National Council of Teachers of English and the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Tell us about those.
I sincerely appreciate and am honored by the two awards I received last year. The CCCC Scholars for the Dream Award is awarded to select papers and presentations that show originality of research and forward significant theoretical and/or pedagogical contributions to the field. I received the 2015 CCCC Scholars for the Dream Award for my paper and presentation, “‘What if We Were Culturally and Linguistically Responsive to Voice in Writing?’: Urban African American Youth, First-Year Composition, and The Politics of (In)Visibility.” The NCTE Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award is awarded to select teachers of color who aspire to build long-standing, accomplished careers in literacy education. This award is associated with two-years of mentorship and national programmatic support.

Do you any advice for English Majors seeking a PhD in Composition and Rhetoric?
"You must know why your work is important." I received this advice when I began the doctoral program in Rhetoric & Writing at Michigan State University. This is advice that I have always remembered and found very valuable.

By Mary Iverson

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Meet Shenika Hankerson 2/9/2016
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