A lot happened while the blog and I were on leave, including the following: Our department hired a new faculty member! I’m pleased to introduce to you Professor Joe Sery!
I asked Professor Sery a series of questions to help introduce him to you here on the blog. Here we go…
Q: Tell us about your academic background:
Professor Sery: “I attended St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN for my undergraduate degree and double-majored in Communication and Philosophy. After taking a year off from academia, I entered the graduate program in Rhetoric and Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. Given my office was on the 11th floor, I always liked to think that I took rhetoric to 11 (bonus points if you get the film reference!). I earned my M.A. in 2008 and plan on defending my dissertation this winter. Throughout my PhD coursework, I was also working toward a concurrent M.A. in Philosophy. Needless to say, I have a masochistic love of reading painfully dense texts.”
Q: Give us a brief explanation of your dissertation and research interests.
Professor Sery: “My dissertation is (tentatively) titled “Models of Judgment: Rhetoric and the Public Philosophy of Law.” It addresses the ways in which jurisprudence both shapes and is shaped by public discourse, and the ways that one construction of language and reality is tested against another. Examining prominent public philosophers of law – Richard Posner, Martha Nussbaum, Cass Sunstein, and Ronald Dworkin – I argue that each scholar rhetorically crafts an ideal model of judgment to embody their respective philosophies. (For example, Posner utilizes the “economic judge” whereas Nussbaum promotes the “literary judge.”) By framing law and judgment in particular ways, these philosophers are able to guide public conceptions of justice and the expectations we place on judges.
Beyond my dissertation, I have a broad range of research interests, including American public address, philosophical pragmatism, freedom of speech, and the rhetoric of inquiry (science, medicine, economics, etc.). I will present two papers at the upcoming NCA National Convention: one on the role pharmaceutical companies play in rhetorically “branding” disease and another on the rhetoric of overturning Supreme Court precedent. I also have an article on protest that will be published in March. Needless to say, I have a masochistic love of writing, too.”
Q: What classes have you taught?
Professor Sery: “Before coming to the University of San Francisco, I taught several courses including Public Speaking, Communication Process (similar to USF’s Communication and Everyday Life), Rhetorical Process (similar to USF’s Rhetoric and the Public Sphere), Interpersonal Communication, Freedom of Speech, and a number of Discussion courses that focused on deliberative democracy and contemporary challenges to social justice. I am also an accomplished mime and taught at the Sorbonne’s esteemed Le Centre de Shhhhh for one very quiet summer. Sadly, I had a falling out with the Chair of the school after a heated disagreement regarding the proper way one becomes trapped in an invisible box. We haven’t spoken since. Well, we never spoke beforehand either, but that was out of professional courtesy rather than mutual animosity.”
New faculty member Professor Joe Sery
Q: How did you become interested in rhetoric and in being a professor?
Professor Sery: “After taking a course on the great issues in philosophy, I knew I wanted to become an academic (and I was in that class by accident! – how serendipitous, or, as I like to say, seryndipitous). As an undergraduate, I spent most of my time focused on philosophy, but the more I read, the more I began to feel that it was too detached from how real people live their lives. We can only question our existence for so long, right? I turned toward rhetoric because it felt like the place where the philosophical rubber hits the realistic road. During graduate school, I came to realize that I adore teaching undergraduate students and I could not imagine doing anything else with my life. Something truly magical happens when a young student is exposed to a new idea or a new way of seeing the world. My time as an undergraduate was life altering and I hope to provide that opportunity for USF students, even if my role is small.”
Q: What are your first impressions of USF, the Communication Studies Department, and San Francisco?
Professor Sery: “I have been immensely impressed by the warm welcome that I have received from the University’s faculty, staff, and students. The scholars throughout the University have an unwavering passion for teaching and their research projects continue to fascinate me. USF has cultivated an impressive atmosphere of intellectual rigor and joyful conviviality, a rare blend that I find inspiring. The Communication Studies Department has only reinforced such inspiration. They have been exceptionally kind and helpful throughout my transition into this new and exciting position. After spending six years in Pittsburgh, I was nervous about starting anew, but the Communication Studies faculty welcomed me as one of their own. I am surrounded by caring and enthusiastic colleagues and I couldn’t be happier.
Although I haven’t had as much time to explore San Francisco as I would like, the few places I have visited have been lovely. I had the good fortune to attend the symphony a couple of times before classes started and I sampled a handful of wonderful restaurants (if anyone has any recommendations, I would love to hear them). As someone who grew up in a town that doesn’t have a stoplight, city life continues to dazzle and, at times, confuse me. I just need to remember to bring a jacket everywhere.”
Q: What are a few things that you like to do outside of school?
Professor Sery: “I enjoy taking my dog, Indiana (full name: Dr. Indiana Bones, Professor of Barkeology), for long walks around my neighborhood and for romps in the surrounding dog parks. If we’re not out and about, I’m likely reading on my patio (latest reads: Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, and The Political Brain by Drew Westen… I highly recommend all of them) or training for a marathon (California International Marathon is coming up in December!). I’m also an adept pie baker and I make the finest apple pie this side of the Mississippi.”
I can already attest that Professor Sery is an excellent baker, as he brought cookies in last week. Wait, what am I doing? I mean, I am still doubtful about how good of a baker he is, and I definitely need to eat more of his baked goods before I render an opinion.
Please join me in welcoming Professor Sery to our department! He is teaching Rhetoric and the Public Sphere this semester and will be teaching Rhetorical History of the US next semester.