Angela Haas

By Bill Hart-Davidson

Today we honor a truly transformative leader, scholar, mentor, and colleague whose service to ATTW is matched only by her tremendous contributions to the field of writing studies, notably in technical communication, computers and writing, and cultural rhetorics. These are paired with equally impressive achievements at her home institution and her dedication to graduate students across the country through her impressive efforts to advance the careers of early career scholars in our field. We honor Dr. Haas’ achievements and contributions today with full hearts and tremendous gratitude for the wisdom and extraordinary effort she has given to ATTW in particular. 

Most everyone in our midst today is familiar with Dr. Haas’ impressive scholarly profile as she has been a powerful presence in the field for nearly two decades. She is currently Professor of rhetoric, technical communication, ethnic, and women’s and gender studies and serves as the graduate program director for the Department of English at Illinois State University. Her research on computers and writing has been recognized with numerous awards. Including the Conference on College Composition and Communication Technology Innovator – a.k.a. The “troublemaker” – award, the Computers & Composition Ellen Nold Best Article Award, and the Computers and Composition Hugh Burns Best Dissertation Award. Her award winning scholarship has been published in Computers & Composition, Computers & Composition Online, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Pedagogy, Studies in American Indian Literatures, Writing Program Administration, and many other places. 

Haas’ scholarship in technical communication has been widely praised and award-winning. Notably the collection Key Theoretical Frameworks: Teaching Technical Communication in the 21st Century which she co-edited with another of our Fellow honorees this year, Dr. Michelle Eble, won the NCTE award for Best Collection in Technical and Scientific Writing. I call attention to this collection as a pivotal moment in what Walton, Moore, & Jones call the “social justice turn,” collecting pieces that help move our classroom practices in technical communication toward doing material good in the world and addressing structural inequity.

For all the good her scholarship does – and it does a lot to inspire, inform, and enlighten – just as inspiring is Angela’s dedication to building a welcoming, supportive community to support graduate students and early-career faculty entering our profession. She has long served as a co-coordinator of the Computers & Writing Graduate Research Network alongside Dr. Janice Walker and, more recently, Dr. Donnie Johnson Sackey. Dr. Johnson-Sackey writes:

One of Angela’s enduring commitments to the field has been her focus on mentorship through the Graduate Research Network, an all-day preconference workshop at Computers and Writing. Coordinating the GRN is no easy task and requires a lot of time and dedication, especially when a lot of folks are burnt out from service. Part of this work has also been soliciting and collecting donations to help fund travel grants which offset the cost of travel for graduate students and contingent faculty. It’s not easy. This kind of service work rarely is easy. And few people understand how much planning happens behind the scenes to make the GRN a success. 

Perhaps this is why Angela is an invaluable asset to our community. Angela’s selfless commitment in ensuring that the GRN continue as a space that offers a vibrant and supportive experience for emerging scholars deserves the field’s heartfelt praise and admiration. In the time that spans Angela’s role as co-coordinator, the GRN has been able to support many graduate students as the grow into professionals. I count myself among that number of professionals whose work and life has been positively impacted by the GRN under Angela’s stewardship. 

What I have admired most about Angela as both a friend and mentor has been her commitment to inclusivity and equity, which I believe has created the possibility for a more equitable future in the scholarly spaces we share. I believe Angela’s impact has been exceptional and will resonate for years to come.

And then there is Angela’s amazing record of service to our organization, ATTW. She has served for more than decade in various leadership roles, guiding the group during some difficult times that included the COVID-19 pandemic. She has served as a member of the ATTW Executive Committee, and of course in our leadership cycle as Vice President, President, and Immediate Past President. She has also been a Conference Chair and champion for a number of initiatives that, true to her dedication to students, expand opportunity and broaden the ATTW’s positive influence on early career members. Among the programs Angela led and supported during her leadership include ATTW’s graduate student research awards and our newest award, the Amplification award program that recognizes and amplifies the work of early career scholars of color. 

This work has not gone unnoticed nor is it unappreciated! ATTW Fellow and current Vice Chancellor for the University of Leeds Jeff Grabill was a mentor for Angela’s graduate experience at Michigan State University. He writes:

It is an absolute pleasure to contribute words to honor and support Angela’s elevation to Fellow of ATTW, an organization she has shaped for the better over a number of years of loving, dedicated work. Angla’s work has always been distinctive and creative, from her efforts to trace an American Indian intellectual tradition from the study of early and continuous indigenous sign technologies to contemporary digital and visual rhetoric. 

Her distinctive contributions have continued with her ongoing work on social justice in work, school, and public space. I’ve always admired Angela’s intellectual and personal courage, and I’ve always admired as well the care she takes with her work and with people. There are no short-cuts with Angela. We all can see the outcomes in her awards and recognitions. Those come to people who work on important topics with care and love. I have respect for Angela as a scholar and a teacher, but I have even more respect for her as a person. Angela is an ethical and caring colleague. 

She is invested in the collective well-being of her colleagues and what she and they represent. She has made the world a better place, she has made me a better person, and ATTW is far richer because of her.

At Illinois State, Dr. Barbi Smyser-Fauble studied with Angela. She offers these memories:

I met Angela during my first semester as a doctoral student at Illinois State University, when I enrolled in her Visible Rhetorics class. And, upon reflection, I can honestly state that I had no idea just how much this class, and this amazing human would impact my life academically, personally, and professionally. Angela’s passion for teaching, incredible care for her students, and her dedication to making sure students felt included and valued was evident from day one – and, as someone who had changed courses of study, and was somewhat new to the discipline and feeling incredibly intimidated, her approach was greatly appreciated on so many levels. That semester I learned so much about technical communication and social justice, as well as about myself as an emerging scholar and teacher; and, more importantly, I learned about the type of teacher I wanted to be. 

So much of my academic training and education in the doctoral program – whether it was in the classroom, at a conference, or in a mentoring meeting – came from Angela. She inspired me to be the kind of teacher and mentor that actively works to make students feel included and valued, to emphasize the importance of social justice, and to be someone that uses privilege(s) to amplify the position of those who are traditionally silenced or devalued; she inspired me to be a better human. Even after graduation, she continues to be my mentor and teacher; as, she would say, mentors are academic family for always. Thus, her influence and impact on my life continues to this day, and there truly aren’t words to express my gratitude for her guidance, her support, and her friendship. 

Dr. Erin Frost, one of our Conference Chairs and a faculty member at East Carolina University, was also a student of Angela’s at Illinois State. She writes:

I met Angela during my MA program, and while I had many excellent teachers, I’d never met anyone who was both so intimidatingly brilliant and also so intensely approachable. There was no hiding in a back corner of a classroom and quietly writing your way through with Dr. Haas; her good humor and sharp repartee created a rhetorically savvy and gentle-but-insistent demand that everyone would be part of the learning community. Angela’s dedication to social justice and her insistence that it was foundational to “good” technical communication rocked my world. I asked her to be my mentor very quickly, having no idea what a big thing I was really asking. Later Angela told me that PhD mentors were for life, and I was so happy to hear it. 

Angela also took me to my first conference (C&W, 2009) where I learned so much my head hurt and nearly made us miss our flight with my poor navigational skills. That conference was my first indication that Angela not only had her thumb on the pulse of the field, but also that the field was moving with her—was being moved by her. It’s difficult today to imagine teaching technical communication without a Haasian (?) decolonial approach. Angela’s generosity and influence is such that we will never be able to track all the positive impacts, large and small, she has made on our field and our lives. 

We recognize the joy in the words of Drs. Frost and Smeyser-Fauble and we hope all of those who Angela’s work has benefitted might share in this joy today.

To Dr. Haas, we offer our enthusiastic congratulations paired with heartfelt gratitude and admiration for the fine work you do. We are proud to have you as a colleague. For the achievements and contributions lauded in this citation, as well as the countless contributions too numerous to list that, no doubt, each of us could add, we rise in your honor today! 

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Angela Haas to the community of ATTW Fellows!