February 13, 2019 at 11:30am
Dane Lisser

Dr. Julie Bates named recipient of 2019 Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication

Dr. Julie Bates, assistant professor of English at Millikin University, has been named the recipient of the 2019 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication for her dissertation, "Toward an Interventionary Rhetoric for Technical Communication Studies."

Dr. Bates will be announced as the recipient of the CCCC Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication on March 15 during the 2019 CCCC Annual Convention in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Julie Bates Millikin University

Dissertations for this award are evaluated based on five criteria: originality of research, contribution the research makes to the field, methodological soundness of the approach used, awareness of the existing research in the area studied and overall quality of the writing.

To be considered for the award, applicants must submit a letter of nomination from a dissertation committee member emphasizing the significance of the research for technical communication studies as well as an extended abstract and a copy of the dissertation.

Dr. Bates' nomination came from Dr. Elise Verzosa Hurley, assistant professor of English at Illinois State University, where Dr. Bates received her Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Technical Communication.

"A lot of the people who have won in the past are people whose scholarship I really admire and who have shaped and influenced what I have learned as a scholar," said Bates. "It was an honor to find out I had won."

Dr. Bates' dissertation specifically looks at people in marginalized communities that are disproportionally affected by environmental risks, more specifically, environmental health problems, and the tactics of community activists to address these local environmental problems.

Julie Bates Millikin University

"Generally, people are most affected because of race, socioeconomic status, gender, disability and citizenship status," said Bates. "I look at examples of communities where people (often women who notice their children's health problems) start to talk with other people and realize it's not just them, that other people in their community have health problems. I look at their ways of detecting issues, how they gather stories and how they try to persuade people in positions of power that there is a problem."

For her dissertation, Dr. Bates specifically looked at two extended case studies. The first was a successful environmental intervention in which community activists in the Little Village neighborhood near Chicago, Ill., were able to shut down two heavily polluting coal-fired power plants in their community. The second case study was the activist efforts in Flint, Mich., to bring awareness of the concerns about water contamination in the city despite ongoing denials by city and state officials.

"The duties of a full-time faculty member, especially one who is not only teaching but also coordinating Millikin's first year writing program, make it extraordinarily challenging to find the time and energy to complete a dissertation," said Millikin Provost Dr. Jeff Aper. "But Dr. Bates has not only proven to be an outstanding faculty member who was able to get all of this accomplished, she wrote a dissertation recognized as the best of the best by her peers across the nation. I'm very glad to see her receive this well-deserved recognition. This is a truly noteworthy accomplishment and we are all very proud to count her as a colleague here at Millikin."

Julie Bates Millikin University

Dr. Randy Brooks, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Millikin, is most impressed with how Dr. Bates' research supports Millikin's approach to writing as Performance Learning.

"We teach students in our highly regarded first year writing program that writing is not just a skill to practice, but a means of communicating with readers to make a difference in the world," said Brooks. "Dr. Bates extends that approach with students majoring in writing at Millikin, so that they can learn the power of their writing in communities and professional organizations. This award shows how Dr. Bates is a leader in this empowering approach to research on writing and the pedagogical implications of teaching our students how writing can make a difference in our world."

One of the aspects Dr. Bates learned from her research is that there is not one set of strategies that will work when there is an issue, but by looking at certain case studies, threads and themes emerge that can help community activists communicate to others in many different ways. "The studies show how to reach audiences in ways that are culturally sensitive and speak to what they already know, do and believe – these apply to communicating in any community," she said.

Julie Bates Millikin University

Dr. Bates holds a Master of Arts in Liberal & Integrative Studies, with emphases in environmental studies and journalism, from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Her personal passion and concerns for the environment played an integral part while she was developing her dissertation.

"This came together because of my interest in the environment and my expertise in thinking about how people write, communicate and tell stories," said Bates. "The amount of stories, like the examples in my dissertation, are increasing and it's become particularly urgent." 

The Conference on College Composition and Communication is a constituent organization within the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

More information about the CCCC Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication, including past winners, can be found at cccc.ncte.org/cccc/awards/techcommdissertation.