In a Nutshell

Profile photo of Michelle McMullin. Wearing Blue Button down, standing in front of large pine tree. I am a P.h.D. Candidate at Purdue University who specializes in public rhetoric and professional and technical communication. My commitments to interdisciplinary collaboration, digital methods for research, and sustainable response to complex problems are at the center of my dissertation, research, and teaching. I continue to develop the capacities necessary, both personally and professionally, to face head-on the complexities of our current political, cultural and technological moment. 

Tracing Emergent Response to Complex Problems

In response to the 2015 HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana the state legislature authorized syringe exchange programs as a mechanism to reduce the spread of disease. In my dissertation I explore new materialist methods for interdisciplinary response to wicked problems, like the opioid epidemic, by examining the outbreak and its aftermath. By tracing how syringe exchange policy emerged in response to the outbreak, and continues to be negotiated as the policy is implemented throughout the state, I use syringe exchange in Indiana as a representative example to better understand emergent practices and the circulatory nature of technical communication.

Read more about my dissertation including a summary and chapter breakdown.

Sustainable, Interdisciplinary Research

In December 2015, I began working with a new research team at Purdue called the Corpus and Repository of Writing (Crow). This team came together to address pressing issues in writing research: the need for interdisciplinary work, more attention to empirical methods, more support for collaboration across institutions and disciplines, and more sustainable tools for research, mentoring and writing instruction. Our team, lead by Dr. Bradley Dilger (Purdue), Dr. Shelley Staples (University of Arizona) and Bill Hart-Davidson (Michigan State University) includes more than 20 researchers, working at all levels from undergraduate to faculty. At the heart of the Crow project is the creation of a web-based platform for corpus and computational research, integrated with a repository of teaching materials created by writing instructors. This fusion of corpus and repository allows writing researchers to ask more complex questions, connecting evidence based analysis of student writing with the teaching artifacts that help students produce that writing.

Questions about sustainability, infrastructure and sustainable mentorship for graduate students are built into the Crow model. These questions about how we work, and how we sustain and innovate collaborative work, are connected to my research interests and have been the center of my engagement with Crow. Crow research on infrastructure, sustainable graduate research, digital collaboration, and mentorship will lead to publication in the last year of my PhD program, and lay the groundwork for research I will continue as a first-year professor. 

Read more about Crow in my current projects or visit us at

Mentorship and Program Infrastructure

My research is deeply informed by my opportunities for teaching and mentoring at Purdue. For the two years I served as the mentor for new instructors in the professional writing program. Working alongside Dr. Michael Salvo, I have helped to recruit, hire and mentor new professional writing instructors at Purdue. I am proud of the ways my interests in developing sustainable infrastructure, building diverse and interdisciplinary teams and supporting collaborative work have shaped how we support new instructors. For example, we have added descriptive one page rationales to teaching materials instructors share with the program. This simple change in how we collect information lets us more readily share approaches and innovative teaching practices with new instructors and has facilitated team teaching and collaborative course design.


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