Assistant Professor Dr. Allison Prasch is one of three new faculty to join the Department of Communication Studies this fall semester. Dr. Prasch is a Minnesota transplant – along with her partner, Jason, and their son, Oliver (age 2 ½), but her connection to Colorado State University goes back decades. “My grandfather came to CSU on the GI bill after serving as a U.S. Marine in the Korean War, earning his doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1960 and even teaching equine medicine for several years before teaching at the University of Nairobi in Kenya,” Prasch told us in a recent interview. A scholar of U.S. presidential speeches, Prasch is particularly interested in how presidents invoke the place or location of their speech act as a means of rhetorical invention and, in so doing, advance a particular view of the world and the United States’ role in it. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Prasch.
What drew you to Colorado State?
Although I grew up in Minnesota, I’ve actually been familiar with the university since childhood. My family history is just one of several reasons that I’m thrilled to start my academic career at Colorado State University. I appreciate the department’s commitment to both research and teaching. I am also eager to teach graduate courses and help students find their niche in the world of rhetorical theory and criticism. Finally, I’m thrilled to work with such smart, kind, and generous colleagues who challenge and inspire me to be a better scholar, teacher, and student of rhetoric.
What inspired you to pursue an academic career in your discipline?
As an American Studies major I always loved studying rhetorical discourse from various periods in U.S. history, but it wasn’t until my senior year that I seriously considered an academic career. I took several years off after college while my partner attended law school at the University of Minnesota. This time away from academia was valuable, because it allowed me to think long and hard about signing up for another six years of graduate work. But two things pulled me back again and again: my fascination with and love for the study of rhetoric and public address, and my desire to help students understand why rhetoric matters in public life so they can be thoughtful, intelligent, articulate citizens who contribute to the greater good.
Tell us about one of your most rewarding teaching moments.
My most rewarding teaching moments have been when my students have used the skills and tools I teach in class to explore a particular issue, concept, idea, or problem that they care about personally. For example, one of my students several years ago spent a semester analyzing the discourse surrounding the U.S. congressional debate over whether a South Vietnamese soldier (who was also a CIA informant) could be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Her research led her to ask some really important (and provocative) questions about tropes of American citizenship, identity, belonging, access, inclusion, and the narrative we tell about U.S. history.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn as a student?
Writing is revising. One of my favorite quotes on the practice of writing is from Flannery O’Connor: “I write to discover what I know.” At the beginning of my graduate studies, I was petrified to put anything on paper if an idea wasn’t fully formed or fleshed out. The perfectionist in me wants to write something brilliant once (don’t we all?!?). Over the years, however, I’ve learned (and I continue to re-learn) that writing is a process of careful thought, revision, peer review, and—most of all—perseverance.
What books or publications are you working on?
My current book project examines how Cold War U.S. presidents linked their foreign policy objectives to particular geographical locations and, in so doing, extended the United States’ physical and metaphorical presence in the world during key moments in the Cold War struggle between democracy and communism. I’m also finishing up a revision to a journal article examining the role “Skutniks” play in the State of the Union address, writing a book chapter analyzing the significance of place in U.S. presidential public address, and finishing up a fun project on [the television show] Madam Secretary.
Who’s been your most influential mentor to date and why?
I had the privilege of working with Dr. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell at the University of Minnesota as my M.A. and Ph.D. advisor. Her intellectual curiosity, love for learning, passion for teaching, scholarly excellence, and dedication to her students has had a tremendous influence on me as a researcher and teacher.
How do you like Northern Colorado?
We love it! Some of our favorite adventures thus far have been exploring Old Town, sampling a variety of ice cream flavors at Walrus, having picnic dinners at Horsetooth Reservoir, and hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?
Enjoying a glass of red wine, dark chocolate, and watching an episode of The West Wing or Madam Secretary. [Note: we hardly find her choices a guilty pleasure!]
What’s on your must-read or must-watch list?
Right now I have a few academic books on my nightstand to read for teaching/class prep: How Professors Think (Michele Lamont), What the Best College Teachers Do (Ken Bain), and Portents of Rebellion (Stephen Lucas). I also want to read Black Flags (Joby Warrick) and Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates). As for TV, I’m trying to catch up on Season 2 of Madam Secretary before it starts up again in October.
Top pick for an all-expenses paid fantasy vacation?
Academic version: two weeks in Europe (specifically London, Berlin, and Normandy) to do field work for my book project. Work-free version: Hawaii beach trip with my family.