Andy Gilmore came to Fort Collins by way Manchester, England (his hometown), Hong Kong, Denver, and Washington, D.C. It’s safe to say he is the only Ph.D. student in the inaugural year of the communication studies doctorate program who has returned to academia after single-handedly promoting harp concerts – and in Hong Kong – for two and a half years.
“I know more than any one individual should know about the harp,” Gilmore says, with a classically British wryness. Nonetheless, his time spent in Hong Kong would inspire his future academic direction.
Gilmore grew up in Manchester where he completed his undergraduate degree in Corporate Communications at Manchester University.
After graduation, he worked in music and entertainment public relations and then moved into corporate PR, working for insurance companies, housing associations, banks and a university.
After six years, Gilmore grew out of these positions. He decided to do something different. Following his childhood dream of being a music journalist, Gilmore applied for a job that involved music–not knowing it was based in Hong Kong.
“The next thing I knew I was on a plane with one suitcase going to Hong Kong,” said Gilmore.
While in Hong Kong, Gilmore worked for a harp music promoter arranging for harpists to play concerts and special event openings for hotels and companies like Chanel and Ralph Lauren.
Two and a half years and countless harp concerts later, Gilmore found himself in Denver earning his M.A. in Communications at the University of Colorado, Denver.
“Moving to Denver from Hong Kong was weird,” said Gilmore. In contrast to the nearly 7.5 million people inhabiting the Chinese megalopolis, he says that Denver felt like “a tiny little village.”
Gilmore’s time in China would eventually weave itself into his master’s studies. In a course taught by Dr. Sonja K. Foss, Gilmore was tasked with applying different methods of rhetorical criticism to the same “artifact,” such as a speech. He chose the speech that Jiang Zemin, former general secretary of the communist party of China, gave during the handover of Hong Kong in 1997.
“I originally wrote three essays [on this topic] in my first graduate seminar as an M.A. student,” Gilmore shared in an email. “After that, Dr. Sonja K. Foss approached me about keeping the artifact for other methods of criticism in the next addition of her book.”
What started as a three-essay assignment, turned into a total of nine essays and a three year project. One of the essays won top student paper in the Communication Theory and Research Division at WSCA in 2014.
All nine essays appear in the fifth edition of Dr. Foss’s book, Rhetorical criticism: Exploration and practice, published in 2017.
During the second year of his M.A. in 2014, democracy protests in Hong Kong morphed into the Umbrella Revolution. Gilmore became interested in Chinese protest culture, especially the tools used in protest.
“I’m interested in how notions of national identity are formed during social movements especially in Hong Kong,” said Gilmore. “I’m also interested in how space and place plays a part in social movement.”
His research interests lie in the rhetorical construction and performance of national identity as well as how social movement participants use mundane, everyday items as tools of protest.
“I love how protesters use aspects of everyday life, rather than burning cars, smashing shop windows, or using physical violence against each other,” said Gilmore. “Not just in Hong Kong, but in other places around the world, the use of everyday items to protest is so much more attention grabbing and beautiful. Hong Kong has used busses, Post-It notes and Glad wrap.”
After completing his M.A., Gilmore says he thought, “I can’t do this anymore, I need to be a normal person,” but Dr. Foss inspired him to pursue a Ph.D.
Gilmore continued his research on the Umbrella Revolution during the first semester of his doctoral studies.
Perhaps more than research, however, Gilmore is drawn to teaching. In fact, teaching is a large reason he chose to pursue his Ph.D.
“Teaching is the thing I love the most,” said Gilmore. “That’s the main motivation for doing this Ph.D. Going into a tenure track position is the ideal goal. It’s a nice way to stop thinking about my own work for a while. When I go to teach, I can switch off for those three hours and get to think about nothing else and I like that.”