By Hannah Montgomery, Graduate Writer
Named for Jonathan M. Hess, a professor at UNC from 1993 until his death in 2018, chair of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at UNC, and co-chair of the Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies, this professorship is given to the pre-tenured assistant professor in the fine arts and humanities who most fully honors the commitments that animated Hess’s professional life: producing outstanding scholarship, demonstrating excellence in teaching, and supporting the development of gender equality, diversity and inclusiveness within the fine arts and humanities professions.
Epps-Robertson is the Associate Director of the Writing Program, Director of Writing in the Disciplines, and studies rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies. Her work investigates the ways in which communities teach, practice, and understand what it means to be a citizen, “from a literacy program created during the American civil rights movement to what fandom experiences can teach us about designing pedagogies that promote an awareness of global citizenship practices.”
She is currently working on a piece which “examines the ways in which non-school spaces can be places where people teach, learn, and think about what it means to be a global citizen” by examining BTS, a Korean band, and their fandom, ARMY, which she recently discussed on NPR’s 1A podcast. This topic caught her attention during her first book project when she realized she was “most interested in… stories shared by interview participants who said that their most important citizenship training came not through formal school programs, but from models and lessons in non-school spaces” and for its “grassroots expressions of solidarity as well as opportunities for teaching others about social issues.” She hopes her work “will highlight the complexity involved when fans do this labor.” Adjacent to that project, she is examining the complexity of transcultural social justice efforts in this same fandom. “There are many layers involved in understanding how people organize and educate one another.” She intends for these projects to be the beginning of her second book project. Epps-Robertson is committed in her work to “understanding rhetorics of citizenship and the kinds of efforts made at teaching citizenship.” She says “My research, teaching, and service are all built around a commitment to honor a belief that knowledge is made not only in formal institutions of learning, but from a myriad of communities.”
Epps-Robertson is incredibly honored to receive this professorship since it seeks to support those “doing work that supports diversity and inclusion.” She says the Jonathan M. Hess professorship “will provide me with time and funding that will support research so that I can make advances towards completing current projects and moving forward with the second book. I’m also grateful that I will have an opportunity to host a colloquium and look forward to hosting an event that can help bring together others interested in issues around rhetoric, social justice, and fan studies.”