Never stop wondering and ask a librarian: Tips for success from a first-gen grad

Graduating ASU student Casie Moreland / Courtesy photo

Graduating ASU student Casie Moreland, who is earning a PhD in English, has already secured a position as a visiting assistant professor at Western Oregon University. She began teaching there this past September.


Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates.

Hailing from the tiny town of Mineola in east Texas, Casie Moreland is a first-generation college graduate. But she didn’t stop with “just” a four-year degree. Moreland also completed a master’s program in her home state and now, this fall, she is earning a PhD in English (writing, rhetorics and literacies) from Arizona State University.

Oh, and she’s coaxed her younger sister into attending college as well.

“I am so proud and excited to become an ASU alum,” Moreland said about adding the latest accomplishment to her pedigree. She said that she is grateful to the supportive staff and faculty and thinks fondly of the beautiful campus. “I am truly thankful to have had this experience.”

In her doctoral work at ASU, Moreland was supported by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Graduate Fellowship for First Generation Students, the David Herzog Fonds Scholarship from the University of Graz, Austria (to attend the Graz International Summer School in Seggau in 2016), and numerous other travel grants and research fellowships.

While still a student, Moreland was also successfully placing her scholarship in top-tier publications. Most recently, with her mentor, professor of English Keith Miller, Moreland co-authored an article that appeared in the CCCC Outstanding Book Award-winning collection, “Rhetorics of Whiteness: Postracial Hauntings in Popular Culture, Social Media, and Education” (2016) co-edited by English chair Krista Ratcliffe.

Moreland defended her dissertation, “White Resistance, White Complacency: The Absent-Presence of Race in the Development of Dual Enrollment Programs” on Aug. 29. She began as a visiting assistant professor at Western Oregon University just a few days later. She’ll be coming back to the ASU campus in December for commencement festivities.

We asked Moreland a few questions about her journey to her PhD degree at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field? 

Answer: I first realized I wanted to teach composition during my first writing course while working on my undergraduate degree. I had so many questions about why we were doing what we were doing in class. I never stopped wondering. To be honest, I loved writing but did not love that class. I decided then I wanted to teach writing to students in college in a way that allows them to develop their skills in ways that builds their confidence.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: At ASU, the most surprising thing I learned was how one question could develop into years of research. The faculty at ASU really supported me throughout my process and allowed me develop my skills as a scholar and researcher. I hope to do the same for my students in the future.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of the faculty and the program’s recognition in the field. I met (Keith) Miller while I was still working on my master’s degree at Texas State University. I soon found out that he worked with Shirley Rose and Paul Kei Matsuda. I had never been to Tempe and never had the chance to visit; I saw it for the first time when I was accepted and arrived to begin the PhD program. I loved the saguaros and sunsets, the campus and my peers and the faculty. I quickly found out that I had made the perfect decision.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Keith Miller taught me patience. He taught me that research is patient work and tedious work. Reflective of his research practices, he showed me the utmost patience while mentoring me throughout my time as a PhD student. Keith taught me, through guidance, about the type of researcher, teacher and mentor I wanted to be. I am truly honored to have had the privilege to work with him.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Be kind to yourself; progress is progress. Getting a degree is a more like a marathon rather than a sprint. Never be afraid to “ask a librarian” or visit the writing center or to get a tutor. There are so many services to help you get to where you want to go.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus was hanging out in LL (Durham Language and Literature Building — where the writing program once was). There I could hang out with my peers to catch up and work. I would oftentimes stop by the offices of (English staff members) Demetria Baker and Sheila Luna. Not only did they provide me with endless support as a teaching assistant and PhD student, but they are both great people. We shared food and stories more times than I can count.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I was offered and accepted a position at Western Oregon University as visiting assistant professor. I'm teaching multiple classes, from linguistics to first-year writing and first-year writing for international students. I also recently began a book project; I am co-editing a collection titled “The Dual Enrollment Kaleidoscope: Reconfiguring Perceptions of First-Year Writing and Composition Studies” with Christine Denecker.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: This is such a hard question to answer. While I’m not sure if $40 million would do it, I would try to help more women have access to reproductive healthcare. This money could provide women with access to services, such as prenatal care, birth control options, doctors and sexual violence support services.

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