Dr. Beth Godbee's new Venture
At the end of this year, Dr. Beth Godbee is leaving academia to pursue a new venture as an “educator going public,” and it’s only fitting that we feature her in one of our stories; Dr. Godbee started this newsletter in her “Writing for the Professions” class, with the inaugural issue appearing in Fall 2013.
Both of the newsletter interns have been Dr. Godbee’s students, and before we share Dr. Godbee’s interview, Annie and Abby reflect on their experiences with her.
This semester, I was lucky enough to enroll in Dr. Godbee’s Writing for Social Justice course. She fostered a sense of community and classroom dynamic I had never experienced before. She was attentive to the needs of each student so no one felt ignored or under the impression they could just blend into a sea of desks. Even in difficult, challenging conversations, she made me feel comfortable expressing myself. The smallest details she paid attention to, such as making sure everyone knew each other’s names or having everyone go around the room and say their highs and lows of their days, made all the difference. At times, it can feel like students are automatons going through the motions with the sole purpose of absorbing then regurgitating information. Dr. Godbee brought a sense of humanity to the classroom and created an educational experience that encapsulates what learning truly is.
Her wealth of knowledge on social justice is expansive, which made her a lot of fun to listen to. She really seems like the kind of person who takes new knowledge to heart and applies it to the way she lives out her life. She is a role model to me for demonstrating the importance of always learning and finding ways to be better. Having Dr. Godbee as a professor helped me grow as a writer and in ways that went beyond the intellectual; I grew emotionally and interpersonally to an extent that transformed how I interact with the world around me. There is no doubt that the wisdom and warmth she shed upon the Marquette community will be extended to all of her future endeavors.
It’s no secret that the demands on a professor’s time are enormous. Research, publication, and administrative work alone pull focus without even considering the many responsibilities that come with teaching and running a classroom. Yet I have been hard-pressed to find anyone as devoted to her students as Dr. Godbee. I first took her "Ethnography of the University" class last spring of 2017 and have since been fortunate to have her as an unofficial mentor. During class, Dr. Godbee worked with each of us individually to develop a strong research relationship and offer advice on our projects. When I was struggling to find interviewees for my research, she stayed late to work through it with me and come up with a solution. Her guidance has helped me become a more confident researcher and assertive student.
Though the student-teacher relationship sometimes ends with the semester, Dr. Godbee continued to stay in touch with research and academic opportunities throughout the summer. Since leaving her class, I have been able to count on her as a valuable source of advice, support, and friendship, and I know I’m not alone in that. While I will certainly miss having her at Marquette, Dr. Godbee will continue to do great work wherever her career takes her next, and I will always be grateful to have been her student.
Interview with Dr. Godbee
You’ve spent a lot of your time at Marquette building partnerships with the community. What contributed to that success?
Part of what I’ve most enjoyed here in Milwaukee has been building relationships with others committed to racial and social justice. What I’ll say about partnerships is that they are relationships like any others: they need multi-directional commitment and caretaking, the willingness to work through conflict, and the time to understand what each person/organization brings to the table. I’m especially grateful for campus and community partners because any success has only been because of the many people involved in imagining and building together.
For students who are interested in pursuing this work, how might they build and sustain these partnerships while they’re in school and after they graduate?
When considering partnerships, I’d consider commitments and how to make commitments actionable: that is, something you can truly act on with and alongside others. Said differently, consider what you are passionate about or fired up enough to get involved in for the long haul. What are you deeply invested in? What do you want to prioritize in everyday life—and why?
What advice do you have for Marquette students?
Here are three things I’m still learning and need to hear regularly:
- The absence of a strong yes is actually a no.
- It’s important to act, even/especially before feeling ready or right.
- Doing makes it so. If you write, you’re a writer. If you create, you’re an artist. Be brave, and call yourself by these names: writer and artist.
What’s next for you?
I’m offering public writing and community education—“going public as an educator.” This work is likely to take many forms, including in-person workshops, e-courses, retreats, consulting, and coaching. If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to contact me: email@example.com.
I’m also expanding my blog, Heart-Head-Hands.com, which focuses on feeling, thinking, and doing for justice—striving to align everyday living with a commitment to justice. And I’m working on a book about epistemic injustice, or the problem of prejudice interfering in marginalized peoples being listened to, believed, and able to name their own experiences. This work, I hope, will amplify voices of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC); will actively #CiteBlackWomen; and will ask white folks and folks with various sorts of power + privilege to communicate (listen-speak, read-write, witness-remember) differently.
How has your philosophy about teaching changed since you started at Marquette?
I have a vision of teaching that I’ve described as “pedagogical too-muchness” for the way it integrates undergraduate research, community-based learning, and other high impact educational practices, along with writing conferences, portfolios, co-authoring, digital publishing, contract grading, and other means of shaking up/off assumed ways of operating in school. Each of these critical approaches can be perceived as “too much” on their own, but together, they help disrupt the status quo, foster commitments to justice, and build agency beyond the classroom.
I’m still working toward this vision and still unlearning traditional means of schooling that educator-activist Paulo Freire described as the “banking model” of education. Many students, colleagues, and courses at Marquette have helped me with this unlearning process, and I’m sure to keep working toward this vision in the years to come.
Tell us about your blog, which has had a wide-reaching impact. What made you start writing it?
I started the blog in fall 2016, though I’d been thinking about it for a couple of years before that. I kept noticing recurring patterns—the same sort of questions and conversations coming up again and again. I thought that rather than have these conversations only within tight-knit groups, I’d like to make them public—to share beyond what friends in my social network might see in a Facebook post, for instance.
What do you hope people take away from it?
A lot of blogging advice encourages writers to speak to niche audiences, and I’m breaking that advice big-time by trying to speak widely to readers interested in social, racial, and environmental justice. I’m still learning about what works—and doesn’t—but I hope that readers take away a sense that everything in our lives from food to classroom conversation, from prayer practice to transportation is related to systems of (in)justice (and histories of colonization, exploitation, and dehumanization), which demand our attention. To strive toward justice, we need to be more in touch with our full selves: embodied, emotional, messy, fully human selves.
Have you used your success with academic publishing to inform your writing process when you write for the public?
Academic publishing has taught me a lot about writing, storytelling, and translating research for different audiences. As a researcher, I’m especially grateful for my academic training in ethnography, conversation analysis, and other research methods, which allow me to draw keen insights from everyday interactions and patterns of living. As a blogger, I share these insights, as I work against anti-intellectualism and instead bridge academic and public writing. Hopefully, I’ll continue to bridge in ways that not only build community action, but also feed back into higher education, which still feels like home.
Written by Annie Dysart and Abby Vakulskas