erin daina mcclellan

erindainaunderwood-imageI am  currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Boise State University with an emphasis in Rhetoric. In particular, I study how various vernacular and official rhetorics in and about public places and spaces (particularly public squares and plazas) help reveal often overlooked sense-making processes people have about the public sphere and the larger cities and towns within which they reside. My interest is at the intersections of publics theory, place and space, material rhetorics, practices of public participation and cross-institutional collaboration, and urban communication processes, practices, and scholarship. Most recently I have begun exploring issues of urban sustainability in relation to public participatory processes of public place (re)design and development processes.

I regularly teach an array of upper- and lower-division and graduate-level courses in rhetoric at Boise State, supporting the Public Communication Emphasis Area of the B.A. in Communication, the Rhetoric & Composition-Communication Track of the B.A. in English, and the M.A. in Communication. I held a Visiting Assistant Professor position for two years at Denison University from 2007-09 before arriving at Boise State, where I taught courses including Contemporary Rhetorical Theories, a Senior Seminar in Cultures in Conversation, a Senior Seminar in Rhetoric, Culture, & Urban Life, Rhetoric & Persuasion, Argumenatation & Debate, and Public Speaking. I also have experience teaching upper level courses in Rhetoric & Civic Community, Rhetoric, Culture, & Urban Life, Rhetorical Foundations, Principles & Practices of Argumentation, Public Speaking, and Perspecitves on Human Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where I served as both a Graduate Teaching Assistant and Lead Graduate Teacher from 2006-07. I graduated with my PhD in 2007. For more information, please click on the "Teaching" link at the bottom of the page.

During my time
at Boise State (since 2009), I have taught a variety of upper division public communication courses both on main campus and through the Extended Studies evening program in Canyon County. I have also co-facilitated the community-university initiative, Urban Lunch, sponsored by Boise State's College of Social Science and Public Affairs and University of Idaho's Department of Architecture and Interior Design's Idaho Urban Research and Design Center for the past year. I've been involved with Boise State University's downtown presence, formerly in the Alaska Building at Center on Main and currently in the BoDo space recently acquired by the University. I am thrilled to be learning about so much of the ongoing work the City of Boise and many of its partners are engaged in, particularly around the idea of "smart growth," "liveability," and "sustainable regional development." I am recently involved in Boise Valley's Multi-Modal Citizen Advisory Committee and look forward to continuing new opportunities to participate in such initiatives as they arise.

I have served in various capacities to support my department, college, and university including Chair of the Faculty Senate Diversity Committee, liaison to the Cultural & Ethnic Diversity Board, Chair of the Communication Department Curriculum Committee, PI on a Boise State University Arts & Humanities Institute grant that founded and continues to support an Interdisciplinary Research Community on "Translating Sustainability," and have experience fostering an interdisciplinary teaching partnership with a colleague in the Department of Community & Regional Planning. I've also worked closely with the development and growth of general education requirements at both Denison University and Boise State University around the Communication Across the Discipline (CXC) initiative, at Boise State in their new Foundational Studies Program Communication-in-the-Disciplines (or CID) courses. I've been working closely with difference matters support for faculty and staff and inclusive excellence development at our institution. I have also served as an Advisor and/or Committee member for undergraduate Honors students (at Boise State and Dension) and undergraduate senior Fellows (at Denison) as well as Master's level graduate students in the Communication Department at Boise State.

My ongoing research combines qualitative and rhetorical methods of data collection and analysis of symbolic communication in and about cities. My work focuses on both official and vernacular rhetorics used to make sense of public spaces and places as a way to engage in successful and sustainable urban planning, implementation, and problem-solution discussions that cities face in imagining, creating, and managing public places and spaces. My current project centers around explorations of four nationally touted “(un)successful” public squares: Portland, Oregon’s Pioneer Courthouse Square; Prescott, Arizona’s Courthouse Plaza; Savannah, Georgia's Johnson Square; and Boston, Massachussetts's City Hall Plaza. I've been fortunate enough to have been awarded a $1,000 Urban Communication Foundation 2007 Research Incentive Prize for a project entitled "Rhetorics of Place and Space in the Public Square: Savannah, Georgia" that was used to conduct research in Summer 2008 and a $1,000 2011 International Communication Association James W. Carey Urban Communication Award to support my final phase of comparative data collection in Boston's City Hall Plaza. My work seeks to establish and nurture relationships with people in positions of influence for urban planning and development so that vernacular rhetoric of use and official rhetorics of design may be mutually engaged in the process of designing and developing public arenas (like squares). By focusing on public arenas, I hope to further engage, facilitate, and participate in productive discussion of issues of difference and power as they emerge in relation to culture, identity, urbanity, and sustainability. My approach to studying rhetorics of public squares utilizes a place-based qualitative approach to the study of rhetoric as it "exists in the world". This mixed-methods approach is both informed by what is happening in the world according to the diverse people who engage it while enabling varied foci, ways of speaking, displaying, and identifying problems and solutions that both align and diverge among the various peoples associated with any public arena.

My most recent publications include a co-authored chapter (2014) in the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy
on "deep interdisciplinarity" and a single-authored chapter in the book Sagebrush and Solitude: Confronting the Policy Challenges of the Great Basin (eds. Dennis R. Judd & Stephanie Witt, Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2015) on the discursive power of "Top 10" lists for "best cities." I've also recently authored a chapter addressing the consequences of focusing solely on "official" accounts of public issues (like Occupy Portland) rather than in relation to "everyday" accounts of those same issues in Understanding Occupy from Wall Street to Portland: Applied Studies in Communication Theory (eds. Renee Guarriello Heath, Courtney Vail Fletcher, Ricardo Munoz, Chapter 9, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013) and published in an international scholarly journal focusing on future research directions of "urban rhetorics" (lo Squaderno, volume 25, 2012, Special Issue on Urban Rhetorics). I also have an article in Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies (volume 4.1, 2008, Special Issue on "The City") on the vernacular performances in and about Portland, Oregon's Pioneer Courthouse Square and a co-authored chapter with Gerard A. Hauser in an edited volume by Sharon Stevens and Patricia Malesh entitled Active Voices: Composing a Rhetoric of Social Movements (2009). An article based on my Master's Thesis appears in the peer reviewed academic journal Storytelling, Self, and Society (volume 7.3, 2011) focusing on how the constitution of what "counts" as community changes among transients, tourists, and locals in a Rocky Mountain community and a co-authored article with Lawrence R. Frey on the various ways the notion of "community" have been studied in the communication discipline (volume 31 of Communication Yearbook, 2007). I continue to remain active in international, national, and regional conferences on an regular basis, and have several projects at any given time. For more information, please click on the "Research" link below or view my most up-to-date CV (also linked below).

Please see the following links for more information: