By Amberly Millis (’16)
Introducing Professor Sarah Taylor to the School of Communication Studies! Prior to coming to James Madison University, Taylor studied English literature and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Her academic work revolved around gender identity and how people construct/disclose personal narratives. Following that, Taylor attended the University of Northern Iowa for graduate school to continue her studies on how the way in which individuals “story” themselves reveals their identity narratives, specifically sexual orientation and gender identity. As a student, Taylor was heavily involved in intercollegiate forensics (a form of competitive public speech). First as a competitor and then as a coach— Taylor states that this involvement acted as the application of what she had learned in her academic history.
After completing her graduate work, Taylor spent a few years working as a corporate trainer for both an academic software company and digital marketing firm. Within this position, she spent her time working with adult learners and preparing them for their future careers. Taylor states that this helped her further apply what she had learned in communication studies with regards to organizational communication. Following this, Taylor accepted the position as instructor at JMU! Taylor states that she came to JMU for many reasons, most notably due to the wealth of professional development opportunities for her as both a teacher and an academic. She states that she believes most teachers, who find themselves working in higher education, care very deeply about developing and honing their research abilities, as well as refining their pedagogy. Taylor has been thrilled to find both avenues teeming with chances to better herself. In her time at JMU, she hopes to continue to revise and polish her approach to teaching the basic course (SCOM 123) and find more productive ways to meet University requirements while still empowering her students to become engaged, passionate human beings.
Taylor’s research interests have evolved dramatically within the last five years. She continues to have a strong interest in the performance of queer identities in the corporate space, especially following her experience as a corporate trainer. However, her immediate research interests apply to what is most present in her life as of the moment, which involves integrating social justice paradigms and ethical reasoning into the basic communication course. She is currently working with Professor Annelise Ewing, a fellow new faculty member, to explore themes of social justice in the basic course. Both Taylor and Ewing will be co-teaching a summer program for Valley Scholars that will explore some of these themes!
Taylor states that her love for JMU and the SCOM has only continued to grow ever since she first stepped foot on campus. She provided us with one example in particular as to why she believes working here is truly an exceptional experience. During the spring semester, Taylor was wrought with challenges that she had not anticipated. A family emergency led her 1000 miles away from JMU and back to Wisconsin. During that time, she received no backlash from the department but an outpouring of sincere thoughts, prayers and offerings of support. In reflection, Taylor states, “I cannot say how much that has meant to me as a new faculty member, and I am entirely grateful for the community in this department that elicited that response.”
When Taylor is out of the classroom, she enjoys spending her free time with her fiancé. Recently, she has been very busy planning their upcoming wedding! She states that she looks forward to all of their adventures ahead, whether that be going to concerts, baking or exploring! Taylor offers her students the following pieces of advice, “Find out what you care about and pursue that RECKLESSLY. I loved my work as a corporate trainer, but I recognized that it was not what I was supposed to be doing forever. So, I shifted gears, pulled up my roots, moved 1000 miles away and began the lifelong work of becoming a teacher. Give yourself permission to decide, change directions, flounder and fly.”
Please give Professor Taylor a warm welcome!