13 New Faculty and Staff Join the College This Semester

This semester, the College of Arts & Letters welcomed 13 new faculty and staff members, seven of whom work for the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures. The 13 new faculty and staff members include the following:

Kirk Astle

a man with short hair wearing a black shirt

Kirk Astle, Assistant Professor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, specializes in the theory and rhetoric of power and teaching in carceral environments. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy in English, with a concentration in Literatures of the Americas, from Michigan State University in 2005. He served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for MSU’s Department of English and a Graduate Writing Consultant for MSU’s Writing Center. Astle previously was the Dean of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Baker College and has been an Adjunct Instructor at five different universities and a Visiting Instructor at two other universities. He received a four-year Teaching Assistantship from MSU’s Department of English in 1999 and earned a BS in Literature in English from Northwestern Michigan University in 1996, graduating magna cum laude.

Robert Cummiskey

the spartan head

Robert Cummiskey, Instructor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, received an MA in Creative Writing from Miami University in 2008 and will earn his PhD in Creating Writing: Poetry from Western Michigan University in 2020. He also earned a BA in Creative Writing, English, and History from Ashland University in 1999. He has taught various English courses as an Adjunct Instructor at Kellogg Community College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and Western Michigan University. He also served as a Doctoral Associate Instructor at Western Michigan University and a Graduate Assistant Instructor at Miami University. His teaching interests include developmental college writing, composition and rhetoric, introductory literature, contemporary American and world literature, and creative writing.


Christopher Estrada

a man wearing glasses and a black shirt with a grey jacket

Christopher Estrada, Assistant Professor of Portuguese, Department of Romance and Classical Studies, holds a doctorate in anthropology and history from the University of Michigan. He conducted fieldwork in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco for three years, where he focused on a form of musical and expressive culture known as “rural maracatu” linked to the history of sugar plantations.  His research interests include social movements, musical subcultures, ethnomusicology, and cultural patrimony across Latin America and the Caribbean.  Dr. Estrada has been a Ford and Fulbright-Hays fellow, has also done field research for the Florida Folklife Program, worked as an audio engineer and freelance translator, and previously taught history and anthropology at Florida Southwestern State College.


Laura Jones-Pettit

a women with brown hair wearing a blue shirt

Laura Jones-Pettit, Assistant Professor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, received an MFA in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College in 2011 and a BA in English Literature and Visual Arts from Elmira College in 2009. She served as Interim Associate Director of the Program of Writing and Rhetoric at Pennsylvania State University. She also worked as an Assistant Teaching Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, a Visiting Professor of English at Harbin Institute of Technology in Harbin, China, during the summers of 2014 and 2015, and a Writing Lecturer for the Freshman Writing Program at Elmira College. Since August 2017, she has served as the Class Dean for Sophomore Students and Programs for more than 600 student advisees at Colby College.


Autumn “Ellie” Mitchell

black and white image of a women wearing glasses and a dark shirt

Autumn “Ellie” Mitchell, Outreach Specialist, College of Arts & Letters Research and Scholarship, received a BA in Linguistics from Michigan State University in 2010 and will receive an MA in Humanities with a focus on Native American Studies from Central Michigan University in 2020. She has experience using the Anishaabemoin language as a Secondary Language Immersion Specialist, Intern for the Saginaw Chippewa Anishinaabe Language Revitalization Department, and Youth Worker in the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. Mitchell has made several academic presentations on language and the role of language in different Indigenous communities and literature. She is enrolled with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and Eagle Clan and is the owner and operator of Bead & Powwow Supply, LLC.                                        


Francisco Morales Rios

a man with short dark hair wearing a light blue shirt and sweater

Francisco Morales Rios, Coordinator for Spanish Basic Language Instruction, Department of Romance and Classical Studies, received an MA in Applied Spanish Linguistics at Michigan State University in 2013 and currently is working on completing his PhD in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Florida. His dissertation, The Spanish of Colombians in Tampa, Florida, examines the pronominal expression and the use of ser (‘to be’) structure in the speech of Colombian speakers from Tampa, Florida. In 2016, Morales Rios returned to Michigan State University to work as a Spanish Instructor. He recently was appointed Coordinator for the Spanish Basic Language Instruction program. His research focuses on sociolinguistics, language contact, language variation and change, and language teaching and technology.


Brandon Pettit

a man with short light hair with a checkered buttoned down shirt

Brandon Pettit, Assistant Professor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, received an MFA in Fine Arts in Poetry at the University of South Florida in 2010 and a BA in English from the State University of New York at Oswego in 2007. Previously, he was an Assistant Teaching Professor in the English Department at Pennsylvania University, a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Harbin Institute of Technology in Harbin, China, during the summers of 2014 and 2015, a Writing Lecturer at Elmira College, and an Instructor of English at the University of South Florida. In 2019, he launched a professional services business, GrantME, in Portland, Maine, which provides businesses with technical and strategic communication services. He continues to serve as a partner of the company.

Katelynn Rendi

a women in a white tank top with light brown hair

Katelynn Rendi, Academic Advisor and Excel Network Coordinator, The Excel Network, received a BS in Kinesiology from Michigan State University in 2016 and an M.Ed. in Higher Education from Grand Valley State University in 2019. As an MSU student, she was a Spartan Success Coach, an Academic Orientation Program Student Worker, and a Committee Member and President of the MSU Spartans Fighting Cancer. She also worked as a Community Resource Developer as part of the Operation Americorps team. As a graduate student at Grand Valley State University, she was both a Graduate Intern and Assistant working with students, faculty, and staff to coordinate engagement, help provide resources for the community, and help students with the transition to college.


Lisa Richman

a women with light brown hair  wearing a long sleeve white shirt

Lisa Richman, Assistant Professor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, specializes in gender, ethnicity, and social identities. She received a PhD in American Culture Studies in 2015 and an MA in American Culture Studies in 2008, both from Bowling Green State University (BGSU). She previously served as a Teaching Associate and Graduate Assistant at BGSU and continues to serve as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Core at Adrian College. Richman has mentored several students in their first-year work and currently teaches classes in Cultural Pluralism, Ethnic Studies, and Women’s Studies. She currently is developing a monograph that discusses the Farm Security Administration’s photography unit’s role in reinforcing the constructions of Mexicans.


Kayleen Schumacher-Madaj

spartan head

Kayleen Schumacher-Madaj, Assistant Professor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, received an MA in English Education from Saginaw Valley State University in 2007 and a BA in English Language and Literature from Central Michigan University in 2009. She is certified by the State of Michigan to teach at the secondary level in English, Geography, and Psychology. Currently, she is researching the impact and effectiveness of open education resources (OERs) on student learning outcomes, the construction of classroom communities, and feelings of inclusion. She also is reflecting on the experience of constructing an OER in order to provide insight to other instructors who might want to compile their own. She is a member of the Society for the study of Midwestern Literature.


Erica Starr

a women with short red hair wearing glasses and a yellow shirt

Erica Starr, Instructor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, earned her MA in Critical Studies in Literacy and Pedagogy from Michigan State University in 2019, graduating summa cum laude. She recently served as both a Graduate Writing Consultant and Graduate Writing Group Facilitator for MSU’s Writing Center, as well as a facilitator for the university’s graduate school. Prior to that she worked as a Teaching Assistant and Youth Facilitator at MSU. Starr has given four conference presentations and took part in six workshops in 2018 that explored writing, peer review, racism in the classroom, and effective communication using visuals. She served as President of the Writing, Rhetoric, and Praxis Graduate Student Organization, the graduate student group for MSU’s Rhetoric and Writing program.


Shakara Tyler

a women with her hair pulled back wearing red earrings and a black shirt

Shakara Tyler, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Philosophy, identifies as a returning-generation farmer, seedkeeper, and community organizer. Her research explores community-centered pedagogies and decolonial and participatory research methodologies at the intersections of food justice, food sovereignty, environmental justice, and climate justice movement building primarily among Black communities. She serves as a board member of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and Detroit Peoples’ Food Co-op, a coordinating member of the Black Dirt Farm Collective within the Mid-Atlantic region, and served on the advisory board as a research and educational consultant with the Southeast African American Farmers Organic Network in Georgia, and has worked with the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems as the Underserved Farmer Development Specialist. 

Sarah Wellman

a women with dark hair wearing glasses and a white shirt and black jacket

Sarah Wellman, Academic and Technology Specialist, College of Arts & Letters Technology Office, specializes in organizing online courses. She comes to MSU from Bay Mills Community College (BMCC) where she was an Adjunct Instructor and Macomb Community College (MCC) where she was an Instructional Technology Specialist. She previously served as an Instructional Technology Technician at MCC and an Online Academic Coordinator, Academic Advisor, and Online Technical Assistant at BMCC. She received an MA in Education Technology from Central Michigan University (CMU) in 2015 and a BA in Studio Art and Graphic Design from Michigan State University in 2008. She has two Graduate Certificates, one from MSU for Education Technology and another from CMU for College Teaching.