UCI Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives Exhibit Sparks Doctoral Dissertation
UCI alumna Allison Dziuba (PhD ’22) would never have guessed that her involvement with a small hallway exhibit on UCI student publications would lead her to the topic of her doctoral dissertation.
In 2016 Dziuba contributed to the Special Collections & Archives exhibit, Speaking Up: Fifty Years of Student Publications at UCI, which highlighted writing by UCI students within a context of activism.
“Working with Special Collections and Archives was a really important experience for me as a researcher,” said Dziuba, now a tenure-track assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama. “Looking at UCI student publications, asking questions about them, and being engaged in the writing that these students were doing really sparked my whole dissertation.”
Dziuba’s dissertation research was concerned with how university students create a sense of belonging. She looked at how students’ experiences in and outside of class inform each other and how students use and produce language to talk, write about, and understand their positions within civic and communal life.
It is this articulation that Dziuba thinks helps students connect with each other and to feel like they belong on college campuses.
Dziuba conducted her research with an intersectional feminist lens and a focus on rhetoric. As part of her research, she looked closely at UCI student publications such as The Womyn’s Quarterly, The Phoenix, La Voz Mestiza, Rice Paper, and Umoja. Many of these publications were considered forms of alternative media and were produced in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Alternative media addressed problems affecting students from marginalized communities that the main campus newspaper failed to mention. The student publications also allowed students to assert their identities and to challenge any related misconceptions.
“I examined student newspapers, group meetings, and events that often involve counterpublics that critique dominant narratives and draw energy from activist legacies. So I'm approaching the student publications that I'm looking at here as forms of counterpublic discourse,” Dziuba explained.
Dziuba’s research looked at how this alternative media has been fundamental in fostering belonging. The students in the publications she looked at identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community and as racial minorities.
It was through their self-sponsored publications that students were able to find community. Alternative media also enabled students to affirm their place at UCI, to raise awareness of current events, and to relay their concerns to allies outside of the university.
DZIUBA'S EXPERIENCE WITH SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES
The Speaking Up exhibit was Dziuba’s first encounter with The Womyn’s Quarterly, a UCI student-run publication that she later used in her dissertation research.
“As I was reading The Womyn’s Quarterly, the thing that really struck me is how students were talking about their lives outside of college, their extracurricular college activities and activism and their coursework all together,” said Dziuba. “That kind of cross-boundary, cross-contextual analysis and reflection are really fascinating to me.”
Dziuba says Special Collections & Archives’ Outreach and Public Services Librarian Derek Quezada and University Archives’ Digital Archivist Elvia Arroyo-Ramirez were both particularly helpful in her dissertation research.
“Derek answered all my questions, and Elvia sent me additional resources and directed me toward a project around the history of Asian American Studies at UCI. She was really looking out for things that would be of interest to me. I appreciated them sharing those resources,” Dziuba commented.
Dziuba also spoke to the significance of having had access to archives on campus and in-person.
“It’s a different experience of reading something in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room,” she remarked. “As I’m reading about these student activities, I’m on the campus where these students were. As a researcher, it’s a different feeling and sensation to be doing it that way.”
Starting this fall, Dziuba will be teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of Alabama. In her courses, she plans to utilize the university’s libraries and archives.
“I’m hoping for the undergraduate course, which is an upper-division writing class, to engage the history of the institution and the surrounding area,” she shared.
She feels hosting class sessions in the archives will bring the topic to life for her students.
In addition to her English PhD from UCI, Dziuba also has a BA in gender and sexuality studies and literary arts from Brown University.
She is currently in the process of creating a book manuscript from her dissertation.
UCI LIBRARIES' ANTEATER SPIRIT EXHIBIT
UCI Libraries’ exhibit, Anteater Spirit: Student Activism That (Re)shaped UCI, 1965 to Now, examines campus activism at UCI through a student perspective and features alternative media like the publications studied by Dziuba. The exhibit is on display November 2022 through mid-April 2023. Visit the exhibit webpage for more details and visitor information.
The header image for this story is the front cover of the spring 1992 edition of Rice Paper, a UCI student newspaper.