Jenna Vinson

Associate Professor of English, UMass Lowell


I am committed to building strong communities and practicing public scholarship. For me, being a public scholar is about “outreach”—reaching beyond the academy to 1) make my research accessible and meaningful for the non-academic community and 2) respond to local exigencies by initiating, facilitating, or participating in critical dialogues about social justice.  

Responding to Community Exigencies

Volunteer at Teen Parent Lobby Day, 2014 & 2015

In the spring of 2014 and 2015, I played a small part by volunteering at the Massachusetts Alliance on Teenage Pregnancy’s annual “Teen Parent Lobby Day” at the Boston state house. Each year, the Alliance brings staff and participants of Massachusetts-based young parent programs to the state house to advocate for continued funding for their programs. During the event, young parents, lobbyists, and policymakers speak about the need to support and respect young parents. 

Founding Member of Feminist Action Research in Rhetoric (FARR), 2009-2013

I co-founded this coalition of scholars and activists of public rhetoric who facilitate community discussions, performances, and events related to contemporary social issues in the Tucson community and beyond. Together, we raise funds, promote, and organize a yearly feminist speaker series. We are committed to planning interactive  public events in conjunction with guest lectures during these visits. Past speakers have included  Margaret D. Jacobs, Aimee Carrillo Rowe, and Alicia Schmidt Camacho. Learn more about FARR here.

Participant in Tucson Public Library’s Mexican American Studies Book Club, Summer 2012

In 2012, the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board suspended Tucson High School’s longstanding Mexican American Studies (MAS) program. Soon after, the books that were used as part of the MAS curriculum were taken out of the classrooms. Many in the community understood the books as “banned” from students. Dr. Marissa Juarez initiated and facilitated a book club focused on reading and discussing some of the “banned books” in response to this local controversy. Learn more about the controversy and the book club here.

Intervening in Vilifying Discourses About an Undergraduate and “Teenage Pregnancy,” 2009 

I responded to a campus community tragedy involving an undergraduate who gave birth in a dorm shower. In order to intervene in negative discourses about this young woman, “teenage pregnancy,” and irresponsible sexuality that erupted on the campus and in the community, I organized a public forum, wrote 2 letters to the campus newspaper editor, and invited a prestigious Women’s Studies scholar, Dr. Vivyan Adair, to visit the University of Arizona with her critically relevant photo-narrative exhibition “The Missing Story of Ourselves: Poverty and the Promise of Higher Education.” In order to make her visit successful, I co-founded FARR (see above) and networked with campus and community organizations to raise money and awareness for her visit. With the help of FARR, I managed the details for Dr. Adair’s talk and stay in Tucson.  This also included arranging for the shipping and display of her photo-narrative exhibit. I was nominated for the University of Arizona Student Excellence Award for these efforts.

Building Community

Research Associate, Center for Women and Work, 2014-Present

I serve as a research associate with the Center for Women and Work at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. In addition to supporting each other’s scholarship, we work together to build community on campus and address issues of gender disparity as they intersect with issues of race, class, sexuality, and the economic structures underlying everyday experiences of hostility.

Workshop Facilitator, STEPS BOSTON, 2014-2020

I regularly translate my research into workshops designed for the particular needs and interests of the young parents who attend the summer Summit for Teen Empowerment and Parenting Success (STEPS), organized by the Center for Community Health and Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. See Invited Presentations and Workshops for more information.

Founding Member, Family Advocacy Coalition for English Students (FACES), 2008-2013

I helped to initiate this University of Arizona English Graduate Union subcommittee of parenting graduate students who support parenting students in the English department and campus community. Together, FACES has developed a resource handbook for new graduate student  parents at the university, advocated for parenting graduate students rights to equitable parental leave, and collected narratives to build an archive of parenting students’ experiences at the university.

Volunteer, Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services (T.O.P.S.), 2006-2013

I wrote two grant proposals and volunteered at a promotional event for this local program for teen parents. I also mentored a pregnant teen and her boyfriend through the pregnancy, birth, and first year with their first child. UA students and I currently support this organization through a service-learning partnership.

Mentorship Coordinator, University of Arizona, 2008-2010

I co-managed the Rhetoric, Composition, and Teaching of English Graduate Program’s volunteer mentorship program. This included recruiting experienced students to participate, matching new students with appropriate advanced students in the program, and organizing an annual pre-semester social.

Graduate Student Mentor, University of Arizona, 2007-2010

During my time at the University of Arizona I mentored three new students in the Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English graduate program. This including checking in on their progress during their first year, sharing meals, and referring them to resources when needed.