Erica Stone is a doctoral student in the Technical Communication and Rhetoric program at Texas Tech University. Her research centers on the flow of information, social media’s role in identity development, and the intellectuals’ role in history and popular culture.

A speaker at our It’s About Time event, Erica is a technical communicator who envisions a world where the ivory towers of academia open their walls to the public. Here we talk about Walt Whitman, photography, and the science of altruism.

You have a Walt Whitman quote on your site: “That you are here—that life exists, and identity; That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.” What’s your analysis of this? How does this apply to your life?

I guess that’s a pretty existential quote for a website landing page! As a writer, researcher, and teacher, I try to remember that life is temporary, and we only have a short amount of time to make an impact on the world—to contribute our verse. When I teach, I encourage my students to consider what they will do to make a difference in the world. So often undergraduates are focused on earning a particular degree in order to obtain a certain job or lifestyle. I try to inspire them to slow down, to engage with their communities, and to write a verse that will make a meaningful impact. (Also, it’s a quote from my favorite scene in Dead Poets Society!)

What do you do when you’re not researching or teaching?

I like to spend my spare time hiking, camping, and biking. I also love to visit art galleries and museums, take photos of architecture and landscapes, and explore new cities and cultures. I also spend a lot of time in coffee shops! I love a good cup of coffee, and nothing makes me happier than working in a public place where I can listen to 12 different conversations at once (I have teacher ears!).  Independent coffee shops like Rooster and Moon and Little Owl Coffee here in Denver are great places to rhetorically listen–to really hear what people are thinking, what their concerns are, and ‘take the temperature’ of the community.

What do you love about Colorado?

I have moved around a lot, and I have connections to many different states. In fact, in the last eight years, I have lived in five states—Alabama, Wyoming, Georgia, Colorado, and Missouri. Colorado is where I have felt the most at home. To me, home is more of an idea than a place; it’s constructed by the activities you fill your time with and the people you invest in. Those two things really came together for me during my two years in Denver. But, the last two years aren’t my only connection with Colorado. Growing up, my family and immediate neighbors visited Colorado every spring break to ski. We would rent a large cabin that could accommodate 18 people for a week. It was on these trips that I fell in love with Colorado. Despite growing up in Alabama, my parents and grandparents have always called me their “mountain girl.”

What was the last book you read?

I usually read about 20 articles a week, but the last book I read was Community Action and Organizational Change: Image, Narrative, Identity by Brenton D. Faber. Dr. Faber investigates how a technical communication scholar can invest in the narratives of organizations to encourage agency and social change. I became interested in this book because I have a heart for alternative scholarship that bridges the gaps between universities and the communities in which they reside. I am also using this as a textbook in a discourse class that focuses on community engagement.

Do you have a favorite TED talk?

Because I have a servant’s heart and often find myself giving away more energy that I can reasonably offer, I found Abigail Marsh’s Why Some People are More Altruistic than Others talk about the science behind altruism to be fascinating.

What do you believe It’s About Time for in your life?

This is sort of a quirky answer to this question, but it’s about time for me to start paying attention to the type of music I consume. I’ve become so dependent on Pandora and Spotify to curate my music for me. Remember the days when we made carefully selected mix tapes of just the right songs for a road trip? It’s time to get back to that!