It’s a given that most students will be affected by what they choose to study in college. But when it comes to Chris Hixon ‘15 ‘21M.A., that impact went both ways. Ask around in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, and you’ll find that he made just as much of an impact on the program as it made on him.
Hixon knew he wanted to study rhetoric ever since he was first introduced to the field in high school. Graduating this summer with his Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Composition, he’s looking forward to shaping the future of the discipline that continues to inspire him.
“Through this program, I hoped to use this educational opportunity to become a better writer, a stronger communicator and a more responsible global citizen,” he shares. “The field of rhetoric and composition is constantly changing — I wanted to be on the cutting edge of that change and move this discipline forward.”
Looking back on his time in the M.A. program, Hixon feels that his experience was shaped by the scholars and texts that he studied. Just days before the murder of George Floyd, he was assigned Safiya Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression, a text that explores how search engines can perpetuate discrimination and oppression by reflecting society’s biases.
“I had to face the reality of nationwide social unrest surrounding the topic of systemic racism while simultaneously pushing myself to learn the scholarship that displayed its impact on the digital world,” he explains. “While overwhelming at times, my studies equipped me to lean into scholarship to garner a better understanding of how we can use our words to mend a nation that seemed so broken and divided.”
For his part, Hixon provided his graduate program with stellar moments both inside and outside of the classroom. In doing so, he formed close bonds and left an impact on staff and faculty members alike — including Jennifer Cunningham, the department’s programs assistant, and department chair Sherry Rankins-Robertston.
“Chris was the first student that I met with after started my position in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric,” says Cunningham. “He became a great asset to the graduate program by using his devotion to social justice to bring his unique experiences to the classroom.”
“Chris Hixon is a champion for how this degree demonstrates writing in action,” Rankins-Robertson adds. “His position at the university enhanced his critical thinking and theoretical application of his master’s coursework.”
One notable example of Hixon’s impact on the department can be found in the role he played at UCF Celebrates the Arts 2021. He was tapped by Rankins-Robertson to introduce linguistic justice expert Dr. April Baker-Bell at her event, “If Black Language Ain’t Artful, Then Tell Me, What Is?”
“I was talking to Chris one day in the hallway, and he said how excited he was that one of the scholars he had been studying in a course was the featured speaker at UCF Celebrates the Arts, so I said why don’t you introduce her. His face was overcome with excitement,” she says.
“When you read scholarly texts, you see these ideas in black and white,” Hixon explains. “You take snippets of some scholars and connect them to others. Being able to introduce Dr. April Baker-Bell showed me the vibrant colors the come with ideas in action. It was a humbling experience that I’ll never forget.”
Looking to the future, Chris Hixon knows writing and rhetoric will continue to drive his journey — as will philanthropy. Currently, he works as the Assistant Director of Leadership Annual Giving for UCF Advancement, a role that unites his passions for storytelling and community.
“Every person that attends this university brings a different lived experience,” he explains. “In my role, I use their stories to build a stronger alumni community and garner necessary support through philanthropy. To be able to bring people together to move the university forward through giving is powerful. I am fortunate to connect experiences to meaningful impact, on the lives of students today and the future Knights to come.”