To the beautiful lives that have been lost
because hate was justified more often
than love was given.
I love you.
We love you.
Rest in power.
I have received more support than I can possibly acknowledge in a few short pages. I would like to share my appreciation of my fabulous advisor, Dr. Barbara Friedman, who has helped me learn how to write and express myself in a way that I never thought possible. I thank her for her mentorship, patience, and care. Though she has helped me grow in my scholarship and in my teaching, she has also helped me grow in my confidence, and as a person in general. I would also like to thank my committee members for their support not only in the completion of this dissertation, but also in my progression in this field and in my education. Dr. Benjamin Thevenin has witnessed me grow since my undergraduate education and has been a beacon of light in my journey. When doubting myself today, I still think of a time when I was disappointed in what at the time felt like a lack of creativity, to which he said, “Alexis, your work is freaking cool and you are so talented.” A small remark then has pushed me forward in my *many* moments of doubt. I am in awe of Dr. Tina Harris and the work she has done to make communication spaces and classrooms more equitable to all. I hope someday to have the ability to be as influential as she has been. Dr. Trevy McDonald was my first mentor at UNC, and when I felt lost because I suspected my interest in teaching and diversity was not valued in scholarship, her attention to my teaching and work reminded me that my thoughts and interests were important. She always treated me as both a colleague and a friend, and I am forever grateful for that. Dr. Daniel Kreiss has additionally been a rock for me during my doctoral work. He has always cheered me on and emphasized the importance of my work. I am grateful for his confidence in my work and in me as a person. So, thank you all, for everything.
I additionally want to thank my advisors throughout my education—Mr. Tom Lefler, Dr. Bill Yousman, and Dr. Anne Johnston. Thank you all for your endless support to this day. Thank you also to my classmates, who have taught me so much. Your work is important. Thank you especially to Ashley Hendrick, who has spent hours reading over my work as my dissertation buddy, and to Tegan Bratcher, my Ph.D. sis that has been there through ups and downs and will be a forever friend. Thank you to all of my educators from kindergarten to my final class in my Ph.D. program. A special thanks to Dr. Lori Bindig-Yousman, Dr. Sharon Swenson, and Courtney Russell, who were the female mentors I needed to know that this journey was possible for me. When life at home was tough, school was always a place where I could focus on learning and growing, and I know this would not have been possible without dedicated educators. Thank you to the lunch ladies and school nurses, who took care of me in ways that I needed more than I can ever explain.
I have gratitude to my family that may not necessarily understand what it is that I am doing, but fully cheer me on and support me in my journey. I know that they believe I am breaking a cycle by making it this far in my education. I hope that they know that they also broke cycles, and without that there’s no way that I would be here. Thank you for the work you put in to survive and to help me survive. I love you, and if you are unsure at all, I forgive you. I thank my family for giving me the best they could, and for always teaching me to be an independent free thinker—that alone has moved mountains. I thank my friends who have listened through my tears, and who have celebrated my victories. Thank you to Marisa Levario, Josey Sargent, Bethany Hoffman, Erin Comstock, Sydney Nicolla, Melody Chow, Sara Wejebe and Noëlle Mouton for being my go-to foundation. Thank you to supportive church members that have lifted my spirit when it was falling, and thank you to my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother who have loved and cared for me even when my faith was lost. I want to express my appreciation to my healthcare workers who have helped me take care of myself and heal through this process. My body and brain quite literally could not have done this without you. Thank you to all healthcare workers and essential workers for taking care of all of us during this awful pandemic, and thank you to the activists and political leaders that have fought for justice in this time of dread and hurt—you are the reason that change and progress continues.
Thank you to my partner, who has also sacrificed so much so I can achieve this dream of mine. He has loved me and cared for me more than I ever thought I deserved. He has listened to my rants, held me during my lows, and been my biggest source of support along the way. I am endlessly thankful. And thank you to our little (and big) doggos for the unconditional love. We really don’t deserve dogs.
Lastly, thank you to my body for keeping us going. Thank you for healing, and for telling me when to slow down. Thank you for carrying me even when I did not treat you as I should. Thank you for lifting me even when I did not like you very much. Thank you for doing what you needed to do, so I could learn to love you. We achieved more than the world ever told us we could. We made it.