Oneida Scholars Series Presents Dr Wendi Sierra

Dustin Skenandore

dustin skenandore | yl voice | sept. 2018

Dr. Wendi Sierra, an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation, currently works as an assistant professor at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. She has also held three other academic appointments: she was a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Oklahoma and she was a graduate teaching assistant as well as the graduate assistant director of first year writing at North Carolina State University.

Sierra's research is primarily on games, game design and rhetoric (and game rhetoric and game design rhetoric). In other words, she researches how games influence us, inform us, and possibly even posit how the world is, or ought to be, as well as how game designers go about making the games that do all this.

Sierra has taught over 20 different courses in English, digital cultures and technologies and communications departments. These have ranged from beginning freshman writing courses to advanced senior projects. A small sample of some of the courses she has taught include College Writing, Writing in/around Games, Digital Feminisms, Media History and Theory, Studies in Digital Technology: Game Modding and Video Game Design.

Sierra's classes are a healthy blend of traditional assignments (game reviews, research papers, etc.) and non-traditional assignments (multimodal video project, game design and creation, etc.). One of the primary concerns of digital studies is accessibility of materials for students with financial limitations. Sierra attempts to mitigate this as much as possible, creating a fairly accessible classroom environment.

In addition to her professorship, Sierra has a plethora of scholarly activity, including several publications and a wide variety of peer-reviewed presentations. One of her most fascinating accomplishments is the creation of the game “C's The Day," an alternate reality-like game that takes place at the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication, which has players completing certain quests related to the conference in order to win prizes. The game has four official goals, as stated on the game's official website: 1) To demonstrate how gameplay can produce engagement and learning, 2) to augment the conference experience, particularly for newcomers who might find the conference environment particularly daunting, 3) to encourage meaningful professional development among players by presenting such opportunities in a playful context, and 4) to promote concepts of “gift economy" by making the game free of charge and by building quests that promote positivity, creativity and generosity.

Given that the game has been officially adopted by the Conference on College Composition and Communication and is profoundly loved by its players, I would say the game has succeeded in its goals.

Sierra will be participating in the second “Oneida Scholars" event, made possible by Oneida Higher Education and the Oneida Community Education Center, and speaking about her work and her research on October 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Oneida Community Education Center, 2632 S. Packerland Drive, Green Bay.


Dustin Skenandore is a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University and currently works with the Oneida Nation Arts Program and the Oneida Community Education Center.

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