Northern Michigan University English Professor Kia Jane Richmond is the student-selected faculty speaker for the Dec. 6 virtual commencement celebration honoring all 2020 graduates. She was chosen through a nomination process overseen by ASNMU, the student government organization.
Richmond is in her 20th year as an NMU faculty member and said she could not imagine a better way to mark the milestone. She also directs the English education program and supervises student teachers in Michigan and Wisconsin. She said her approach to teaching is grounded in Carl Rogers' principles of communication in helping relationships: congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding.
“According to Rogers, we are always in the process of becoming, and with the assistance of a helping relationship, we can successfully become who we can be,” she said. “My goal in teaching every class is to develop positive relationships with students to help them in their processes of becoming.
“I try to emphasize care before content, which I hope has been evident to students in my classes in English education, young adult literature and the humanities. In addition, I believe that we need joy to balance out the serious subjects of study we take up in the English classroom. Therefore, I make sure each class session includes an opportunity for us to laugh together while learning about literature, writing or how to teach English language arts.”
In 2019, Richmond published Mental Illness in Young Adult Literature: Exploring Real Struggles through Fictional Characters. The book analyzed the genre's portrayals of real struggles such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder since 2000.
“There's really been a renaissance over the past 15 years in terms of psychological issues being depicted in young adult literature,” she said in a related story. “The portrayals are more authentic now; they're not exaggerated and don't follow predictable negative stereotypes. Most of the books I feature show young adults seeking help. Not all of them have happy endings, but they're realistic. Everyone knows someone with some form of mental illness, so it's a highly relevant topic that we need to talk about; we can't pretend that it doesn't exist.”
In addition to young adult literature, Richmond's other research interests are teacher-student relationships, psychology and English education pedagogy. Her publications have appeared in numerous journals.
Richmond earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and English with a writing emphasis from Texas Christian University. She also holds a master's in English composition and rhetoric from Texas A&M University-Commerce and a doctorate in English studies with a composition and pedagogy emphasis from Illinois State University.
Northern's virtual celebration will honor all graduates from May, August and December 2020. It will also include messages from President Fritz Erickson, Board Chair Steve Mitchell and student speaker Cecilia Ruiz. The event can be viewed at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, at nmu.edu/commencement.