Tess Laidlaw (Assistant Professor)
Twitter & Insta: @maritime_rhetor
BSc (University of Winnipeg), MA Journalism (University of Western Ontario), PhD Interdisciplinary Studies (Rhetoric and Media Studies; University of Saskatchewan)
Tess’s central passion is the application of rhetorical theory to investigate practical communication on the topics of health and disease: how such communication occurs, its impacts, and the significance of implicit, symbolic, elements. She is particularly interested in how such communication traverses disciplinary boundaries. Her doctoral research examined media coverage during the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” outbreak via close reading and discourse analysis methods grounded in the theories of Kenneth Burke. She has presented her work in Canada and the U.S.
Current Research & Work in Progress
Current projects include a collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of scientists, clinicians, and doulas to analyse the symbolic impacts of communication in the context of pre-, peri-, and post-natal health (co-principal investigator); and membership in an interdisciplinary team studying the experience of obesity in pre-natal care. She is also principal investigator on a project leading to the development of a healthcare communication social-media decision-making framework grounded in rhetorical theory.
As a teacher committed to instruction in first-year classes, she is conducting research on the orientations of first-year university students and faculty-led techniques to positively impact first-year experiences (co-principal investigator).
Additional Research Interests
* The phenomenon of Othering / scapegoating in the context of disease outbreaks
* The place in disease discourse of maintaining social order
* The theme of compliance in expert discourse on disease
* Health communication in contexts where traditional knowledge is highly valued
Tess welcomes inquiries from prospective MA students interested in working in these or related areas.
Since 2011, Tess has taught at the Mount in the areas of communication theory, organizational theory, writing, public relations, and mass media, at undergraduate and graduate levels. She developed a new graduate-level course, Rhetorics of Health and Illness, first offered in Winter 2018. She co-ordinated the B.Sc. (Science Communication) program (2015-2016) and now teaches science communication. She has also taught at Saint Mary’s University and at the University of Saskatchewan.
Prior to beginning her academic career, Tess worked in public relations capacities at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and at a vaccine research and development organization based at the University of Saskatchewan. These roles, combined with experience as a technician in biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology, spurred an interest in the communication of scientific and health-related topics to lay publics.
Scholarly and/or Professional Publications and Activities
Articles in Scholarly Journals (refereed)
Laidlaw, T. (2019). Pandemic stories: Rhetorical motifs in journalists’ coverage of biomedical risk. Minerva. doi 10.1007/s11024-019-09383-4. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11024-019-09383-4
Laidlaw, T. (In press). Perspective by incongruity: An identity of interdisciplinarity. Rhetor Special Issue: “National identity and rhetorical scholarly work” (journal of the Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric).
Laidlaw, T. and Moffatt, J. (accepted). Symbolic cures: Scapegoating and the “constabulary” function. Rhetor, the Journal of the Canadian Society of Rhetoric, 8: 99-129. Retrieved from: http://rhetcanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Rhetor-Laidlaw-Moffatt-5.pdf
Laidlaw, T. (2010). Epidemic response archetypes: Negotiating unknowns in pandemic planning. Health Science Inquiry 1(1), 19-20. Retrieved from: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/3fbf5d_a51f415e9d2c451c9d5569b52944b3e8.pdf
Conference Proceedings (refereed)
Laidlaw, T. & French, A. (2019). The role of faculty in first-year students’ orientations and anticipated continuance. Proceedings of the 2017 Atlantic Universities’ Teaching Showcase. Retrieved from: https://ojs.library.dal.ca/auts/article/download/8478/7778
Conference presentations (refereed; most recent only)
Laidlaw, T. (2019). Rhetorical theory as qualitative methodology in an interdisciplinary health care context. 36th Annual Qualitative Analysis Conference. Fredericton, N.B. May 9-11, 2019.
Chu, G., Harvey, A. Lordly, D. Arsenault, J. F. , Conlan, S., Laidlaw, T., Grant, S. (2019; poster session). Evaluation of a Media Training Workshop for nutrition and foods students and professionals in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research 2019 Research Showcase. Ottawa, Ont. June 6, 2019.
Laidlaw, T., and DeWolfe, D. (2018, Oct. 20). Students as partners in the work of academe: Curriculum and research initiatives beyond the classroom. 2018 Atlantic Universities’ Teaching Showcase. Truro, N.S.
Laidlaw, T. and Grant, S. (2018, May). The persuasion of expectant mothers: An analysis of online prenatal classes. Paper presented at RhetCanada/Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric, Regina, SK.
Laidlaw, T., and French, A. (2017, Oct. 14). First-year students’ orientations, and non-curricular techniques to mitigate anxiety. 2017 Atlantic Universities’ Teaching Showcase. Halifax, N.S. Oct. 14, 2017.
Laidlaw, T. (2017, May 30). Communication across lay/expert divides: A rhetorical decision-making framework. Annual conference of the Canadian Society for the study of Rhetoric. Toronto, Ont. May 30-June 1, 2017.
Laidlaw, T. (2017, May 26). Pandemic stories: Narrative roles in the media and the shaping of health information. Narrating Science: The Power of Stories in the 21st Century Conference. (Organized by the College of Arts, University of Guelph, Canada, and “Fiction Meets Science” at the Universities of Bremen and Oldenburg, Germany.) Toronto, Ont. May 24-May 27, 2017.
Panel presentation: Rhetorical Analysis & Pedagogy. (2018, May). Co-panelists Crystal Chokshi, John Moffatt, Corey Owen, Jocelyn Peltier-Huntley, Bruce Dadey (moderator), Monique Kampherm, Jason Edward Black. RhetCanada/Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric conference, Regina, SK, May 27-29, 2018.
Laidlaw, T. (2016). Authenticity & expertise online: Communicating for behavioural change. Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S., Feb. 17. (invited)
Thurlow, A. and Laidlaw, T. (2016). (Joint presentation on social media in education and rhetorical decision-making in social media use). Nova Scotia Health Ethics Network Pre-Conference Panel – Social Media and Professionalism, Halifax, N.S., Oct. 21.
Book review for scholarly journal
Laidlaw, T. (2016). [book review of Handbook for Science Public Information Officers By W. Matthew Shipman]. Science and Public Policy. doi: 10.1093/scipol/scw059. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/spp/article/44/3/428/2525561
Works in progress
Laidlaw, T. Revisiting Kenneth Burke’s cluster-agon analysis: Enthymemes and the impacts of discourse. (under review)
Laidlaw, T. and Grant, S. The persuasion of expectant mothers: An interdisciplinary approach to the evaluation of prenatal education. Book chapter proposal accepted (August 2018) by J. Wills, J. Moffatt, and C. Owens (eds). Rhetorical landscapes in Canada: Theory, history, and pedagogy.
Laidlaw, T. (2018.) Empathy in Academia: Participatory Art Project.
This project asked, Are you an MSVU student? What do you wish your professors understood about you? Are you an MSVU professor? What do you wish your students understood about you? I argue that there are few safe spaces where this information can be shared. Participants contributed anonymously, and responses were exhibited in the MSVU Art Gallery’s Fall 2018 Community Art Show.
Graduate (MA Communication) Thesis Supervision
*Jessica Long, Mobilities and infectious disease: “Othering” in Canadian political discourse of Ebola.
Committee: Dr. Amy Thurlow, Dr. Tracy Moniz, Dept. of Communication Studies. July, 2018.
Recipient of the 2018 Graduate Thesis Award.
*Kelly Westerveld, The Canadian Shield: Vaccine Hesitancy and Ontario’s Immunization 2020 Health
Initiative. Committee: Dr. Tracy Moniz, Dept. of Communication Studies; Dr. Christine Chambers, Canada
Research Chair (Tier 1) in Children’s Pain and a Killam Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and
Psychology & Neuroscience, Dalhousie University. February, 2019.
In Progress (Fall 2016-)
*Cindy Bayers, The Exercise of Public Relations Leadership in the Context of Canadian Universities
Graduate Thesis Committee Involvement
*Laura Bockus-Thorne (current), Perceptions, knowledge and use of vegetarian dietary patterns in
nutrition. (MSVU Dept. of Applied Human Nutrition)
*Rob Hiscock (completion 2017), Paradigm lost (and found): A historiographical review of the application
of systems theory to public relations since 1975 (MSVU Dept. of Communication Studies)
*Alyssa Simon (completion 2017), Building Online Influence: Empathy in Opinion Leadership
(MSVU Dept. of Communication Studies)