T Laidlaw July 2016

Tess Laidlaw (Assistant Professor)  
BSc (University of Winnipeg), MA Journalism (University of Western Ontario),
PhD Interdisciplinary Studies (Rhetoric and Media Studies; University of Saskatchewan) | https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tess_Laidlaw

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.

Research Interests

*Critical theory and discourse analysis approaches to habitual, institutional, and hegemonic language in contexts of illness and health
*Racialization and the phenomena of Othering / scapegoating in the context of disease outbreaks

Current Research

*(Collaboration with Dr. John Moffatt, Univ. of Saskatchewan) Rhetorical exploration of racism and xenophobia in historical documents and contemporary discursive interpretations of leper colonies in Tracadie, New Brunswick and D’Arcy Island, British Columbia in the 1800s. We interrogate commemoration through themes including dark tourism, and approach these historical events heuristically in the context of the current pandemic.

*Autoethnographic study of Curriculum as Meditative Inquiry (Kumar, A., 2013; Palgrave MacMillan). Kumar asserts that the approach of curriculum as meditative inquiry has the potential not only to bring about better learning experiences for students and better teaching skills for teachers, but also transformation of the teacher.


Since 2011, Tess has taught at the Mount in the areas of communication theory, organizational theory, science communication, 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 has also taught at Saint Mary’s University and at the University of Saskatchewan.

Professional background

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 the public.

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. (2021). 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) 8(1): 9-18. Retrieved from: http://rhetcanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Rhetor-the-Journal-of-the-Canadian-Society-for-the-Study-of-Rhetoric-8.1-April-2021-Laidlaw-17-26.pdf

Laidlaw, T. and Moffatt, J. (2019). 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)
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.

Research Presentations
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

Arts-based inquiry

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 Students

Graduate (MA Communication) Thesis Supervisions
*Jessica Long, Mobilities and infectious disease: “Othering” in Canadian political discourse of Ebola. Recipient of the 2018 Graduate Thesis Award.
*Kelly Westerveld, The Canadian Shield: Vaccine Hesitancy and Ontario’s Immunization 2020 Health.
*Cindy Bayers, The Exercise of Public Relations Leadership in the Context of Canadian Universities.

Graduate Thesis Committee Involvement
*Rob Hiscock, 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, Building Online Influence: Empathy in Opinion Leadership (MSVU Dept. of Communication Studies)