Alumna, and now Dr., Tabitha Espina amplifies voices through articulation
Tabitha Espina has always believed in the power of words. They have the ability to help people imagine, discover, connect, and heal, she said — and to enact positive, productive change.
This belief has guided her academic pursuits and led her down the career path of teaching, where she has been able to instill the power of composition in others.
“I am passionate about helping people use language to articulate their ways of knowing and being in ways that are meaningful to them and to do so in ways that communicate their value,” she said.
And now, with a newly earned doctorate in English rhetoric and composition from Washington State University in Spring 2020, she will be able to increase her impact even further — with new perspectives for teaching, but also through her own personal research and writings on topics of importance to her, her culture, and her community back home in Guam.
After earning her bachelor’s in elementary education and master’s in English in 2013 from the University of Guam, she taught in UOG’s composition program, teaching College Composition, Writing for Research, Introduction to Literature, and Introduction to Women and Gender Studies from 2014 to 2016.
“I loved the work I was doing teaching full time at UOG and wanted to increase my capacity for teaching, research, and service,” she said.
Espina earned a full four-year scholarship, the Research Assistantship for Diverse Scholars, to WSU to study under Dr. Victor Villanueva, director of WSU’s Writing Program and a distinguished professor and award-winning author whose career and research have centered on the connections between language and relations of power, especially racism.
“When Dr. Villanueva personally reached out to me and promised that I would be his last graduate student mentee before he retired, I knew that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from him directly,” she said.
Espina’s research the past four years has focused on how Filipinos enunciate themselves in matters of self, community, and politics, as colonial settlers in Guam. She has sought how Filipinos in Guam, sharing a similar history of colonization in the Philippines, can contribute productively and respectfully to the movement toward decolonization.
She defended her dissertation, “Unsettling the Rhetorics of the Politics of Filipinos on Guåhan,” on April 10. Her work was highly commended with distinction and earned her the Nancy Van Doren Dissertation and Defense Award, the Alexander Hammond Professional Development and Achievement Award, and the 2020 College of Arts and Sciences Doctorate Student Achievement in the Humanities Award.
Looking back to the start of her academic journey, Espina said, “I am immensely grateful for the mentorship I received at UOG, first as a student and eventually as a colleague. I look up to so many of the faculty at UOG and believe that I learned from them what I could not have learned anywhere else.”
And now, having accepted a tenure-track faculty position in rhetoric and composition at Eastern Oregon University, Espina is poised to inspire and educate others to effectively vocalize what’s most meaningful to them.
“Tabitha’s work ethic and dedication to teaching and research are to be admired,” said Sharleen Q. Santos-Bamba, associate dean of UOG’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, who took a role in mentoring Espina while she was at UOG. “She is committed to fostering and creating opportunities for students to learn, grow, and cultivate relationships to better themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Espina is also now in a unique position of influence to advocate for her community in the Pacific, as she hopes to help advise the Navigators Club, a Pacific Islander student organization at Eastern Oregon University, and to continue outreach with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through the humanities councils in Washington and Oregon.
“Joining the faculty and EOU is an accomplishment that merits much praise and acknowledgment because while she will benefit from the opportunity, EOU will reap the rewards of having her onboard,” Santos said.
It’s true there is power in words — to influence positive, productive change. And Espina has made it her life mission to amplify that power — for herself, for her community back in Guam, and for everyone who has a perspective to share.