Reaghan Wiltbank, junior at Western Carolina University, presented at the Carolina Communication Association conference at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro over winter break, and was a finalist for the Mary E. Jarrard Award, top undergraduate paper.

Wiltbank is a communication major with a concentration in public relations and a minor in social justice. She presented her autoethnography titled, “The Invisible Language of Whiteness: An Autoethnographic Examination of Coming into a New Consciousness.”

The autoethnography consisted of personal explorations through intercultural experiences, specifically the topic and complexities of whiteness.

“Through this exploration of white privilege, I find that it manifests itself as an invisible language of microaggressions, intentionally concealed from white individuals, myself included, at one time,” said Wiltbank. “This reflects a personal journey of self-discovery and has been crucial and pivotal in my life.”

Originally, the paper served as a project for Wiltbank’s Intercultural Communication class with Dr. Vincent Russell. After continued research and guidance from Dr. Russell, Wiltbank decided the conference would be an opportunity to gain insights ranging from writing formatting to personal self-discovery.

“Racial and social justice is a passion of mine, and I am dedicated to raising awareness and educating others to the fullest extent possible,” said Wiltbank. “Having the chance to share my experiences in this format was significant to me, aiming to shed light on and educate others who have a similar lack of knowledge that I had.”

The opportunity to present was a first for Wiltbank. 

“This experience was initially really overwhelming. It was a venture I had never embarked on. Writing something of this magnitude and volume was nerve-wracking for various reasons. The topic itself took much self-reflection and vulnerability,” said Wiltbank. 

However, Wiltbank was able to take on the intimidation of the conference with the encouragement and preparation from Dr. Russell and Wisnewski-Parks. The two professors attended the conference with Wiltbank, and guided her through the preparation and speaking process of the conference.

“The company of Dr. Russell and Wisnewski-Parks was very comforting. As I was entering territory I had never wadded through, they both were helpful in guiding me. As they had both been to the CCA conference before, they gave me insight into what to expect at the conference, which calmed my nerves,” said Wiltbank. “Dr. Russell was extremely useful along every step of the process; if it weren’t for him, I would not have gone to the conference in the first place. He helped encourage me along the way, set time goals, gave me revision advice and much more.”

After the Fall semester, Wiltbank decided to take time off from university to pursue the discovery of different perspectives and new learning communities. 

As for the future, Wiltbank wants to keep an open mind about her opportunities to work in the social justice field and continue to learn more about the subject.

“I would love to pursue more work like this in the future, although I do not know what avenue I would take. I embody the topic of my paper in my everyday life. I realize learning is a never-ending process,” said Wiltbank. “This is why it is crucial I remain open-minded and committed to the topic to produce positive social change. Whether I am simply having conversations with uninformed individuals, volunteering or working in racial justice organizations I want to always be committed to this topic.”

Wiltbank calls everyone to “just be a kind human, and see other humans’ humanity no matter what.”