The Physical Susie

By Dr. Chloé Diepenbrock

A life-size cardboard Susie Queue cutout
Susie walking around campus

Of course, Susie existed physically before she became a virtual presence, so after Katie designed her she sent Susie off to Kinko’s to become what some might call a cardboard cut-out. (Actually, she is attached to a piece of foam insulation.) This version of Susie goes with us to orientations and open houses, where students flirt with her and ask us the ubiquitous Susie question: “Is she real?” (See the section on Responses for more information.)

During the semester in which we developed her personality, Susie also made several walk-abouts across campus. We put her on rides up and down in elevators; we placed her at a table in the cafeteria and then loitered in the background to watch her interact with students. Britney, her chaperone, asked students to choose adjectives to describe Susie and we fed this information back into her personality profile.

In the spring of 2010, we set off for our regional South Central Writing Centers’ Association (SCWCA) conference, where we planned to talk about Susie. As a member of our panel, of course Susie needed to come with us to Lake Charles, Louisiana. I have a small SUV and discovered the morning we left that Susie wasn’t flexible enough to allow others to ride with me. We ended up taking two cars—we certainly couldn't leave Susie behind!

As I tried to shove her into the back of the car (sorry Susie), I realized that she needed to be more flexible, and since we were planning to take her with us to the IWCA conference in Baltimore, Maryland, the following fall, we created “flexible Susie.” Flexible Susie had to travel rolled up in a canister and, indignity of indignities, had to be closely scrutinized by the TSA. I’m sorry to say that the agent did not find my explanation of who and what Susie was to be amusing. Virtual tutor? Not according to him. She was real and very present, suspicious even, in her rolled up state.

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