Summer Teaching and WLN

I have spent most of my time this summer teaching online courses, and another portion of my summer has been devoted to wedding planning. Unfortunately, that means I have not been the scholar I should have been this summer. I did, however, get a few things accomplished.

That has been both a wonderful and slightly frustrating experience. I designed a 4-week online version of the Hope College’s 2-credit English 214: Workplace Writing. This class is typically a lot of fun for me to teach, and I know that there is a need at the college to have more sections of the course available, which is why I decided to design and teach an online version. I will likely teach this class again next summer, if the school approves my work as such. There are things I will do differently next summer: for example, I may need to find a better way to distribute the peer review. I’ll be researching how others run similar online peer reviews in time-short classrooms in the fall and spring.

Aside from teaching, I have been reading back issues of Writing Lab Newsletter to catch up. I also have two issues of College Composition and Communication and two issues of Writing Center Journal to read. I likely won’t get through them by the start of the term, but I want to read them before Christmas break.

WLN has not been as heartening as I would have hoped. I enjoyed reading through the journal, but there was one article which particularly aggravated me. He felt much more like a sales pitch than a researched article about a new pilot program. The article actually encouraged readers to contact the authors to get access to the program and start using it. While this can be very beneficial to the community, I felt put-off while reading: it sounded a bit like an infomercial for writing centers. Another article I’m thinking of using as a model for my FYC students–the article is a series of vignettes describing instances of humor in the center. Then, there is a central argument based on these vignettes. This is a good model for first-year and novice writing students because it shows how to make conclusions based on a collected body of evidence. However, it did not sound like a rigorous study. Why these vignettes? Are they statistically significant? How did personality of the consultant/client come into play during these instances? There are too many questions left unanswered. Finally, one book review made me uncomfortable as well. This review argued against the book author’s point, saying that her argument was wrong while clearly ignoring the parts of the reviewer’s own argument that were invalid. For example, the reviewer commented on five or six recently established writing centers that don’t fit the mold the author refers to. Of course they don’t fit the mold! These centers were founded and designed after the author’s first article on the topic was published! Some people in the community have clearly learned from and benefited from the original article and its ensuing conversation. That article literally changed the way I thought about my work in writing centers, and I’m genuinely offended that the reviewer isn’t aware of the history involved in the argument and how it has played out in the community.

I did find a helpful review of a book about using writing centers as faculty writing centers, which I’m excited to read! I have two weeks from now until I enter Hope College’s Faculty Writing Camp, sponsored by the Klooster Center for Writing Excellence (our writing center). I hope to get some of my scholarly work done during this week that I’ve had on the back burner. At the very least, I hope to finish one article. I have three more under way (one of which is a revise-and-resubmit that I’ve been pushing off because I’m just not sure what to do with it).

This past week, my collaborator, Dr. Caswell, and I did finish a full draft of our chapter manuscript on assigning comic books in the first-year-writing program. We had a very productive 3.5 hours of work, and we had a lot of fun, too! I love working with her, and I’m glad that we can work together the way we do. Collaboration in rhetoric and composition is one of the most exciting parts of the field, in my opinion. Very few other fields in the humanities collaborate the way that we do.




This is what devoted faculty writing looks like.

This is what devoted faculty writing looks like.

As the Director of College Writing, I have been discovering a fair amount of events that happen across the country that I had never heard of before!

Of course I’ve heard of (and celebrated) NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but did you know that AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month) as sprung up, too?

Because I wasn’t exactly on the train for this one until about 4 days before November started, I decided our writing program could host something to encourage faculty writing if not a full-out AcWriMo campaign. Today marked the beginning of that “something.”

So, what are we doing? AcWriMo faculty writing drop-in sessions. We have five of them throughout the month, and each

one accounts for at least a three-hour block of time (hours range from three to seven hours) with coffee and snacks provided. The first ten to fifteen minutes are taken up by a brief discussion focused on one of several workshop themes, including “strategies for getting to your writing,” common reasons for article rejections,” and “getting feedback on your article.” Then, the rest of the time, we write.

This is actually a really great thing at Hope’s campus for a few reasons. First, it helps develop a culture of writing from

a faculty perspective. Second, it highlights the resources we already offer faculty for their own writing. Third, it reminds faculty of our Faculty Writing Camp (a week-long, eight-hours-per-day competitive camp that helps faculty write their research by providing an adequate, dedicated venue for writing in a semi-social atmosphere). Fourth, it reinforces an active presence for the writing progr

am on campus.

Today was the first (and longest) drop-in session. We’ve had people come and go, but everyone has commented on how helpful just having the space away from their offices has been. I’ve had a few r

equests, too, to make this a weekly thing throughout the academic year. It’s a possibility.

Here’s to AcWriMo and your writing and research endeavors! May you always find time to write.

Hope, Rhetoric, and Composition

Today begins the new semester for me. I have class for the first time on a Saturday with first-year students. This is my first meeting with my FYS class, and their families are invited, too! I’ll be giving them some basic info and then dismissing them on a brief scavenger hunt (in pairs). Should be fun! I’m hoping to finish the class with 30 minutes of open Q&A with the families and parents (now I’m thinking of it, I guess if there are any younger siblings there, I should tell them they can go with their siblings on the scavenger hunt maybe? They don’t want to be in the room, either!).

After class today, tomorrow’s day is full with other obligations, including convocation, followed by a presentation for the WAs (writing assistants). I will be in full collaboration with the Center for Writing and Research (CWR) as I am currently taking on the role of Director of College Writing. David Cunningham, the Dir. of the CWR, asked me to lead a workshop with the WAs, so that’s what I’ll be trying to do.

I’m linking to my Prezi–click here! I’m also posting the handout I’ll be giving the WAs so they have a better idea of what some of this means. Here’s the handout:

WA Handout

Hope Digital Commons

This week, as noted earlier, I presented on “Visual Literacy and Student Learning” at Hope College’s Pre-College Conference Innovations Exhibition. The presentation can now be found on Hope’s Digital Commons. Just click here.

Innovations Exposition

Just sharing my simple prezi for my Innovations Exposition presentation on Thursday, August 22, 2013. I’m pairing the prezi with a few butcher paper student in-class visual writing assignments. The idea is that the prezi and showpieces are simple and don’t give a lot of information, allowing viewers to approach me to hear more about the theories I’m using and implementing in class. So, it’s meant to be a vague, very-little-information visual aid to whet the appetite of other pedagogs.

Innovations Exposition Prezi


(Ok, I couldn’t get it to embed, so….link it is.)

First-Year Seminar


FYS Class Shield, Fall 2013

FYS Class Shield, Fall 2013

This fall term, I’m teaching a First-Year Seminar. In a lot of ways, this is my academic career come full circle. As a first year student myself many years ago, I had an Introduction to College Life course entitled “Learning in Common,” better known as “LinC” in MoCo lingo. This class did change my life. I had a professor who challenged me every class period. I was exposed to the true meaning of a liberal arts education. I had a student advisor who I felt truly cared about me and honestly helped me to be the person I am today. He helped me learn to speak up, to voice my thoughts, to participate in discussions and debates, to be energetic and outgoing. All of these things were not part of my nature as an unfailingly shy introvert (which I am to this day, unbeknownst to many–he helped me become that good at hiding it). As a sophomore, I applied to be a student advisor myself, and I was accepted into the program. For three years, I was an SA.

For many years, I’ve thought back to the first college courses I taught (well, co-taught with a faculty advisor). They were fun, but they weren’t quite the course I’d taken. This year, it’s my turn to be the lead. This year, I have my own FYS. It’s called, “What’s my place: Young Adult Fiction and Liberal Arts.” We’re reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Giver, and Divergent. These books share similar themes of coming of age, being categorized (stigmatized?) for life via a formal ceremony, and they all embody a liberal arts education in meaningful ways (when we look behind the teenage drama).

As part of the course, I’ve designed my own ceremony, just for these students. As part of that, I’ve commissioned a class crest. It’s that great big, beautiful image at the top of this post. My talented freelancing graphic artists sister created this for me. It has each “category” a student could be described as.

I am so looking forward to this class. It’s the joy in my life right now, and I hope it continuous to be.

Initium Workshop: “Engaging Students Using Writing”

Today, I presented a brief (45-minute) workshop to Hope College’s 2013-2014 cohort of new faculty at the Initium orientation series. I’m posting my materials here so you can take a look at them. If you use ideas or information/text from these materials, please credit me! Thank you.

Here is the background/overhead slideshow:

Here is the workshop outline: Initium Workshop Outline

And here is the handout packet: Initium Handout Packet

I hope to use this as a recurrent workshop, and I will, of course, tweak it along the way.

WPA Conference

This summer, I had the opportunity to present some advice to current Rhet/Compers on the job market at the Council of Writing Program Administrators’ annual conference. Although I wasn’t able to physically attend the conference, I put together this helpful video. In the video, I explain ways to prepare for different interviews: phone, MLA, and (non)visual Skype interviews. Here are my tips! Feel free to add your own.


All work and no play…

You can’t focus on academics all the time. That’s just the truth. My favorite things to read outside of writing center and new media studies are usually science fiction (Philip K. Dick is my favorite–the Empire never ended!) and historical fiction (if you don’t know who Hilary Mantel or Philippa Gregory is, you need to get reading!), but who doesn’t love a good princess book?

That’s right: I just read the entire Princess Diaries series. Let me just say: I am so glad I am no longer a teenager. Ohmygoodness! I could hardly take the drama. Now, I like some YA. I’m a big HP fan, love the Divergent series, and the Giver changed my life. I enjoyed the Princess Diaries (obviously, I read all 14 books this weekend–yes, they are quick reads and you can skim a lot of it), but WOW. I mean, wow. I know; I sound like Mia. I just cannot fathom the amount of angst, anxiety, drama. Was I that dramatic when I was 14? I can’t remember. I know when I started dating I was that dramatic, but I didn’t start dating until I was 16. I sure hope the drama didn’t start before then!

I am glad it had a happy ending. The last two books really had me in a bit of a twist. I have to admit, the whole series, I just kept thinking, “Who are you?” She was making such bad decisions. Not to mention she was completely oblivious. I wonder if we’re all that oblivious about the relationships we have with other people?

Well, I also got caught up on the Super Dinosaur series. It’s a fun series–written for “children of all ages” (by which I mean middle school boys). Brendan got me started on this series by buying me the first trade volume for my birthday one year. I’m hooked, though! I asked Brendan just the other day about it, and he confessed that he didn’t know a thing about the series except that it had a T-Rex in it (which he knew I’d love). I can’t believe he didn’t realize the series is written for middle school boys! Wow. I mean, there are excrement jokes. Sigh.

Well, at least I had a good time (mostly) reading. It was a nice change of pace, and gave me a bit of brain candy. I know it’s not *good* for me, but sometimes, you just need some junk. So, I filled up on junk food this weekend! It was a delight. This week, I’ll be working on more writing center and new media studies, so I might have some new posts–we’ll see.