From the Director

In and out of the workplace, much about 2020 has been disturbing and challenging. Many of us have experienced deep loss and had health worries; we grieve with each other and with students as the coronavirus takes more and more lives. Black Lives Matter protests this year moved us to reaffirm our anti-racist pedagogies and policies, to work actively toward inclusion and justice for all members of the U-M community. As we reflect over the past year in this Newsletter, we honor the extraordinary efforts of students, faculty, and staff to meet new challenges, and to support each other as we do so. 

In March, Sweetland began remote operations, moving all courses, the Peer Writing Consultant program, Writing Workshop, MWrite, unit meetings, and even end-of-term social gatherings online (during one unit meeting we toured a farm remotely, which gave us a much-needed break). We’ve learned a lot this year, far more than I can summarize in this brief introduction. Along with the rest of the world, we’ve become adept at managing Zoom meetings and found new ways to connect with each other and our students. This past spring, I read through students’ end-of-term comments about their winter courses and their Writing Workshop sessions. Over and over again, I witnessed their appreciation of instructors’ concern for them; students appreciated instructors’ necessary and welcome innovations, flexibility in adjusting to new formats and digital environments, and attention to students’ changing needs and difficulties. 

We are all sometimes nervous about meeting new challenges, but we are also driven to keep students at the center of all we do, to concentrate on how we can make new modes of learning work for them, and to try to convey to them how much they matter to us, how important their education is, and how far we will go to support them. This year has given us many opportunities to live our cherished values together.

I am immensely proud of everyone at Sweetland and their work with student writers, and I hope the stories they share in this Newsletter will make you proud as well. 

Theresa Tinkle
Director, Sweetland Center for Writing

Faculty & Staff News

Meet Our New Undergraduate Program Coordinator – Dan Hartlep

Dan Hartlep completed his B.A. in Psychology at the University of Michigan in 2016, and recently earned his M.A. in Educational Leadership at Eastern Michigan University in April 2020. After giving the hard sciences the good ol’ college try, Dan realized that his calling was in student affairs while serving as a peer advisor in the U-M Psychology office during his senior year. Meeting one-on-one with students, discussing their educational and career goals, and weighing the pros and cons of different academic and experiential courses came so naturally that Dan felt compelled to continue working at the University while furthering his understanding of student development at EMU a few years later. 

Outside of work and school, Dan has the utter joy to spend his evenings with his fiancée Amanda and their 1-year-old Corgi named Pinto. The dog-dad life suits Dan very well and he and P can be found at Swift Run Dog Park most weekends. At home, Dan and Amanda love to cook plant-based meals and find a lot of joy in discovering new restaurants and bars around the metro-Detroit area. 

While having never been in the office, Dan is very excited to be a part of the Sweetland Family and has felt welcome from his very first day on the job — he can’t wait to meet everyone in person!

Meet Our New Faculty – April Conway

In her new position as a Lecturer III, April Conway is responsible for managing Writing 100, including mentoring new course instructors and consulting with Sweetland Director Theresa Tinkle and the graduate student team conducting research on the directed-self placement process.

Now working with graduate students, this fall April taught Writing 993 where she introduced concepts of the labor contract and single point rubrics as alternative assessment methods. Next term she’ll teach the humanities section of Writing 630, Sweetland’s graduate writing course, and continue to run the virtual Write-Togethers.

April has joined university efforts to support parents, including the LEO parents caucus and the faculty and staff ally group to support student parents. She continues her service as a social media content creator for the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, and she continues to volunteer with the non-profit La Conexión Immigrant Solidarity Committee to help publish the organization’s newsletter.

This term, April has been writing a book chapter titled “La Conexión: Advocating for Latinx Immigrants in Northwest Ohio” for the collection Grassroots Activisms: Public Rhetorics in Localized Contexts. She also spends time making art with her daughter, baking, gardening, and walking herself and her dogs while she listens to true crime and other narrative storytelling podcasts.

Faculty News

Julie Babcock

Julie Babcock – Julie’s poetry collection won the 2019 Kithara Book Prize and just came out last week! A poem from the collection “Nothing better than to be alive and open-mouthed” is nominated for a Pushcart.

April Conway

April Conway – April joined Sweetland in a new, full time position; a co-authored chapter, “Crossing Divides: Engaging Extracurricular Writing Practices in Graduate Education and Professionalization,” was published in the book Graduate Writing Across the Disciplines: Identifying, Teaching, and Supporting; and a chapter proposal titled “La Conexión: Advocating for Latinx Immigrants in Northwest Ohio” was accepted for the book Grassroots Activisms: Public Rhetorics in Localized Contexts.

Simone Sessolo

Simone Sessolo – In May 2020, Simone was awarded the Inaugural Digital Studies Institute Teaching Award. He also received grants from Rackham, CRLT, and Academic Innovation for his team’s work on the Dissertation eCoach, which started university wide in Fall 2020. In November 2020 he participated as an invited guest speaker in the MiXR Studios Podcast, produced by the Center for Academic Innovation.

Carol Tell

Carol Tell – Last summer Carol was a fellow at the 2020 Institute for the Humanities Summer Fellowship.

Alumni Updates

Here’s the most recent alumni news sent in to us in 2020. All of our alumni updates can be found in the Alumni & Friends section of our website. Sweetland alumni, let us know what you are up to here.

MWrite Fellows Alumni

Mary Kruk • Women’s Studies 2017 • M-Write Fellow for STATS 250

I’m a PhD student in Psychology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State! I’ll be graduating in 2022.

Vineet Chandra • Public Policy 2018 • M-Write Fellow for ECON 101

I came back to the University of Michigan for law school. I graduate in May 2021, and I’ve accepted an offer to return to Boston and start work for a law firm.

Penelope Farris • Biomolecular Science & BCN 2018 • M-Write Fellow for CHEM 216

After graduation, I took a year to work at a management consulting firm that focused on promoting behavior change to improve the environment at corporations. I’m currently living in Brooklyn, NY in my second year of medical school at New York Medical College. I’m hoping to pursue psychiatry and I’m looking forward to rotations next year to get a flavor of different specialties

Charlie Ferreri • Biomolecular Science 2018 • M-Write Fellow for CHEM 216

Following graduation I took a gap year where I worked as a medical scribe for the department of pediatric surgery at Michigan Medicine. I then started medical school in the summer of 2019 at the University of Michigan. I am a current M2 who is looking forward to beginning clinical rotations and interacting with patients.

Abbie Barondess • Neuroscience 2019 • M-Write Fellow for CHEM 216

I work as a college adviser for the University of Michigan College Advising Corps at a high school in Grand Rapids. I work under the national College Advising Corps which is an Americorps program that seeks to increase the number of low income first generation students in higher education!

Robert Dalka • Physics 2019 • M-Write Fellow for PHYSICS 140

After graduating with my degree in Physics, I moved to the Washington, D.C. area to attend the University of Maryland in their Physics PhD program. I am a part of the Physics Education Research Group at UMD. My research focuses on understanding physics departmental culture, how this culture changes, and how students are included in these change efforts.

Camille Phaneuf • Neuroscience, Cognitive Science (Computation Track) 2019 • M-Write Fellow for BIOL 172

After graduating in May 2019, I moved to NYC to start my current position as a lab manager and post-baccalaureate researcher for Dr. Catherine Hartley at NYU. I study the neurodevelopment of value-based learning, memory, and decision-making using behavioral, computational, and neuroimaging methods.

Dominic Polsinelli • Neuroscience and English 2019 • M-Write Fellow for BIOL 172

I currently live in New York City working as a research assistant in a neuroscience lab at Rockefeller University. I’ll be applying to medical school next year.

Brandon Staarmann • Business Administration 2019 • M-Write Fellow for ECON 101

Since graduating from the University of Michigan in 2019, I’ve moved to Washington, D.C., and currently work as a Software Engineer at Capital One at their headquarters in McLean, Virginia.

Sheridan Tobin • Public HEalth Sciences 2019 • M-Write Fellow for STATS 250

I’m a Genetic Counseling graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will graduate in 2022.

Emily Africk • Statistics 2020 • M-Write Fellow for STATS 250

I am working as a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, DC!

Amanda Bachand • Neuroscience 2020 • M-Write Fellow for STATS 250

Since graduation, I have been working in a middle school math classroom as a Student Success Coach with City Year Detroit, an AmeriCorps program focused on supporting students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. I am also currently in the process of applying to medical school.

Jon Reid • History 2020 • M-Write Fellow for CLIMATE 102

I am attending law school at the University of Pennsylvania, and I live in Philadelphia, PA.

Benancio Rodriguez • Biochemistry 2020 • M-Write Fellow for BIOL 172

Since graduation in the Spring of 2020, I moved to Los Angeles to start graduate school at UCLA in the field of Molecular Biology.

Harry Wang • Engineering 2020 • M-Write Fellow for STATS 250

I am currently a Computer Science Masters Student at University of Pennsylvania.

Rachi Willard • Anthropology 2020 • M-Write Fellow for CHEM 216

I’m living in SE Michigan and working remotely in a social and behavioral sciences lab at the NIH. In January I’ll be leaving for Italy on a Fulbright research grant! While I’m there I’ll be doing ethnographic research in migrant welcome centers in Palermo, Sicily.

Peer Writing Consultant Alumni

Ana Maria Guay • Classical Languages and Literatures, minor in Translation Studies 2015

After U of M, I received an MPhil in Classics from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge scholar. Although I originally went on to graduate work in Classics at UCLA, my experience with Sweetland had made a life-changing impact. I switched my focus, received a graduate certificate in writing pedagogy from UCLA, and am now a full-time Writing Learning Specialist (including supervising our writing peer tutor program!) at the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR.

Minor in Writing Alumni

Kennedy Clark • Sociology 2017
Since graduating, I’ve student-taught in Ann Arbor Public Schools, tutored college writing, and completed my M.A. in Educational Studies from UM. I currently work as an Evaluation and Assessment Coordinator at Western Michigan University’s medical school.

Rachel Hutchings • Screen Arts 2017

Since graduating, I moved to Los Angeles and began a career in the entertainment industry. I currently work at Untitled Entertainment as an assistant to talent managers, where I help clients get cast in upcoming film and television projects, and provide feedback on current scripts in development. I still keep busy with my own writing when I can!

Meagan Malm • Business Administration 2018

My research paper stemming from my Wallenberg Fellowship was published by World Development Perspectives last month. You can access the article online through February 26th. I have a summarized version on my website.

Ashley Preston • Communication Studies 2018

Since graduation, I have been working as a Content Specialist at U-M in the Division of Public Safety and Security. In my role, I write web articles and develop social media posts and campaigns. I have most enjoyed learning ways to capture the stories of my colleagues to share with our community — as I’m sure you can imagine, public safety professionals do some important, thankless work. My MiW experience was very helpful in inspiring me to tell stories in meaningful ways.

Meet the 2020-2021 Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Graduate Fellows and Learn about our New Books in the DRC Series!

Hosted by the Sweetland Center for Writing, the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative (DRC) is an online, community webspace by and for scholars and teachers working in computers and writing and digital rhetoric. It is also the home of a digital book series with the UM Press.  

This fall, the DRC welcomed its eighth cohort of graduate student Fellows. The program aims to recognize graduate students around the country currently working in digital rhetoric who want practical experience in online publishing and website development. Fellows are selected on a yearly basis by the editors and board of the DRC, and receive an annual stipend of $500 as well as recognition on the DRC website.

DRC Fellows commit to attending monthly online team meetings to plan projects that extend the DRC website and its contributions to the community of computers and writing. They work independently and collaboratively to complete two projects within the year of their term. 

Last year’s fellows responded with resilience and creativity to the curves thrown by 2020, curating thoughtful, responsive content in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprisings and activism in response to police violence that marked the spring and summer months. These materials include a blog carnival on “Rhetoric and Communication in the Time of COVID-19: A Global Pandemic and Digital Rhetoric” that brought together nine responses to teaching, writing, and living in “COVID times,” in locations as widespread as China, Ghana, Canada, and the U.S. The fellows also crafted an affirmation of the principles and practices of the Black Lives Matter movement in a “Statement against Anti-Black Violence” that responded to these events from the perspective of digital rhetoricians “attuned to how technologies and their many facets are deployed in and for the projects of anti-Blackness, settler colonialism, and white supremacy.” Other projects over the course of the year — to name just a couple! — included a blog carnival on “Digital Community Building as Social Justice Praxis”, and a brand new limited podcast series titled “On the Job” that interviews faculty just completing their first year in a new position and graduate students on the job market in writing studies.

Keep your eyes open for upcoming collaborative projects from our new fellows, including a blog carnival focused around empathy, a multimedia series on Black audio work, and a crowdsourced digital rhetoric syllabus repository.

The 2020-2021 fellows are:

D’Arcee Charington Neal is a PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition at The Ohio State University, where he works at the intersection of disability and Black Digital Media. His research focuses on rhetorical displays of ableism, Afrofuturistic production, and audionarratology. Currently he is composing the opening chapter for his audio novela about a black wheelchair-user/turned digital ghost in future Neo Orleans, and can be followed on Twitter at @drchairington.

Jianfen Chen is a PhD student in the Rhetoric and Composition program at Purdue University. Currently, she teaches Introductory Composition at Purdue. Before that, she worked as a writing consultant in the Purdue Writing Lab. Her research interests include public rhetoric, digital rhetoric, risk communication, intercultural communication, and professional and technical communication. Jianfen is also a certified Chinese/English translator and interpreter. You can follow her on Twitter at @sugejianfen.

Danielle Koepke is a second year PhD student studying Public Rhetorics and Community Engagement at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has an MA in Rhetoric and Composition, and her research areas include multimodal composing practices, digital literacies, and feminist theories. She is also interested in applications of social justice pedagogies in her teaching. You can follow Danielle on Twitter at @koepke_marie13.

Sarah Hughes is a PhD candidate in the Joint Program in English and Education at the University of Michigan, where she also teaches in the English Department Writing Program. Her research interests include digital rhetoric, gender and discourse, and gaming studies. Her dissertation project explores how women use multimodal discourse—grammatically, narratively, and visually—to navigate online gaming ecologies.

Kimberly Williams is a second-year doctoral student in the English Department at the University of Florida where her work encompasses Black love and sound studies across multimedia and literature. You can find her published and upcoming work in Journal of the Society for American Music, Sounding Out! and Standpoints: Black Feminist Knowledges published by Virginia Tech Press.

Nupoor Ranade is a Ph.D. student in the Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media program at the North Carolina State University. Her research focuses on audience analysis, digital rhetoric, user experience and information design, primarily in the field of technical communication and artificial intelligence. Her research experience and partnerships with the industry help her bridge gaps of knowledge that she then brings to her pedagogical practices. She is interested in exploring interdisciplinary collaborative work which helps us redefine the term audience.

New and Forthcoming
Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Books!

This past year has been a busy one for the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Book Series, an imprint of the University of Michigan Press. 2020 saw four new book projects go into production on topics as varied as writing workflows, makerspaces, screen composing, and a 100-year history of “new media” pedagogy. You can read below about the first one off the press this past December, and look for the others in 2021! 

Writing Workflows: Beyond Word Processing by Tim Lockridge (Miami University) and Derek Van Ittersum (Kent State University) argues that a workflow-focused approach to composing can help writers and writing instructors evaluate and adopt the technologies that make writing possible, highlighting the role of writing tools as full-fledged actors in writing activity. The book draws on case studies of professional writers who deliberately and carefully construct writing workflows that lead them to make critical evaluations of their tools, their purpose(s), and the contexts in which they compose. Through a type of reflection the authors call “workflow thinking,” writers can look at their processes and ask how tools shape their habits—and how a change in tools might offer new ways of thinking and writing. The book also introduces a practice the authors call “workflow mapping,” which helps writers trace their tool preferences across time and imagine how new technologies might fit in. In addition to its extensive use of images, hyperlinks, screen casts, and other digital artifacts to enhance meaning, Writing Workflows incorporates innovative audio overlays to, quite literally, give voice to the research participants. Writing Workflows is winner of the 2018 Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Book Prize.

Sweetland Fellows Seminar 2020

The Fellows Seminar brings together graduate student instructors (Junior Fellows) and faculty (Senior Fellows) from multiple disciplines who share a commitment to integrating writing in their courses. The program is supported by the College of Literature, Science & the Arts, the Rackham Graduate School, and the Sweetland Center for Writing.

All seminar participants share an interest in helping students become better writers; integrating writing in their courses; and discussing critical issues in the teaching of writing with colleagues.

The Sweetland Fellows Seminar was the most rewarding and enriching pedagogical training I have received at the University. Not only did we read contemporary research on how to effectively center writing in our teaching, the seminar also provided a space for collaborative sharing among faculty, staff, and graduate students who occupy different disciplinary spaces and fill different pedagogical roles. In the process of discussing our various aims for teaching writing and working together to design assignments and assignment sequences, I formed meaningful professional relationships that lasted beyond the seminar. As teachers, we most often focus on how to impart the knowledge of our disciplines to our students, but the seminar provided a rare opportunity to work together across disciplines in our pedagogical practice. 

Lucy Peterson, Junior Fellow

2020 Junior Fellows

Anna Cornel, Classical Languages and Literature
Kim Hess, Sociology
Benjamin Hollenbach, Anthropology
Tugce Kayaal, Near Eastern Studies
Jane Kitaevich, Political Science
Hongling Lu, Material Science & Engineering
Lucy Peterson, Political Science
Niku Tarhechu Tarhesi, Anthropology

2020 Senior Fellows

Gina Cervetti, School of Education
Christine Modey, Sweetland Center for Writing
Ragnhild Nordaas, Political Science
Colleen Seifert, Psychology
Twila Tardif, Psychology
Tessa Tinkle, Sweetland Center for Writing

Writing Prize Winners

Sweetland and the English Department Writing Program offer prizes for student writers in LSA. Sweetland’s prizes include: the Prize for Outstanding Writing Portfolio, the Matt Kelley Prize for Excellence in First-Year Writing, and the Prize for Excellence in Upper-Level Writing. Instructors nominate student writing for each of the prizes. These prizes are awarded annually in the winter term.

First-Year Writing Prizes

Download the 2020 First-Year Writing Prizebook (pdf)

Matt Kelley Prize for Excellence in First-Year Writing

Grace Brown, “An Open Letter to Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League: Concerning Your Editorial on the Equality Act”
Nominated by Genta Nishku, COMPLIT 122 

Jackson Mott, “Life Sucks, And Then You Die”
Nominated by Cat Cassel, LSWA 125

Excellence in Multilingual Writing

Hao Chen, “Reasons for Digital Piracy Behavior and Strategies to Stop It”
Nominated by Allison Piippo, WRITING 120

Kyungrae Lee, “Do Not Take Anything Slightly”
Nominated by Scott Beal, WRITING 120

Excellence in the Practice of Writing

Alyssa Huang, “Huángruìxīn”
Nominated by Gina Brandolino, WRITING 100

Dallas Witbeck, “I am a Twig in a Nature of Drawing: The Story of Finding my Major”
Nominated by Hannah Webster, WRITING 100

Upper-Level Writing Prizes

Download the 2020 Upper-Level Writing Prizebook (pdf)

Excellence in Upper-Level Writing (Social Sciences)

Max Steinbaum, “D.C. Dog Fight:  Principle and Pragmatism of the Bush-era Supreme Court”
Nominated by Jacob Walden, POLSCI 319: Politics of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Maryellen Zbrozek, “The Plastic Problem: What are Scientists doing to Reduce their Environmental Footprint?”
Nominated by Julie Halpert, ENVIRON 320: Environmental Journalism – Reporting about Science, Policy and Public Health

Excellence in Upper-Level Writing (Sciences)

Alice Sorel, “Cerebral Organoids: Promising New Window into Neurodevelopment”
Nominated by Jimmy Brancho, WRITING 400: Writing and Research in the Sciences

Franco Tavella, “Gene editing for the 21st century: CRISPR/Cas9 and Prime Editing”
Nominated by Qiong Yang, BIOPHYS 450/550: Intro to Biophysics Laboratory

Excellence in Upper-Level Writing (Humanities)

Jinan Abufarha, “عنوان” 
Nominated by Christine Modey, WRITING 300: Seminar in Peer Writing Consultation

Davis Boos, “A Second Exile: Mario Benedetti’s Absence in English”
Nominated by Marlon James Sales, COMPLIT 322: Translated Wor(l)ds

From the Director

The Gayle Morris Sweetland Center for Writing was founded in 1998, and I was lucky to be the inaugural director. Expectations for the Center were high, for John Sweetland’s handsome endowment made it possible for us to introduce new programs to support and improve writing in LSA.

I am back in the director’s office this year and awed by how much has happened since the Center opened. The Peer Writing Consultant program has existed since the start of the Center, but it’s expanded and gained greater intellectual depth over the years. The peer consultants work with undergraduates from all over the U-M campus to communicate strategies that will improve their academic writing, job and graduate school application materials, and personal writing. MWrite fellows likewise support undergraduates as they learn to write for courses in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Another diverse and ambitious group of students pursues a Minor in Writing, for which they engage in research that culminates in complex multimodal projects. When I visit Sweetland consultants, fellows, and minors, I am overjoyed to see their enthusiasm about writing and commitment to their projects.

The Sweetland faculty who support and direct these programs are highly professional and profoundly accomplished in many directions. Some faculty members produce impressive creative publications, and all of the faculty contribute significantly to the scholarship of teaching and learning. As part of their work, they also consult individually with students at every level from across UM. When I observe their sessions, I’m struck by how quickly they discern what help the student is seeking, and I’m impressed with how much they accomplish in a half hour or hour. Sitting in my office, I’m delighted to hear the faculty greet each student with sincere interest in their writing. This is surely just about the best job in the world. I invite you to discover what’s happening here.

— Theresa Tinkle, Sweetland Center for Writing Interim Director

Anti-Racist Task Force

In January, Sweetland received a Faculty Communities for Inclusive Teaching (FCIT) grant from the Center for Research and Learning and Teaching (CRLT) to support the endeavors of our Anti-Racist Task Force to mindfully examine our pedagogy, practice, and curriculum in light of DEI issues. 

(L clockwise) Allie Piipo, April Conway, Louis Cicciarelli, T Hetzel, Scott Beal, Cat Cassel, Simone Sessolo, Christine Modey

What this looks like in practice is that the Task Force meets on a monthly basis to reflectively journal and discuss readings related to writing center work, particularly examining racist structures within institutions. We have read texts by Adrienne Marie Brown, Bell Hooks, Asao Inoue, Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Claude Steele, and more. These texts are usually paired with a reflection prompt that allows us to think through how racism and white supremacy emerge in the writing center and instructional work we do, and how we might respond to those emergences. For instance, when we read excerpts from Oluo’s So You Want To Talk About Race, we responded to a prompt about when and how we first became aware of our own racial identities. When we read excerpts from Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist and Matsuda and Cox’s “Reading an ESL Writer’s Text,” we journaled about how the texts resonated with experiences in our Writing Workshop and instructional work thus far in the semester. 

The FCIT grant will also support Sweetland faculty attendance at a 2.5-day workshop in February on analyzing systemic racism, held by ERRACE (Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equity). 

Cat Cassel (L) & Naomi Silver (R). Click image or here for detail view of poster.

Faculty News & New Writing Workshop Coordinator


Raymond McDaniel

Raymond McDaniel was named Collegiate Lecturer for 2018-2019 in January of 2019. Collegiate Lecturer titles are awarded to faculty who demonstrate a sustained record of excellence in teaching and learning, or in service or other contributions to the university. Lecturers retain these titles throughout their careers at the university.


Julie Babcock

Julie’s poetry collection, Rules for Rearrangement, won the 2019 Kithara Book Prize and will be published next year by Glass Lyre Press. She also attended the Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference where she had the opportunity to work on hybrid writing with Aimee Nezhukumatathil.

Cat Cassel

Cat Cassel went on the Michigan Road Scholars tour in May, and participated in the CRLT Inclusive Teaching Program for Lecturers. 

Shuwen Li

Shuwen Li published an article at the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, titled “Dwelling on Vlogging: A Case Study of Amaetur Technical Communicator.” Using a rhetorical cluster analysis, she presents a preliminary case study of a type of tactical technical communication—vlogging and elicited seven techniques that were projected in those videos to unpack how the vlogger constructed her ethos that ultimately advanced her status from an amateur technical communicator to a young entrepreneur.

Shelley Manis

Shelley Manis received a Summer Fellowship from the Institute for the Humanities to start her book on using theater techniques to teach writing.

Christine Modey

Christine Modey received a Summer Fellowship from the Institute for the Humanities to work on her project, an ethnographic study of preachers’ composing processes.

Simone Sessolo

Simone Sessolo was awarded two grants, one from the Office of Academic Innovation and one from the Office of the Provost, to develop The Graduate Coach, a messaging tool to aid graduate students in writing their dissertation. The Beta version of The Graduate Coach launched in the Fall 2019 semester and was developed by Sweetland faculty Simone Sessolo, Louis Cicciarelli, and Larissa Sano, with the help of Marisol Fila, a graduate student in RLL. In June, Simone also presented his research at the Computers and Writing conference in Lansing MI.

Naomi Silver

Naomi Silver received a Course Development grant from the University Musical Society to incorporate performances into her Writing 100: The Practice of Writing course. The class focused on the theme “Performing Citizenship,” and students saw productions of the Isango Ensemble performing A Man of Good Hope, about a Somali refugee migrating within the African continent, and Stew and the Negro Problem performing Notes of a Native Song, based on James Baldwin’s essay collection Notes of a Native Son about race in America.

New Faculty

Four new faculty members joined us for the fall semester.

April Conway

April was a Writer-in-Resident for the Conference on Community Writing in Philadelphia this October. Though in her third year teaching writing at the University of Michigan, this is her first term teaching writing workshop and The Practice of Writing. Across her writing classes, she teaches multimodal composing, the dynamics of language and power (especially regarding race), and writing research methods. She uses a labor contract as a means to assess writing from an anti-racist pedagogical standpoint.

Dina Karageorgos

Dina’s research and teaching interests include twentieth- and twenty-first century African-American and anticolonial literature, visual culture and theory, antiracist pedagogy, and community-engaged learning. She’s incorporated the decolonial strategy of “remixing” in her writing courses. She recently published the essay “Toni Morrison and the Black Radical Tradition” in Jacobin Magazine. Another essay will be coming out in The Cambridge History of the U.S. South:  “Reconsidering Du Bois’s ‘Central Text’: W.E.B. Du Bois, Sarah Wright, and the Problem of the Black Worker.” 

Allie Piippo

Allie Piippo has been teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages for the past 17 years. She has taught in the US, Japan, and Turkey, but she is delighted to be back at her alma mater this term! Allie attended the Michigan TESOL conference in Grand Rapids on November 1st and 2nd, where she presented with colleagues on a Diversity and Inclusion workshop for international students, and on a reading/writing collaboration for English Language Learners. She then flew to Milwaukee for the NAFSA Region V Conference November 4-6, where she presented on topics related to an online orientation for international students, a peer mentor volunteer program that she had started at Eastern Michigan University. She also presented with colleagues on alternative advising strategies for international students. 

Hannah Webster

In addition to teaching a section of Writing 100 at Sweetland, Hannah serves as Managing Editor at MQR, teaches poetry in Dearborn public schools with InsideOut Detroit Literary Arts, and helps organize with the Ypsi Gathering Space at Riverside Arts. This year she also facilitated a poetry workshop at the Room Project in Detroit entitled “The Impossible is Our Paradise” and had poems published in Stone Canoe, 32Poems, Fairy Tale Review Online, and No Tokens. 

New Writing Workshop Coordinator

Mahal Stevens earned her BA in Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, but took the leisurely route to her degree. She has attended every undergraduate institution in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti except for Concordia University. As a student she participated in various historical research projects, one of them being a Michigan In The World Fellowship where she studied some of the first Black women students at the University of Michigan.

When not working, Mahal is usually hanging out with her dog Simon, a miniature schnauzer mix.

Outside of being a dog mom, Mahal loves reality TV — for enjoyment and as a source of analysis. Her favorite shows are 90 Day Fiancé, Real Housewives of Atlanta, and the Flavor of Love (a classic). She also has a childhood fondness for murder mysteries such as Murder She Wrote, Matlock, and Diagnosis Murder.  In her free time she also dances, crafts, hangs out with her large family, and reads up on astrology.

Besides work related things, feel free to come to the front desk to chat with Mahal about: pets, reality TV, astrology, gender studies, history, or to celebrate Friday Eve.

Writer to Writer…to Writer to Writer? Sweetland Interview Series Spawns more Writing

We’ve been busy at Sweetland this year growing our Writer to Writer offerings, including continuing to host interviews between a Sweetland faculty member (Shelley Manis) and a prominent U-M faculty member and writer once a semester. These are held at Literati Bookstore in November and March, and are recorded for later broadcast on WCBN radio and podcast on Sweetland’s website. Last November we welcomed Pulitzer Prize winning historian Heather Ann Thompson. March’s guest was Associate Professor in the departments of Middle East Studies and History Ellen Muehlberger, whose interview coincided with the publication of her newest book, Moment of Reckoning: Imagined Death and Its Consequences in Late Ancient Christianity (Oxford).

You can listen to the audio of Heather Ann’s, Ellen’s, or other previous guests’ interviews here!

Shelley Manis (L) with Ellen Muehlberger (R)
Shelley Manis (L) with Heather Ann Thompson (R)

Meanwhile, the Minor in Writing students launched a Minor-led student literary journal and blog named after and associated with the series, Writer to Writer. These intrepid students dropped their “Zero Edition” e-journal in the Winter of 2018 and published their first print journal (also available online here) in the spring of 2019. The W2W executive board continues to build Writer to Writer’s visibility and engagement with rolling submissions for the ejournal and blog, and a second print edition in the works for spring. They’re also expanding their reach to host community events, such as a November “Writers’ Jam,” which created space for people to do prompted creative writing and share their work, and they’ve planned a writing workshop for January of 2020.

New Sweetland Initiatives in Dissertation Writing

This past year saw Sweetland increase its academic initiatives to aid graduate students as they write their dissertations. Sweetland has long offered a graduate course, Writing 630, that provides instructional support to graduate students writing in their discipline. Experience in the classroom revealed that, at times, a peer interaction between graduate students who were focusing on writing shorter pieces, like a conference presentation or an article for publication, and graduate students who were writing a dissertation chapter, were not the most advantageous, since the rhetorical conditions for the two enterprises were abundantly different. Therefore, Sweetland designed a novel course specifically answering the needs of dissertation writers: Writing 631, “Dissertation Writing.”

This course, while supporting doctoral candidates in completing one or more chapters of their dissertation, primarily aids students in gaining self-awareness as writers. The course engages doctoral students in planning, managing, and improving their writing process, as well as in solidifying practices that writers can apply to their future writing beyond the PhD. The format combines discussion meetings, peer-review sessions for effective revision, and reflective writing activities that prompt students to define what it means, in an academic setting of research and teaching, to be a writer.

Sweetland also received grants from The Office of Academic Innovation and The Office of the Provost to develop a digital messaging tool to assist graduate writers remotely: The Dissertation Coach. This tool takes advantage of an existing and successfully tested product in undergraduate education (ECoach), and reconfigures that platform to target graduate students in the dissertation writing phase. Following current practices in behavioral science, the Dissertation Coach aims at influencing positive writing behavior, especially when dissertation writers encounter challenges in productivity. The Dissertation Coach has been launched in its beta version during Fall 2019 as an addition to the interdisciplinary Sweetland/Rackham Dissertation Writing Groups. Sweetland faculty Louis Cicciarelli, Larissa Sano, and Simone Sessolo have developed the platform. They have been helped by Marisol Fila, a PhD student in Romance Languages and Literature.

The Peer Writing Center has moved to 2160 Shapiro!

After many years in the lower level of Angell Hall, the Sweetland Peer Writing Center has moved to the second floor of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library.

The new space is the culmination of nearly two years of planning, supported by the work of a small committee of peer writing consultants, led by consultant Regina Chen ‘18, who focused her Minor in Writing capstone project on writing center design. Her work included research into effective learning space design, as well as surveys of writing center clients and focus groups with writing consultants about their needs and preferences for the space.

Accessibility was a key consideration in the space design, with adjustable-height tables and some quieter spaces where noise and light levels can be adjusted to meet students’ needs. There are a variety of seating options, and our handouts are within easy reach of students using a wheelchair. The center includes a reservable multimodal collaboration room for students working on digital group projects. After Sweetland consulting hours, the center remains open to provide additional study space.

We share the new space with the library Peer Information Consultants, who support students with research projects. It’s a logical collaboration, and one that will continue to grow, as our consultants get to know each other better.

Because of our new location in the library, our staff development focus this fall has been on campus collaborations. We’ve hosted presenters from the English Language Institute, the Trotter Multicultural Center, Services for Students with Disabilities, the Department of Public Safety, LSA Academic Advising, and Wolverine Wellness.

Also this fall, the Peer Writing Center opened a new satellite in the Trotter Multicultural Center on State Street. We’re excited to be part of the programming in that building and to learn more about cross-cultural communication from Trotter staff.

Math + Writing = Learning

Math + Writing = Learning. This is the premise of Sweetland’s current offering in the large-enrollment course Math 216 and is part of M-Write’s ongoing process of fostering writing-to-learn across disciplines and departments at U-M. 

What started in 2016 as an effort to pilot writing-to-learn assignments in a few undergraduate courses has evolved into a much larger initiative involving 14 faculty members and over 20,000 students. Sweetland continues to support faculty across campus in using writing as a means of learning and simultaneously trains and supports dozens of undergraduate Writing Fellows each semester who work with these faculty.

Winter 2019 M-Write Fellows (morning class)
Winter 2019 M-Write Fellows (afternoon class)

Beginning in Fall 2019, Sweetland expanded its support of writing-to-learn to include Math 216, Introduction to Differential Equations. This course already included writing assignments designed to help students explain mathematical concepts and make connections between computer labs and course work. What was missing, however, was an opportunity for students to engage in a writing process designed to reinforce learning. 

Sweetland worked with Gavin LaRose, the course coordinator of Math 216, to find ways to improve the writing process for some of these assignments. This collaboration produced modifications to the assignments to allow for feedback, peer review, and revision. The goal of these changes is to encourage students to generate a low-stakes draft, to receive feedback on it and respond to the drafts of others, and then to use this experience to revise their own drafts.

The changes to the assignments in Math 216 reflect the core principles of the M-Write Program. One of these is that student learning can be improved by writing in response to assignments that include several essential elements – a meaning-making task, an assignment with clear expectations, and an interactive writing component that includes interacting with peers through a feedback process. 

Sweetland will continue to expand the number and type of courses it supports in Winter 2020, as we help faculty adopt writing-to-learn approaches in Political Science and Kinesiology, two areas new to M-Write. Throughout this expansion, we continue to focus on understanding how writing-to-learn assignments affect student learning by conducting research that identifies and measures student outcomes. The long-term goal is to create a new U-M equation: all courses + writing = learning.

Meet the 2019-2020 Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Graduate Fellows & New Books

Hosted by the Sweetland Center for Writing, the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative (DRC) is an online, community webspace by and for scholars and teachers working in computers and writing and digital rhetoric. It is also the home of a digital book series with the U-M Press.  

This summer, the DRC welcomed its seventh cohort of graduate student Fellows. The program aims to recognize graduate students around the country currently working in digital rhetoric who want practical experience in online publishing and website development. Fellows are selected on a yearly basis by the editors and board of the DRC, and receive an annual stipend of $500 as well as recognition on the DRC website.

DRC Fellows commit to attending monthly online team meetings to plan projects that extend the DRC website and its contributions to the community of computers and writing. They work independently and collaboratively to complete two projects within the year of their term. Last year’s Fellows hosted robust blog carnivals on “Discerning Digital Rhetorics’ Futures” and “Multimodal Design and Social Advocacy”, as well as publishing five Webtexts of the Month reviews covering topics from teaching with Wikipedia, to a new online forum for young scholars, to a journal of undergraduate multimedia publications. In November, two of our fellows collaborated on an interactive video chronicling their experiences attending the annual Watson Conference on Rhetoric and Composition and curating a series of conference session reviews. Our new fellows have already jumped into the mix with a blog carnival on “Digital Community Building as Social Justice Praxis”, fresh off the (digital) press.

This year’s fellows are:

Dana Comi, University of Kansas

Dana Comi is a PhD student in the Rhetoric and Composition program at the University of Kansas, where she currently teaches first year composition and technical communication courses. Her research interests include Rhetorical Genre Studies (RGS), human-centered design, and digital rhetoric. Currently, she researches neighborhoods that design their own Internet infrastructure as rhetorical access-building. You can follow her on Twitter at @cat_comi.

Wilfredo Flores, Michigan State University

Wilfredo Flores—or Wil—is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University. His research deploys ideas from platform studies and cultural rhetorics and qualitative methods to examine how queer people talk about their sexual health on Twitter. You can read more at, and he tweets at @willflowers.

McKinley Green, University of Minnesota

McKinley Green (he/him/his pronouns) is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Scientific & Technical Communication at the University of Minnesota, where he teaches classes in technical and professional communication, first-year writing, and visual rhetoric. His interests are located at intersections of technology, rhetoric, and theories of social justice. You can learn more about his teaching and research at

Jialei Jiang, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Jialei Jiang is a PhD candidate in Composition and Applied Linguistics at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she also teaches first-year composition (FYC) and research writing courses. Her research interests include new materialist theories, digital composition, and public rhetoric. She is interested in exploring the intersection between multimodal pedagogy and public rhetoric advocacy. Jialei’s dissertation focuses on examining the material and affective design of multimodal campaigns in FYC classrooms.

Soyeon Lee, University of Houston

Soyeon Lee is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric, Composition, and Pedagogy in the English department at the University of Houston. Her research interests include transnational literacy studies, digital rhetoric, community engagement, and environmental risk communication. She has worked on representing the experiences and literate lives of flood-affected immigrants living in the Gulf of Mexico coastal cities in the aftermath of disasters.

Nupoor Ranade, North Carolina State University

Nupoor Ranade is a Ph.D. student in the Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media program at the North Carolina State University. Her research focuses on audience analysis, digital rhetoric, user experience and information design, primarily in the field of technical communication and artificial intelligence. Her research experience and partnerships with the industry help her bridge gaps of knowledge that she then brings to her pedagogical practices. She is interested in exploring interdisciplinary collaborative work which helps us redefine the term audience.

TWO NEW BOOKS from the Sweetland DRC Book Series

This winter, the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Book Series, an imprint of the U-M Press, published two new books that move the study of digital writing and rhetoric forward in important ways.

Developing Writers in Higher Education: A Longitudinal Study, edited by Anne Ruggles Gere (University of Michigan), director of Sweetland 2008-2019, provides a comprehensive study of college students’ writerly development across their undergraduate years. Drawing on extensive qualitative and quantitative data gathered from 169 U-M undergraduate students over six years, Developing Writers traces the multiple paths taken by student writers as they learn to write for various purposes in multiple disciplines, leading them to new levels of competence in their academic and professional pursuits. The book has both a companion website that presents additional materials for a broad audience, and an online repository that makes the study’s data available to a research audience.

Rhetorical Code Studies: Discovering Arguments in and around Code by Kevin Brock (University of South Carolina) offers an exploration of software code as meaningful communication through which amateur and professional software developers construct arguments. His book considers examples ranging from large, well-known projects like Mozilla Firefox to small-scale programs like the “FizzBuzz” test common in many programming job interviews, and includes interactive components that allow readers to test out some of the book’s arguments for themselves. Rhetorical Code Studies is winner of the 2017 Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Book Prize.