Summer Interns

Sweetland interns Anna Vanderberg and Briana Johnson spent the summer refining databases and analytical materials for both the Minor in Writing and Peer Writing Consultant Program. The two focused for much of the three months on making a more accessible database for the Minor in Writing Capstone Portfolios and designing a system to categorize each student’s project. They also surveyed and analyzed other campus peer mentoring programs in order to improve the experience of Peer Writing Consultants. Additionally, Anna and Briana spoke to a total of 52 classes about Sweetland services as part of their outreach initiatives. The two gained experience in creating calendars and checklists through Google Sheets, and enjoyed connecting with faculty and students during the Spring and Summer terms.

For the Peer Writing Program, Anna and Briana analyzed the surveys and created a three-page report that included pay rates, hours worked, and training focuses, which then was shared with other peer-led tutoring facilities on campus. For the Minor in Writing, the main goals for the database were to understand what program resources are being utilized and what resources minors could be educated on more, and how confident minors seem to be in creating multimodal work. Towards the end of the summer, the two created a promotional video for the Peer Writing Center’s new space in Shapiro Library and an informational video about Sweetland’s services.

The two enjoyed their experiences during their time at Sweetland’s, even when they forgot to take out the trash and their entire office smelled like rotting chicken! Beyond their forgetfulness, Anna and Briana built off each other’s passion for work; they worked hard to meet project deadlines and were open to learning new skills when it came to spreadsheets, graphing data, and video editing software. The two hope to take their new-found skills into their post-grad careers.

2019 Fellows Seminar

The Fellows Seminar brings together Faculty (Senior Fellows) and graduate student instructors (Junior Fellows) from multiple disciplines who share a commitment to integrating writing into their courses. Fellows confer with local and national visiting speakers, learn ways of helping students become better writers, discuss concerns about teaching in the age of the internet, learn how to integrate writing in their courses, and examine approaches to incorporating writing across the disciplines. For more information visit the Senior Fellows or Junior Fellows pages on our website. Listen to our Topics in Writing podcast featuring Fellows Seminar visiting speakers.

2019 Senior Fellows (Faculty)

Michelle Bellino, School of Education
Anne Gere, Sweetland Center for Writing
Despina Margomenou, Classical Studies
Raymond McDaniel, Sweetland Center for Writing
George Tyler, Political Science

2019 Junior Fellows (Graduate Students)

Katherine Beydler, Classical Studies
Katherine Hummel, English Language and Literature
Vincent Longo, Screen Arts and Cultures
Aleksandra Marciniak, Slavic Languages and Literatures
Elizabeth McNeill, Germanic Languages and Literatures
Kamaria Porter, School of Education
Emily Saidel, Communication Studies

Writing Prize Winners

Sweetland’s prizes for outstanding writing in First-Year and Upper-Level Writing Requirement courses consists of a monetary award along with their work published in a series that collects the prize-winning writing in two volumes, Excellence in First-Year Writing and Excellence in Upper-Level Writing. Writing Prize winners were recognized at a ceremony in April 2019.

Excellence in First-Year Writing book
Download the PDF | Amazon purchase link

Excellence in Upper-Level Writing book
Download the PDF | Amazon purchase link

First-Year Writing Prizes

Matt Kelley Prize for Excellence in First-Year Writing

Kate Glad, “Chuck Too Close”
nominated by Duygu Ergun, CL122 

Aditya Ravi, “Lunchtime Epiphanies”
nominated by Genta Nishku, CL122

Excellence in Multilingual Writing

Xuanwen Huang, “Toyota Camry in China and the US: Same Name, Different Cars”
nominated by Scott Beal, WRITING 120

Zhiyao Zhang, “How Consuming Transgenic Food Would Affect Human Immune Systems?”
nominated by Shuwen Li, WRITING 120

Excellence in the Practice of Writing

Michelle Karls, “How to Succeed in Writing 100 Without Really Trying (Disclaimer: You Should Actually Try)”
nominated by Stephanie Moody, WRITING 100

Anonymous, “Who I Am and Who I Want to Be Cannot Connect” 
nominated by Gina Brandolino, WRITING 100

Upper-Level Writing Prizes

Excellence in Upper-Level Writing (Social Sciences)

Samantha Goldstein, “Best Strategies to Increase Public Support for a Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages” 
nominated by Aloka Narayanan, PolSci 381 

Henry Schnaidt, “Colonialism and Environmental Discrimination in the Asia-Pacific: The US military in Guam and Okinawa”
nominated by Omolade Adunbi, AAS322/Environ 335

Excellence in Upper-Level Writing (Sciences)

Tim Arvan, “Climate Change Exacerbates Invasive Species Pressures on Michigan Prairies” 
nominated by Abby Potts, EEB372

Elizabeth Stanley, “Current research on exoplanets and the search for habitable worlds”
nominated by Jimmy Brancho, Writing 400

Excellence in Upper-Level Writing (Humanities)

Verity Sturm, “Tinker, Tailor, Author, Masochist: The Ishiguro Novel as a Field Experiment in Pain”
nominated by Andrea Zemgulys, English 398 

Kelly Wester, “Bitchin’ About the Kitchen:  An Intersectional Review of Gender, Race, and Class in the Restaurant Industry”
nominated by Supriya Nair, English 407

Updated Multilingual Writing Curriculum

Based on recent research, Sweetland has updated its multilingual writing curriculum.

Between April and May 2018, Sweetland faculty members Shuwen Li and Naomi Silver, and Joint Program in English and Education graduate student Ryan McCarty conducted a survey of 245 undergraduate international students and ran five focus group interviews to uncover students’ current needs for writing courses at Sweetland. Our data reveal a large number of international students majoring in STEM and a widespread interest in professional and technical writing and communication.

In Fall 2018, Sweetland updated the multilingual writing curriculum by revising WRITING 240: Professional and Technical Presentation for International and Multilingual Students and WRITING 340: Professional and Technical Writing and Communication in International Contexts. WRITING 240 focuses on presentation and writing skills to prepare international and multilingual students for effective delivery of complex information to experts and lay audiences in international contexts. WRITING 340 is designed for all students who will write and communicate professionally in international contexts, where different cultures interact. This course also aims to bring native and non-native speakers together to work on multicultural teams.

The updated WRITING 240 was launched in Fall 2019, and Sweetland welcomes students who are interested in taking WRITING 340 in Winter 2020.

Additionally, in Summer 2019 Shuwen Li, Naomi Silver, and Ryan McCarty gave a panel presentation titled “Balancing Acts: Creating Inclusive Curriculum for Multilingual and International Students at a Large R1 Institution” at the Council for Writing Program Administrators Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Their panel shared the research findings, and offered attendees Sweetland’s approach to better understanding international students’ choices in writing course enrollment. The presentation provided implications for teachers and administrators considering how to restructure courses to more inclusively meet student goals.  

WRITING 405: Contemporary Topics and Multidisciplinary Writing

Sweetland’s newest course, Writing 405, began as a conversation about how to develop further one of Sweetland’s areas of strength: understanding writing in and across academic disciplines. While there are many courses that offer the opportunity to focus on one discipline at a time, there were no courses that gave students the chance to place different forms of academic writing in conversation with one another. How can our understanding of disciplinary writing reveal how academic disciplines think, pose questions, and build knowledge? A working group comprised of Sweetland faculty members Anne Gere, Shuwen Li, Raymond McDaniel, Dana Nichols, and Carol Tell formed in summer 2017 to address this gap in our curriculum.

Writing 405 uses a different approach than other writing in the disciplines courses. Rather than situating the class in a particular academic department, this course is housed in Sweetland to focus on the connections between writing and developing academic knowledge. The class focuses on one contemporary topic, and examines that topic across the genres, conventions, and styles of different academic disciplines. Students build a subtle understanding of how those disciplines create knowledge through their approach to the topic, the questions they pose, and the constraints of what discrete disciplines can learn on their own.

Raymond McDaniel debuted the course in winter 2019 using the theme “Climate, Crisis, and Interdisciplinarity.” The class drew students from across LSA, including many from STEM disciplines, who were invested in the issue and eager for the opportunity to explore climate change from an interdisciplinary perspective. Dana Nichols is offering Writing 405 for the second time in winter 2020 with the theme “’White Trash’ and Rural America,” which examines how disciplines have imagined and constructed this American group as an economic, political, public health, and social problem. Writing 405 has been a welcome addition to Sweetland’s slate of courses, and we look forward to future offerings that encourage students to conceptualize the complexities and nuances of some of our thorniest contemporary problems.

Minor in Writing Alumni Updates

Thanks to our Writing Minor alumni who responded this summer to yet another Sweetland email. We appreciate you keeping in touch and hearing all of the wonderful things you are up to.

To submit an alumni update and view updates from previous years visit the Alumni section of our website.

Jordan Boeve • Psychology 2013
I went to Wayne State and got my PhD in developmental psychology in 2018. Completed a postdoctoral fellowship at U of M Flint, working with young children who were affected by the water crisis. Just got married and moved to Sacramento, where I am a lecturer at UC Davis (Contemporary American Families) and my husband is a neurology resident.

Katie Brown • Movement Science 2013
I’m halfway through the Physician Assistant program at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Zachary Bucholtz • Screenwriting 2013
Recently, I made the decision to quit my “day job” to focus full-time on running my own business, FourFour Pictures. We do wedding videos, commercials, and drone photography. Before that, I was the Screenwriter and Editor of the documentary film Just Getting By, about the post-recession economy, and have produced a handful of short films. I live in the city of Detroit and LOVE being part of its revival.

Jen Durow • History 2013
I completed an MS degree in Survey Methodology at University of Michigan in 2016 and currently work as a survey methodologist at the American Institutes for Research. I use the skills learned in the Minor for grant writing, and to communicate technical findings to nontechnical audiences.

Alexandra Olkowski • Political Science 2013
In 2016 I graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law, and now I am an attorney, living in Chicago.

Hanny Tasker • History 2013
I am in my second year of a tailored Master’s degree program in Information Studies at the University of Michigan. I apply design-thinking to online learning environments. In my spare time I write for the web and knit ambitious sweaters.

Continue reading Minor in Writing Alumni Updates

Peer Tutor / Writing Consultant Alumni Updates

Thanks to all of the Peer Tutor and Peer Writing Consultant alumni who reached out over the summer to share what you have been up to.

To submit an alumni update and view updates from previous years visit the Alumni section of our website.


Alexander Gilbert • Cellular and Molecular Biology 1994
After graduating, I went to medical school at New York University and then did my advanced medical training at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. I specialize in transplant nephrology and am an Associate Professor at Georgetown University and Director of the Transplant Nephrology Fellowship Program at the Medstar Georgetown Transplant Institute.

Doug Bouws • Political Science 1995
Graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 2002 with Masters in Divinity. Spent 14 years NE of Sacramento as Pastor of Hospitality at Granite Springs Church. Now live near Grand Rapids, MI as a legacy gift coach/consultant–help non-profits market gifts in the Will to their most loyal donors. 

Christina Consolino • French 1995
I received my PhD in Physiology in 2003 and taught college-level anatomy and physiology until May 2019. My work has been published in Brevity Blog, Flights, HuffPost, Short Fiction Break, Tribe Magazine, and Literary Mama, where I serve as Senior Editor. I’m also co-author of Historic Photos of University of Michigan. I currently teaching writing classes through Word’s Worth Writing Center in Dayton, Ohio, and work as a freelance editor and writing tutor. In my spare time, I read, write, run, and spend time with my husband and four children. 

Robert Yoon • Political Science and Communication 1995
I was a peer writing tutor back in the 1990s when it was still called the English Composition Board. I am now a political journalist, having clocked more than 17 eventful years as CNN’s Director of Political Research. In that role, I mostly covered campaigns and elections, with a special emphasis on preparing for presidential debates and Election Nights. Now, I’m back in Ann Arbor as the Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism in the Department of Communication and Media. I teach classes on the role of the news media in campaigns and elections. My experience at Sweetland/ECB has been extremely helpful in working with students to make the most impact with their writing. Outside of the classroom, I’m also the host of a journalism-themed radio talk show on WCBN-FM called The J Word.

Brooke Ingersoll • Psychology 1996
I received my PhD in experimental psychology for UC San Diego in 2003. I am currently a faculty member in the Clinical Psychology Program at Michigan State University, where I conduct research on the development, evaluation, and implementation of community-viable interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. I am a co-author of an evidence-based parent-mediated intervention curriculum for young children with ASD.

Continue reading Peer Tutor / Writing Consultant Alumni Updates

From LHSP to LSWA: Name Change for Lloyd Scholars

In Summer 2019, the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program (LHSP) officially adopted a new name: Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts (LSWA). Lloyd staff, in consultation with students, chose this name because it better reflects the program’s mission and theme (“writing and the arts”). Yet we haven’t made this decision lightly. Since our program has a long history, starting with the Pilot Program (1962) then transitioning to the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program in the mid-90s, we decided to hold onto “Lloyd” in our new name in deference to this rich history. The new name both honors that past and more accurately describes the program.

LSWA continues to offer innovative writing and arts classes, student-led clubs, poetry awards, leadership opportunities, and an annual writing and arts publication. Most important, the community of first- and second-year students, student leaders, and RAs remains a close-knit, supportive, and diverse group, where students can be creative, whatever their major.

Sweetland faculty provides LSWA students innovative and interdisciplinary writing classes. In the fall term faculty taught a variety of LHSP 125 classes that fulfill the first-year writing requirement. Winter term courses include such old favorites as Writing and Movement and Children’s Literature, as well as new offerings such as Playwriting and Dramaturgy and “Event Zero: Writing into Mystery.” Another winter term highlight: LSWA will showcase artist-in-residence Carrie Morris, a Detroit-based director and performance artist whose work combines puppetry, multimedia, and experimental theatre. Additionally, LSWA is working with the LSA Opportunity Hub on developing arts and writing related internships with LSWA alumni.

To learn more about the program, please check out our student-produced video announcing LSWA’s new name.

Welcome to the 2018 Newsletter

During the past year the Sweetland Center for Writing has undertaken many different projects, but all of them are designed to foster a culture of writing on the U-M campus, to make it a place where student writing and support for writers is visible and valued.

As you read through these pages, notice the many different ways that writing is addressed. The Alumni Survey shows that student who serve as Peer Consultants (formerly Peer Tutors) benefited both during and after graduation. As undergrads, they had higher GPAs and felt more confident about their abilities as writers. As alumni, their experiences at Sweetland shaped their career choices and enabled them to meet various challenges. As part of the effort to make U-M accessible to a broad range of students, Peer Consultants offered workshops at the U-M Detroit Center for students who are preparing admission essays for college applications.  Student writers also compete for Sweetland’s writing prizes, and the writing of winners is published both online and in print, providing models for instructors to use in writing classes. The National Day on Writing invites all members of the University community to express their gratitude for writing’s role in their lives.  A new project promises to display student writing in yet another way.  Thanks to the interest of a number of students in the Minor in Writing, a Writer-to-Writer Journal is currently under development. Participating students have organized themselves, with support from faculty member Shelley Manis, into a working group that plans to produce an online version of the journal during the coming semester.

With support from Rackham, faculty from Sweetland and the English Language Institute (ELI) have developed a year-long series of workshops for graduate students to prepare them for everything from academic communication to proposal writing to composing a dissertation. Workshops will be offered on a regular basis that responds to the life cycle of graduate education.

In response to the University’s emphasis on Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI), several Sweetland faculty members have participated in workshops and developed strategies for making DEI even more central in writing instruction. In addition, a number of faculty members are playing key roles in the Inclusive Teaching Initiative, working with colleagues across campus.

Research continues to occupy a prominent position in Sweetland’s work. M-Write, a program that integrates writing-to-learn pedagogies into large enrollment gateway courses, has generated studies of the misconceptions revealed by peer review of student writing, the kinds of assignments that are most effective in fostering student learning, the effects of serving as a Writing Fellow on undergraduate learning, and the qualities of faculty who incorporate writing into their courses. The Digital Rhetoric Collaborative publishes, in collaboration with the University of Michigan Press, a series of books on digital rhetoric, and, with the assistance of the graduate student Fellows drawn from five different universities, the DRC also maintains an active website where researchers discuss their work and ideas.

Finally, you can learn about a six-year study that examines how a large group of U-M students grew as writers across their undergraduate careers. Developing Writers in Higher Education: A Longitudinal Study has just been released by the University of Michigan Press. It will be available in both hard copy and digital form, and the latter includes an “engagement layer” addressed to a non-academic audience and a layer of data collected for the study so that other researchers can use it in their work. This enormous project would not have been possible without the highly capable Graduate Student Research Assistants who participated in multiple ways.

Sweetland Faculty Heavily Involved in Inclusive Teaching Initiative

In fall of 2015, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel spearheaded a renewed focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) that resulted in the development of a University-wide strategic plan. In year three of the plan, the College of LSA is highlighting inclusive teaching and learning pedagogies, recognizing the classroom as an important site of student experiences of campus climate linked to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Its goal is to provide 80% of LSA’s instructional faculty with training in inclusive teaching and learning pedagogies by 2021.

U-M’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) defines inclusive teaching as follows:

Inclusive teaching involves deliberately cultivating a learning environment where all students are treated equitably, have equal access to learning, and feel welcome, valued, and supported in their learning. Such teaching attends to student identities and seeks to change the ways systemic inequalities shape dynamics in teaching-learning spaces, affect individuals experiences of those spaces, and influence course and curricular design. This definition is relevant in every discipline and requires intentional practice over time. It involves setting high standards and communicating clear paths to success for all students; being as transparent as possible about expectations and norms; and creating structured opportunities for students to learn about and from each other.  

The LSA Campus Climate Committee’s Inclusive Teaching website (created and maintained with support from the LSA Dean’s Office and CRLT) represents one initiative to share classroom activities, syllabus materials, and student and instructor perspectives related to campus climate and inclusive classrooms. Sweetland’s Associate Director Naomi Silver and LSA Assistant Dean Kelly Maxwell are the current leads on the project, and current and former Sweetland faculty Carol Tell and Paul Barron have also played a substantial role. Over the last year, the site has received 59K views, from users on every continent, with most finding the site through an organic search. The site continues to add new materials to reach instructors in varied fields, and plans more extensive user testing in the Winter 2019 semester.

Meet the DRC Fellows & New DRC 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 sixth 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 “Material and Digital Rhetorics: Openings for Feminist Action” and “Rhetorics and Ethics of Smart Technologies and Artificial Intelligence,” as well as publishing six Webtext of the Month reviews covering topics from digital feminist publishing to a Google Chrome extension addressing gendered writing challenges in email to a virtual roundtable on wearable and embodied technologies. Our new fellows have already jumped into the mix with a blog carnival on “Discerning Digital Rhetorics’ Futures”, and session reviews from the 2018 Watson conference are being edited as we go to press.

The 2018-2019 fellows are…

Lauren Garskie, Bowling Green State University
Lauren Garskie is a PhD candidate in the Rhetoric & Writing Program at Bowling Green State University. Her research interests include design literacies, digital rhetoric, and multimodality. Lauren’s dissertation, situated in a newly built space designed to foster cross-disciplinary collaboration at BGSU, examines how collaboration is understood and enacted/affected by a space.

Angela Glotfelter, Miami University of Ohio
Angela Glotfelter is a PhD student in the Composition and Rhetoric program at Miami University of Ohio, where she currently teaches and takes courses in digital writing and rhetoric. Currently, she researches how content creators navigate the complex systems created by algorithms and other actors to achieve success. You can follow her on twitter at @amglotfelter.

Whitney Lew James, Texas Christian University
Whitney Lew James is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Composition at Texas Christian University. Currently serving as Assistant Director of TCU’s Center for Digital Expression, her research interests include translingual and multimodal pedagogies, digital rhetoric, and Disability Studies. You can learn more about Whitney’s research and teaching here: whitneylewjames.com. She tweets at @whitney_tweets.

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.

Jason Tham, University of Minnesota
Jason Tham is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication at the University of Minnesota––Twin Cities. His current research focuses on making and design thinking in writing pedagogy, multimodality, and emerging technologies such as wearables and mixed reality. He tweets at @JasonCKTham.

Katie Walkup, University of South Florida
Katie Walkup is a PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of South Florida. Her research interests are rhetoric of health and medicine, digital rhetoric, and writing program administration. Her current research project looks at the role of self-narrative in mental health literacy. She tweets at @klwalkup.

NEW BOOK from the Sweetland DRC Book Series

This October, the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Book Series, an imprint of the U-M Press, had the pleasure of publishing its fourth book, Sites of Translation: What Multilinguals Can Teach Us about Digital Writing and Rhetoric  by Laura Gonzales of the University of Texas at El Paso, and a DRC Graduate Fellow from 2013-2015. Winner of the 2016 Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Book Prize, Sites of Translation offers a groundbreaking study of the inventive intellectual work performed by multilingual communicators who translate information in academic and professional spaces. As her reviewers write, Gonzales’s study “spans multiple lines of inquiry (comparative studies, multilingual studies, and digital rhetorics)” to create “a text that is at once polyvocal and accessibly written.” Further, “the substantial and significant data (nearly 3,000 translations and nearly 5,800 second-tier codes) provides an excellent example for analyzing larger data sets that connect with ethnographic storytelling,” providing “insightful analysis from experiences that often go overlooked.”

OF NOTE: The Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Book Series publication Rhizcomics: Rhetoric, Technology, and New Media Composition, by Jason Helms (Texas Christian University), received the 2018 Kairos Best Webtext Award! Presented annually by the premier scholarly journal in digital rhetoric, this award recognizes outstanding webtexts that “take advantage of the Web as a medium to present information in ways that traditional scholarly texts cannot.”

Developing Writers in Higher Education: A Longitudinal Study

It’s finally done! After 8 years, 169 students, 322 surveys, 131 interviews, 94 electronic portfolios, 2406 pieces of writing, and untold numbers of hours invested in reading, analyzing, and writing, the book-length study of writing development among U-M students has been finished. This ground-breaking study offers a comprehensive portrait of how students develop as writers during their undergraduate years. Results of this study show that when they graduate student writers have an increased awareness of audience, a deeper understanding of the social nature of writing, greater ability to use feedback effectively, an enhanced capacity to produce nuanced arguments, and deeper understanding of the connections between writing and their own personal and social development.

Despite these general trends, this study showed that students’ writerly development takes many paths, and none of these follows a predictable or straightforward route. Students make strides as writers and then stall for a while. They do well writing in one disciplinary area and flounder in another. They feel confident as writers and then feel overwhelmed by a new challenge. Uneveness of writing development is particularly evident in the differences between digital and traditional writing. Some less experienced writers composed more effectively in digital formats while other stronger writers were never entirely convinced that digital writing was actually what one called “writing writing.”

The book-length account of this study is available in two forms: a traditional book and an online version. The latter includes an “engagement layer” that translates study findings into language accessible to non-academics, and a “data layer” that makes all the study data available to other researchers. Developing Writers in Higher Education: A Longitudinal Study will be published by the University of Michigan Press, and will be available in January 2019.

Graduate Student Support / Rackham – ELI Partnership

For the over 8,000 doctoral and masters students enrolled in programs overseen by the Rackham Graduate School, writing is both the means by which they have gained admission and also an instrument of their graduate work. This fact remains constant across disciplines even as each field and speciality maintains its own conventions, norms, and scholarly expectations. When we think of graduate school, it’s often the focal intellectual intensity of scholarship itself we imagine. This focus can make it all too easy to overlook the degree to which scholarly and professional practice requires not just what can feel like endless writing, but also an endless education in writing itself.

This points to a central paradox of the role of graduate school: the way you write your way in doesn’t automatically prepare you for the way you have to write your way through and out. The first graduate seminar is often radically unlike the undergraduate senior seminars; the techniques that make for a successful grant or fellowship application rarely make themselves transparent; no one knows how to write a dissertation until they write a dissertation, a task most will (one imagines) only complete once and which has no direct precedent and no exact antecedent. The challenges are many, and potentially compounded by the suspicion many graduate students have that they should know how to do all this already, that making the challenge of writing visible and explicit is somehow tantamount to admitting a flaw.

However, the flaw isn’t with the students; it’s with an academic culture that values writing without making the process of learning about writing legible and offering community, instruction, and exchange. In recognition of this need, the Rackham Graduate School is partnering with the Sweetland Center for Writing and the English Language Institute to offer support to graduate students at all levels and of all disciplines. This last summer four Sweetland faculty members, led by Louis Cicciarelli (longtime coordinator of Sweetland’s Dissertation Writing Institute), met to assess student needs and develop workshops and programs to meet the diverse array of graduate writing occasions and tasks.

For the 2018-2019 academic year, we will offer four group workshops and presentations, focusing on topics as narrowly vital as how to approach grant and fellowship applications in STEM fields to those as broadly applicable as how to achieve lucid and direct academic prose, as well as workshops that address the role of argument at the level of a dissertation, and how to structure and manage the writing of one. Additionally, Sweetland faculty member Cat Cassel is facilitating weekly graduate Write-Together sessions and soliciting feedback from the session participants to help us customize workshops we will subsequently offer. These conversations will enable us to make sure we and our partners can turn the centrality of writing to graduate life into an occasion for celebration, community, discussion, and deliberation as we continue to seek new ways to best serve our graduate writers.

Larissa Sano leads “Writing Grant and Fellowship Proposals in STEM Disciplines” workshop

Peer Writing Consultant Alumni Survey

What do peer writing consultants gain from their participation in the program? Thanks to our 2018 summer interns, Hannah Clague and Ed Mayes, we have more some robust answers to that question.

First Hannah and Ed adapted the survey instrument from the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project, originally developed by Harvey Kail, Paula Gillespie, and Brad Hughes. Then they worked with our program coordinator Michael Zakali to send the survey out to 770 former Sweetland peer writing consultants. Two-hundred thirty-two responded, and they told us a number of interesting things about the effect the program had on them.

For instance, almost 80% of alumni said that the program had “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of effect on their development as university students and on their subsequent careers. Sixty percent of respondents believed that the program had “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of impact on their ability to work with people different from them. Open-ended responses indicated that former tutors not only developed improved writing skills, but also increased their confidence levels and ability to offer constructive feedback. The enthusiasm and insight offered by many of the alumni who completed the survey show that the experience of working in the PWC is formative in multiple ways.

Ed and Hannah also provided valuable help to the program by analyzing much of the data we collect on a regular basis. They reviewed all the applications to the peer writing consultant program over the past five years, to understand better who applies, who gets accepted, and who continues on in the program. They also studied the usage data from the peer writing centers over the past four years and compiled it into a spreadsheet that can be easily updated and analyzed, in order to track center usage over time and better understand the writers we serve.

All of these efforts, along with changes to our curriculum and professional development opportunities for consultants, are part of our ongoing work to make the peer writing consultant program both more effective and more inclusive.