2013 Newsletter!

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Welcome to Sweetland’s first-ever fully online newsletter. I think you will enjoy the enhanced visuals, the navigational possibilities, and the more capacious space for descriptions of our work. And speaking of work, our unit has taken up an entirely new area of endeavor this fall. Effective in September 2013, Sweetland has been assigned responsibility for supporting multilingual/international undergraduates at U-M. We have hired two new colleagues, Jing Xia and Lori Randall, who bring expertise in English language learning, and we have launched several new courses. Writing 120 serves first-year students who want to develop their capacity to write academic English; Writing 240 helps students understand US-style academic lectures and use that rhetorical knowledge to produce their own presentations; and Writing 340, designed to be taken concurrently with an Upper-Level Writing Requirement course, helps students understand the vocabulary and discourses of their majors.

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Another new dimension of our support for multilingual undergrads is translingual peer tutoring. Multilingual students are invited to discuss their English-language writing in a more familiar language with peer tutors who share that language with them. In addition to expanding their on-campus services, our peer tutors had an opportunity to share ideas with peers from elsewhere when they attended a national conference. With funding from the Rackham Graduate School, Sweetland also expanded its support for graduate student writers by increasing the number of Dissertation Writing Groups and by adding new writing groups for students in MA programs. Writers at all levels who are confused about issues of citation will benefit from the Beyond Plagiarism project, which Associate Director Naomi Silver is helping to lead.

Our Minor in Writing continues to grow. We just accepted another 36 students who will take the Gateway Course in Winter 2014, and last May our first cohort of Minors graduated. You can see some of their capstone electronic portfolios in this issue. As the next few cohorts graduate, we will be able to learn more about student writing development by studying the writing our Minors have produced across all four years. And it is not just our Minors from whom we are learning. Sweetland continues to collaborate with the Departments of Chemistry and Physics to integrate writing into learning about science.

These are just some of the highlights of the past year. You can learn more about Sweetland’s programs in the following pages…I mean, screens.

– Anne Ruggles Gere

Sweetland Takes Up Responsibility for Multilingual Undergraduates

Effective in Fall 2013, Sweetland is responsible for helping all undergraduate multilingual students transition to and succeed in academic writing at the University. With the help of two new faculty members, Jing Xia and Lori Randall, both of whom have training in teaching English as a second language, Sweetland has been busy preparing to meet the needs of this population. The Multilingual Student Working Group, consisting of Anne Gere, Lori Randall, Jing Xia, Simone Sessolo and Dave Karczynski, has developed three new courses. The first, Writing 120: College Writing for Multilingual Students, is a three-credit course loosely inspired by Writing 100: Transition to College Writing. This course is designed to help multilingual students develop written fluency and improve their command over the textual, rhetorical, and grammatical conventions of English that are common to a variety of academic disciplines. Lori and Jing are both teaching inaugural sections of the course this fall.

circle_lorirandallSays Lori of her students, “They are thoughtful and enthusiastic students representing the following countries: China, France, Greece, Korea, and the United States. They represent a wide range of ages, academic interests, and life experiences. Above all, they are brave students who have courageously embarked on an exciting – and somewhat stressful – adventure and seem to trust me to help them navigate at least a part of this adventure with grace and confidence.”

circle_jingxiaJing has also remarked on her students’ drive, courage and enthusiasm: “These students are risk-takers. They are learning to be independent, navigate a new culture, and learn the ins and outs of academia through an unfamiliar language—at the same time. They are also extremely motivated. Most of them come from well-off families in their home countries and have been the center of both attention and praise since childhood. They are willing to make every possible effort to succeed.”

The working group has also drafted two new courses, which will be implemented in Winter 2014. Writing 240: Academic Communication for Multilingual Students introduces students to strategies for understanding and analyzing academic lectures. In it, students are asked to examine the structure and rhetoric of typical American academic lectures for the purpose of enhancing not only their own comprehension skills but also their ability to create and deliver their own presentations. Writing 340: Disciplinary Writing for Multilingual Students: Vocabulary and Grammar in Context supports upper-division multilingual students who want to combine the development of discipline-specific reading and writing skills with an opportunity for regular conversational exchange with students who use English as their first language. The course will accomplish the latter goal by collaborating with another Sweetland course, Writing 300: Seminar in Peer Tutoring.

multilingualcoursesflyer_newsletterIn addition to developing new course offerings, the working group has helped the Language Resource Center transition to its new role of assisting English language learners. Whereas previously the LRC offered limited English language reading and study material, it now offers a substantial collection of popular English language texts as well as licensed software for self study. With the LRC, we will be continuing to develop the list of resources offered in keeping with student input and instructor feedback.

Sweetland’s Peer Tutoring program has also recently begun offering translingual tutoring for students who wish to discuss their English-language compositions in languages other than English, a program that will be expanded in the Winter Semester. Peer Tutors will also take the lead in receiving training to offer conversation groups for multilingual students.

Minor in Writing Capstone

Last April, the Sweetland Center for Writing graduated the first cohort of our Minor in Writing. Students from two sections of our Minor Capstone course, as well as their families, gathered in North Quad to receive their certification and speak about the experiences in the program.

Anyone wandering past the ceremony would have seen a familiar exchange, even a traditional one (unless, of course, they happened to stop by at the moment our robed and hooded faculty serenaded the students with a program-customized version of “Margaritaville”). But what the ritual of commencement disguised is the radical variety and the scale of ambition characteristic of the Minor in Writing and its students.

Since the program was initially conceived as an opportunity for students within and across multiple disciplines to pursue their interest in writing, the academic diversity our first cohort possessed is a mark of success. We believed that students wanted more opportunities to write and to think about writing, and they proved us correct. Pedagogically, however, getting them in a program and then figuring out how and what to teach them are very different tasks. Simply put, what do you ask a room full of students of neuroscience, history, sports management, museum studies, philosophy and medieval literature to write about? As a microcosm of the depth and array of inquiry that makes the university great, these students presented each other with an opportunity that was also a challenge.

Happily, challenge is a concept our minors welcome, which is why they responded with such inventiveness and diligence in the Capstone course when we told them they would each be responsible for proposing, designing and executing their own writing projects, which they would then place in the context of a digital writing portfolio that would narrate and elaborate the evolution of their undergraduate writing altogether. The development of these portfolios brought the students to a shared task, while the writing of the projects preserved the integrity of the individual student’s interest, abilities, and scholarly aptitudes. And of course, the cohort itself offered as ideal an audience of passionate readers – both empathetic and critical – as a writer could want.

Although this challenge demanded from the Capstone instructors the absolute utmost in finding ways to both provoke and serve their students, the work itself more than compensated for the effort. Teaching the Minor in Writing Capstone affords a teacher a rare and thrilling preview of these students’ futures, as we see how they will draw upon all they have learned to make new things, new forms and ways of knowing, new ways of reaching and inventing readers and communities. As we are fond of saying around the office, we call it a minor, but the commitment it bespeaks is major.

The first section of our second graduating cohort is even now strategizing and wondering and making the most of the opportunity the Minor in Writing presents. They have familiarized themselves with the projects and portfolios of our first class – students to whom we are forever grateful for their willingness to help us fine-tune the program – and they are a bit intimidated. But they also see those achievements as a challenge, an invitation, and we are certain that this April they will show us once again what they are capable of, and why writing is their way forward.

Writing Across the Disciplines • Thurnau Professors on Writing

Arthur F. Thurnau professorships are presented annually to outstanding faculty with a demonstrated commitment to undergraduate teaching at the University of Michigan. These professors inspire us with their belief that nurturing students’ ability to write can help them make a difference in their academic disciplines and in their communities. We invite you to read more about what these professors said about integrating writing into their instructional practice.

thurnau_mikalavaque-manty227x341Mika LaVaque-Manty
THURNAU PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY
The first thing I say to my students about writing is about its importance in building your career. This is outing myself as a total nerd, but I did this quantitative analysis of the emails I’ve sent over the last ten years. I show them that I have sent 26,000 emails over the last ten years. I tell them that over the last ten years I’ve made perhaps 15 professional telephone calls. So what matters in the modern workplace, ability to write or ability to talk? Then we go from there, thinking about why is it so important to be able to communicate. Then the next step is that well, you are going to be writing emails. And being able to write well matters – writing clearly in accessible fluid, good prose matters. (I just love writing, also.) So the best thing I can give students is writing, and in political theory, there isn’t any more important component than writing. Here’s why: because texts are the object of our inquiry, and our data, and our method.

thurnau_sadashiinuzukaSadashi Inuzuka
THURNAU PROFESSOR OF ART AND DESIGN
In Art & Design we articulate our thoughts in a visual language. There is a kind of grammar and vocabulary there that people know when they are kids, but many people forget as they grow up. So when we want to communicate with a larger audience, we sometimes use writing as a bridge. That’s one reason we write. Another is to use writing as a tool in the creative process, so that students can find out what they really want to focus on in their art. Writing is valuable because you can ask yourself: “I wrote or made this. Is it true or not?” Writing always triggers something more important. That’s why I ask students to write: to be themselves, to be honest. So both of these ways, the written and visual, interact with each other and give the student confidence about their direction. But again, in Art & Design we recognize the power of visual language.

thurnau_marthajones227x290Martha Jones
THURNAU PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND AFROAMERICAN AND AFRICAN STUDIES
I spent much of my early career doing a lot of public speaking – conference papers and keynote talks. It was something I was more comfortable with. I was a good speaker long before I really confronted the challenge of writing. So it took me some time to come to writing as an equally, if not more important part of my academic toolbox. Now they are much more companions to one another. But there’s no question that in my field, writing is how and where one makes one’s mark. As much time as we spend at podiums giving talks, those are, by and large, ephemeral. There’s nothing more powerful than the article, than the book, than the text. It has a life, and it has a heft. So that’s given me new reasons to want to think about writing with my students – to help them appreciate the power of the written word, even in an era where they imagine everything is ephemeral.

thurnau_sick227x341Volker Sick
THURNAU PROFESSOR OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
If you look at alumni surveys that we do one, five, and ten years out, the importance of reading and technical writing rises to pretty much the top skill that alumni say they need. I think there’s probably nobody in engineering or the sciences who would not see and value the importance of writing. For example, I think that writing is a very important element of guiding you through the whole scientific process. If you cannot communicate what you plan to do or what you did, it’s as good as if it wasn’t done. I think it’s important for students to see and learn that writing is not optional; it’s an integrated and vital part of their engineering work.

2014 Sweetland Fellows

The Fellows Seminar brings together Faculty (Senior Fellows) and graduate student instructors (Junior Fellows) from multiple disciplines who share a commitment to integrating writing in their courses. Fellows will: 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.

Senior Fellows (Faculty)
Carol Bardenstein, Near Eastern Studies; Rachel Goldman, Physics;
Sara Konrath, Psychology; Simone Sessolo, Sweetland Center for Writing; Daniel Weissman, Psychology

Junior Fellows (Graduate Students)
Emily Goedde, Comparative Literature; Amanda Hendrix-Komoto, History; Dan Jaqua, Economics;
Elizabeth Mann, Political Science; Heidi Phillips, Chemistry; Katie Rosenblatt, History;
Rebecca Tutino, Toxicology, Environmental Health; Jessica Wiederspan, Sociology and Social Work

Peer Tutors Present at 2013 National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing

It’s “The Year of the Writer,” at least for those who attended the 2013 National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW) in Tampa, Florida in November. The conference theme this year invited tutors to consider aspects of their own identities as writers, as well as the writing identity of the students they tutor. Three groups comprised of the program director and eight undergraduate writing tutors affiliated with the University of Michigan’s Sweetland Peer Tutor Program traveled to Tampa and presented their research.

Logan Corey, Lauren Fitzgerald, Zoe Kumagai, and Zeinab Khalil presented “Clothes in Our Community: Writer Identity and Self-Expression.” Drake Misek, Jamie Nadel, and Lila Naydan presented “Tweeting Theses, Papers to Posts: The Dialogue between Digital and Academic Discourse.” Andy Peters presented “That Sounds Dope: Negotiating Non-Traditional Discourse with Standard English in the Writing Center.” Corey, a former peer tutor and UM alum, won the prestigious Burkean Parlor Grant—a cash prize awarded by the conference that helped defray the cost of her travel. Congratulations to Logan Corey and to all of Sweetland’s excellent tutors! They showcased the University of Michigan as an institution committed to engaging undergraduates in developing connections between theory and practice.

Undergraduate Writing Prize Winners

First-Year Writing Prizes

Sweetland Prize for Outstanding Writing Portfolio

Trishanya Raju
trishanya.wordpress.com
Writing 100 (nominated by Paul Barron)

Grace Yan Sun
gracesunwriting100.wordpress.com
Writing 100 (nominated by Simone Sessolo)

Matt Kelley Prize for Excellence in First-Year Writing

Yardain Amron
When the Silence Settles
LHSP 125 (nominated by Tim Hedges)

Amelia Brown
Ink
LHSP 125 (nominated by Tim Hedges)

Upper-Level Writing Prizes

Sweetland Prize for Excellence in Upper-Level Writing (sciences)

Molly Blakowski
Wind-driven dust transport in the Transantarctic Mountains and Antarctic Dry Valleys
Earth 442 (nominated by Sarah Aciego)

Carrie Glauner
Identifying Channel Migration Directionality in the agricultural, low relief setting on the River Raisin
Earth 442 (nominated by Sarah Aciego)

Sweetland Prize for Excellence in Upper-Level Writing (social sciences)

Hayley Sakwa
Fresh Food Financing Initiative: A Replicable Practice in Detroit?
PolSci 411 (nominated by Joel Clark)

William Benjamin Rogers
Mines, Migration and the Confluence of Disease:
The Story of South Africa
AAS 495 (nominated by Adam Ashforth)

Sweetland Prize for Excellence in Upper-Level Writing (humanities)

Rachel Kalayjian
To Find a Voice
Writing 300 (nominated by Lila Naydan)

Sam Walker
Ezra Pound, Aura, and the Memory of Time-Past
English 340 (nominated by John Whittier-Ferguson)

View the First-Year Writing Prize Book (pdf)

View the Upper-Level Writing Prize Book (pdf)

Meet the 2013-2014 Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Graduate Fellows

Hosted by the Sweetland Center for Writing, the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative is an online, community webspace by and for scholars and teachers working in computers and writing and digital rhetoric, and a born digital book series with the U-M Press. This fall, we announce two exciting initiatives.

Sweetland is pleased to announce its first cohort of Digital Rhetoric Collaborative (DRC) Graduate Fellows! The program aims to recognize graduate students 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; typical projects include: coordinating a blog carnival, developing the DRC wiki, enhancing the resources section of the website, or taking part in editorial work associated with DRC publishing.

Our fellows were chosen from a talented pool of applicants and impressed our Board with their depth of experience and wide variety of skills and interests. We look forward to an exciting and productive year with them. Welcome!

drc_tarsaRebecca Tarsa UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON
Becca Tarsa is a Ph.D. student at UW-Madison; her interests include digital writing and rhetorics, first-year writing, visual rhetoric and multimodal composition. Lately, Becca has been spending her time interviewing students at UW and Madison College about their online reading and writing, with the goal of learning more about their perceptions of and motivations for that activity. In addition to teaching and this research for her dissertation, she’s also been researching the role of narrative writing in video games by playing a lot of Mass Effect.

drc_gonzalesLaura Gonzales MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
Laura Gonzales is a doctoral student in Rhetoric & Writing and a University Distinguished Fellow at Michigan State University. Her research interests include intersections of cultural and digital rhetorics, as well as composition theory and second language writing. She has developed and taught courses in writing and rhetoric and is interested in the ways digital tools and spaces are used by multilingual writers.

drc_hardingLindsey Harding UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
Lindsey Harding is a Ph.D. student at The University of Georgia. She graduated from Sewanee University’s School of Letters in May 2011 with an M.F.A. in creative writing and earned her B.A. from Columbia University in 2004. After teaching First-Year Composition for two years at UGA, she is now the teaching assistant for the Writing Intensive Program. Her research and writing interests include digital rhetoric, computers and composition, digital humanities tool design and development, and media-saturated fiction.

drc_homanLiz Homan UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
Liz Homan is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Program in English and Education at The University of Michigan. Her research focuses on secondary teachers’ uses of digital technologies; specifically, her dissertation work examines how teachers’ social networks shape their uses of web technologies in the English classroom. Her other interests include running, cooking, and hanging out with her rambunctious dog, Gertrude.

drc_blevinsBrenta Blevins UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT GREENSBORO
Brenta Blevins is a Ph.D. student specializing in rhetoric and composition at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has previously served as Assistant Director of the UNCG Digital ACT Studio and worked in the software development industry. Her research interests include digital pedagogy, wikis as genre and learning tool, digital literacy, and digital literacy learning centers.

U-M Press/Sweetland Publication Prize in Digital Rhetoric

The Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative, University of Michigan Press, and MPublishing are thrilled to announce that Daniel Anderson, Professor of English at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the inaugural winner of the U-M Press/Sweetland Publication Prize in Digital Rhetoric for his long-form webtext Screen Rhetoric and the Material World. Look for publication of the project in 2014 from the Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Book Series and U-M Press.

Screen Rhetoric and the Material World is an innovative project that reconfigures the print-centric theories we use for composing—as well as reading, analyzing, and making sense of—screen-based media. The proposal identifies an ambitious goal in its opening line, where Anderson writes that the project will enact digital scholarship rather than treating it as an object of study or analysis, thus pointing to the important crux of his argument: “Why write about multimedia through alphabetic text?” Composed of multimediated tracks and textual layers, Anderson’s digitally born project is centered on screencasts and video clips. Highly complex in delivery, these video layers perform as well as comment upon the theories with which the project engages. Cross-modally, Anderson explores the post-human turn in composition studies and articulates a material framework that accounts for our interrelations with things, people, places, and ideas. Indeed, the very form of his project is inseparable from its content, embodying a central tension in composition studies: At what point does multimodal composing become a networked means to a printed end? What does it mean to practice an object-oriented rhetoric? Anderson’s project offers a powerful response to these questions.
The DRC is excited at the opportunity to publish this project, which advances an area central to our mission: the publication of innovative born-digital work.

The U-M Press/Sweetland Publication Prize in Digital Rhetoric, which is funded by the Sweetland Center for Writing, is awarded annually to an innovative and important born-digital or substantially digitally enhanced book-length project that displays critical and rigorous engagement in the field of digital rhetoric. The prize is open to scholars of all ranks and comprises a $5000 award and an advance contract for publication in the Sweetland Digital Collaborative Book Series.

Writing to Learn Science

Here at the University of Michigan, and at every college across the country, about 50% of the students who enter planning to major in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) leave that area to major in social sciences or humanities. Many jobs of the future will require STEM backgrounds, so figuring out how to retain more aspiring STEM majors is a concern for all of us.

One attempt to keep more students in STEM areas involves integrating writing into large gateway science courses, specifically introductory chemistry and physics, two courses required for nearly all STEM majors. Operating from the assumption that writing about key concepts will enhance learning in gateway courses, and from the assumption that this form of writing to learn will be especially effective for underrepresented populations such as women and members of minority groups, Sweetland Director Anne Gere and Ginger Schultz from the Department of Chemistry are collaborating on Digital Writing to Learn Introductory Chemistry and Physics. Funded by the University’s Transforming Learning for a Third Century program, this project explores whether and how the infusion of writing contributes to student engagement in these gateway science courses.

The first phase of the project focused on developing writing prompts about key concepts in both chemistry and physics. These prompts are circulated by an electronic peer review system that requires students to read and give feedback on one another’s written responses to the prompts. This process of writing and providing comments on the writing of others can enable students to develop a more in-depth understanding of the material they are studying. Preliminary results indicate that the “grade penalty,” the difference between a student’s total GPA and the grade in a science course, is reduced for female students who write in response to prompts.

Plans for the future include refining the prompts, adjusting the electronic peer review system to be more user friendly, and expanding the project so that all students in large introductory chemistry and physics courses can participate in the Digital Writing project.

A new Sweetland course: “Teaching Writing”

Last winter, Sweetland offered a new course directed at graduate students in the School of Education’s MAC program. This intensive degree program awards students a Master of Arts in Educational Studies along with Secondary Teacher Certification in Michigan. Writing 430, “Teaching Writing,” satisfied a cognate requirement for the dozen students who enrolled. For the duration of the course, these students were also assuming more responsibilities in the various classrooms where they were completing their student teaching assignments. Writing 430 was piloted by Anne Gere and Tim Hedges, and this team-teaching approach led to an engaging and productive classroom dynamic in which students received a great deal of attention and feedback.

Because students were involved in a variety of disciplines—biology, chemistry, history, math, and English—conversations about writing often developed in unexpected and informative ways. The class became an open forum for students (and instructors) to share the challenges they faced in their attempts to integrate writing into their curricula. Students engaged in a range of writing tasks designed to get them to think critically about audience and the various relationships they would develop as teachers. They wrote to students, parents, administrators, colleagues, and the general public. They maintained individual blogs and created an online community that allowed for the exchange of ideas beyond class time. The course also invited several area high school teachers to Skype with students as a way to share further strategies about productive pedagogical practices related to writing instruction.

After the initial pilot run, the course has been revised, and it will be offered again in Winter 2014.

Beyond Plagiarism

On U-M’s campus, according to the LSA Office of Student Academic Affairs, 112 cases of plagiarism in writing were reported from September 2009 to December 2010 (the most recent dates available), and plagiarism constituted the greatest proportion of reports of academic dishonesty (as compared to 51 reported instances of cheating on an exam during this period). Meanwhile, the Citation Project – a multi-university study of college students’ textual citation practices – reports that a majority of students avoid complex engagement with source materials in their writing, using brief quotations or paraphrases from the first page or two of a source text to “back up” an already formulated idea, rather than engaging source content as a means of deepening their own thinking about a topic or entering a scholarly conversation. Stemming from an inadequate understanding of the source materials themselves and inadequate instruction in good source selection and ways of integrating longer source excerpts into writing, in worst-case scenarios students’ lack of knowledge about the use of sources can lead them to engage in patch-writing (paraphrase that relies too closely on the source text) or even plagiarism in the form of unattributed quotations and concepts.

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For their part, faculty, too, are often unaware of their students’ lack of understanding of citation and source integration practices, as well as effective methods for teaching these strategies. As a result, faculty tend to respond primarily when things go wrong – when they suspect student plagiarism, for instance – leading to fears of unchecked academic dishonesty and a “law and order” approach to student error with sources. By focusing on catching plagiarism and enforcing penalties, as opposed to drawing on long-term pedagogical strategies to teach students how to incorporate other voices into their own writing, this approach runs counter to much current research about student writing development that understands patterns such as patch-writing to represent students’ attempts to master unfamiliar discourses and synthesize them in their own writing. This research distinguishes between deliberate and unintentional plagiarism, and proposes treating the latter as a pedagogical opportunity rather than an occasion for punishment, as in this Statement on Best Practices from the Council of Writing Program Administrators.

As a means to help address these problems on the U-M campus – and to raise awareness of patterns in student writing development – Sweetland and the University Library began a collaboration last spring to create customizable lesson plans that faculty could incorporate into their courses as well as instructional resources for teaching academic integrity and the complex, responsible use of research sources. Titled Beyond Plagiarism: Best Practices for the Responsible Use of Sources, and funded by a New Initiatives/New Infrastructures grant from LSA Instructional Support Services, this project began development in WordPress and CTools over the summer with a team of graduate students from English, American Culture, and the School of Information; technical support from MLibrary instructional technology; and faculty and librarians from Sweetland and the Library. We recently did usability testing with several undergraduate students on the first completed module and accompanying CTools practice quiz focused on working with primary and secondary sources, and we debuted some of our materials in a series of 34 workshops the LSA Student Honor Council ran in October for all students enrolled in the First-Year Writing Requirement classes English 124 and 125. The website, currently in beta form, will be ready for use in your courses soon. Stay tuned!

Sweetland Graduate Writing Groups

The Graduate Writing Groups, a Sweetland program underwritten by the Rackham Graduate School, were initiated in their current form in the 2011-2012 academic year. These groups provide support for graduate students writing their Doctoral dissertations and Master’s theses. Graduate students apply each semester to be group leaders or participants, and leaders receive training and mentorship from Sweetland faculty along with a small stipend. Internal data show that participation in the graduate writing groups leads to faster degree completion.


Photo_LouisCicciarelliLouis Cicciarelli
, a Sweetland faculty and group-leader trainer and mentor, notes that participants “bring a kind of generosity in their approach to group members’ work, a caring critical eye and a human concern for the work that can buoy writers through the often isolating writing process.”

Students, in their evaluations for the groups, confirm that the experience enhances their writing confidence and productivity. Furthermore, students say that the groups provide support, helping them to establish peer relationships that continue well beyond the time of the coordinated groups.

A central aspect of the groups is pairing people by stage of writing rather than by field of study. Participants seem to appreciate this strategy. One participant, for example, commented that “The multidisciplinary composition of the group has proven tremendously successful. We are able to comment on how someone from outside our field might respond to the work, including, for example, identifying word choices that may be ‘jargon’ or ambiguous to an outside reader. We are able to discuss intricacies of tone or meaning at the sentence level.”

The benefits for the students participating in the groups, however, are not limited to productivity and support. Participation in the groups stresses the collaborative aspect of writing and the importance of the revision process. Students’ constant engagement in peer review allows for an increased awareness of writing for an academic audience. One participant’s evaluation, for example, attests that group members “have discussed and agreed that a benefit of this writing group model is the luxury of having someone smart read a draft and help the writer fine-tune in a way our committee members, due to time constraints, cannot.” Participation also enhances self-reflection, preparing graduate students to become active contributors in their academic field.

Applications for the Graduate Writing Groups are increasing, reaching a record number of 57 in the Fall semester 2013. Students come from a very diverse pool of departments and programs. The disciplines most represented in the application pool were psychology, natural resources, political science, and anthropology, as well as several language departments. We have also seen an increase in applications from the sciences and other more quantitative fields, such as physics and economics, which were slightly underrepresented in the past.

Meet Our New Faculty

photo_jingxiaJing Xia received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from Arizona State University in 2013 and her specialization is second language writing in academic context. Dr. Xia became interested in L2 writing during her graduate studies. At that time, she viewed L2 writing as a sub-branch of Second Language Acquisition and her M.A. thesis focused on the linguistic features of L2 texts generated with different L1 interventions.
In the subsequent years working with Professor Paul Kei Matsuda at Arizona State University, however, the limitation of resolving L2 writing issues in a purely linguistic framework became apparent to her and her dissertation examined invention, a rhetorical choice, in an applied linguistic context. Dr. Xia has extensive experiences working with different language learner populations as well as pre-service ESL teachers. Here at Sweetland she particularly enjoys helping multilingual students to realize the importance of rhetorical strategies in verbal and written communication.

photo_karenmcconnellKaren McConnell recently earned her Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, where she taught 100- and 200-level writing courses and poetry. In addition to Writing Workshop, Karen is currently teaching EN124 and EN125 for the English Department Writing Program. Her research focuses on the persistence of radical religion in Romantic literature, particularly within Scottish poetry and novels. She is excited to join Sweetland!

photo_lorirandallLori Randall recently finished her Ph.D. in ESL (English as a Second Language) Teacher Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While at Madison, she taught professional development seminars designed to prepare preservice teacher candidates to work successfully with English Language Learners in the mainstream secondary-level English, math, science, and social studies classroom. She has also taught German at the post-secondary and continuing education levels, composition at the post-secondary level, and a range of ESL courses at the secondary and post-secondary levels.

As teaching is her primary passion, it is no surprise that her research interests focus on the development of a better understanding not only of effective practices in ESL teacher preparation but also of students’ learning needs. In particular, she is interested in enhancing her understanding of the literacy and language-learning needs of English Language Learners in the STEM fields at both the secondary- and post-secondary levels.

photo_angelaberkleyAngie Berkley earned her Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan in 2012. Her research investigates the relationships between literary realism and naturalism and the visual cultures of late-nineteenth century America. Since beginning her graduate studies in 2004, Angie has taught a variety of developmental, first-year and upper-level writing courses at Michigan, as well as several courses in post-1865 American literature. Currently a lecturer in the English department as well as at Sweetland, Angie is also teaching English 124 (Literature and Writing) and English 270 (Introduction to American Literature) this semester.

Faculty and Staff Awards

photo_paulbarron-u4104-frPaul Barron was awarded the LSA Excellence in Education Award. This award recognizes special efforts in the areas of classroom teaching, curricular innovation, and the supervision of student research, as well as other significant contributions to the quality of the College’s teaching-learning environment.

awards_laura-u4105-frLaura Schuyler was recognized for 20 years of service by the University of Michigan Service Awards Program. The Service Award Program honors those staff who have made a significant career commitment to the University of Michigan.

Faculty Highlights

photo_scottbealScott Beal won a 2014 Pushcart Prize for his poem “Things to Think About.” His poems appeared in Rattle, Muzzle, Union Station, and the anthology UncommonCore. His first book of poems will be published by Dzanc Books in 2014. His chapbook manuscript, The Octopus, was named a finalist for the David Blair Memorial Prize.

photo_timhedgesLast year, Tim Hedges received two Pushcart Prize nominations, one for a short story and one for an essay about teaching. He spent four weeks last spring in Wyoming at the Jentel Artist Residency Program, and he continues to spend his summers teaching at the Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. His fiction recently appeared in Split Lip magazine.

photo_jamiejonesJamie Jones published an article called “The Moroccan Front” in The New York Times Civil War series, Disunion. The article recounts the role of US-Morocco foreign relations in the American Civil War. This fall, she also participated as a discussant at the International Institute’s Symposium on Island Studies: “What is the Future for Islands?” Last summer, she began working with a research team at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee to develop resources for college instructors who wish to teach American literature alongside material objects and artifacts from U.S. history.

photo_brandolinoginaGina Brandolino’s essay “God’s Gluttons: Middle English Devotional Texts, Interiority, and Indulgence” was published in the Summer 2013 issue of Studies in Philology.

photo_juliebabcockJulie Babcock’s poetry appeared or is forthcoming in Plume, h_ngm_n, Gingerbread House, and the forthcoming anthology Feast from Black Lawrence Press. Her manuscript Autoplay was a finalist with BatCat Press, and her poetry reviews appeared in Rain Taxi and The Collagist. This summer she helped examine and refine the standards for Sweetland’s Minor in Writing Program.

photo_lilanaydanLila Naydan collaborated to present “Castles in the Sand: Building Communities in Times of Change” at the 2012 International Writing Centers Association Conference; two workshops at the 2012 National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing; and “What Difference Does Disciplinarity Make in First-Year Writing?” at the Fall 2013 EDWP Colloquium.

photo_simonesessoloSimone Sessolo presented his research at the symposium “The Future of Writing Centers,” at the University of Texas at Austin in February. He recently submitted an article version of his presentation, “Violence in the Writing Center,” to The Writing Center Journal.

photo_raymcdanielRaymond McDaniel presented a paper at the Associated Writing Programs Conference in Boston on the role of persona in contemporary poetry. He will also be presenting at this year’s conference in Seattle on the topic of “difficult” writing, and at the International Conference on Narrative at MIT on the topic of genre exhaustion and illustration in the work of Hiroaki Samura.

photo_paulbarronPaul Barron was awarded a 2013 LSA Excellence in Education Award. He also presented at the 2013 Conference on College Composition and Communication in Las Vegas on the Dissertation Writing Institute and serves on the Minor in Writing Committee.

photo_jingxiaJing Xia received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics at Arizona State University, where she specialized in English as a second/foreign language writing. She joined Sweetland in 2013 fall. She presented a poster at the Technology for Second Language Learning conference in October.

photo_caroltellCarol Tell published a review article, “In Gratitude for all the Gifts: Seamus Heaney and Eastern Europe” in the Irish Studies Review (November 2013). She also had an essay, “Utopia in the New World: Paul Muldoon’s America,” reprinted in Literary Criticism.

photo_louiscicciarelli2Louis Cicciarelli presented “Dissertation Writers and the Value of ‘Not-Knowing’”at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in Las Vegas, NV on March 16, 2013 as part of the session “The Visible Dissertation: Graduate Student as Writer and Programmatic Efforts in the Dissertation Writing Institute” with Paul Barron and Konstantina Karageorgos.