I am a Ph.D. student in American History at the Graduate Center, CUNY, working on a dissertation on the changing politics and ideals of motherhood in the 20th century. I bring my passion for American history into my work here at Hunter because I see writing and communication as essential skills for an involved, active American citizenry.
At Hunter this year, I’ve used my three years of teaching experience and my Writing Across the Curriculum training to consult with both faculty and students in the History Department. Faculty have asked me to conduct workshops in their classes, ranging from Q&A sessions with a 300-level Italian history course, to a presentation and workshop on forming a strong thesis statement in a 100-level required American history survey. I’ve also worked with a range of students who have sought to improve their writing, respond to their professors’ discipline-specific comments, and, in one case, to polish a paper for a national competition.
As part of the Writing Fellows’ research project on the Freshman Block Program, I’ve also worked with my colleagues to assess the literature on learning communities, create a research tool for our study, and conduct initial research. This project promises to give the college vital information about its Block Program.
I am a doctoral candidate in English and medieval studies at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where I am writing a dissertation on late 14th century English poetry and masculinity. I am also a poet by vocation, and continue to seek ways of better utilizing poetry as a pedagogical tool.
In my work as Writing Fellow for the Thomas J. Hunter Honors Program, I have sought to be a bridge between students and professors, in regards to academic writing. Towards that end, I translated professors’ expectations and requirements to students, working to make clear exactly what an assignment was asking of them, what their professors’ marginal comments meant, and how they could utilize that information in subsequent writing drafts. With professors from the Honors Program, I encouraged the practice of scaffolding writing assignments over the long term, and of integrating writing more generally into syllabi and course content. I also conducted writing workshops on a variety of topics, including “starting writing” and “choosing a thesis,” and encouraged students to use appointments with me as a soft deadline for their longer essays.
Working as a Writing Fellow has been an invaluable experience, creating an intensive engagement with the underlying structures of writing and reading as linked processes and pedagogic forms. In the Fall 2005 and Spring 2006 I worked with faculty from the English Dept., mostly new faculty, discussing both how to present students with assignments that were clear, directed, and yet open, and how to respond in a thorough and explicit way to their work. And I worked with students from English 120 and 220 on a variety of writing questions concerning organization, structure, the draft and revision processes, and research. Many of our discussions moved into reading practices, not only as a skill in itself, but as an important foregrounding of effective writing. We talked about mapping their reading, through annotations, in order to understand the writers’ methods (language patterns, repetitive images, formal devices, thematic concerns) and the ways critical readers could respond. Getting students to comprehend, accept, and absorb these stages of reading and writing was my most significant job as a writing fellow.
In my dialogical engagement with professors and students, I often learned as much as I taught. I also worked on an investigative project, along with the other Writing Fellows and our Coordinators Dennis Paoli and Trudy Smoke, on Block Program syllabi. This project is still on-going and will continue into next year.
I reviewed syllabi and materials and observed lectures and discussion sections taught by the faculty members and teaching assistants in the Philosophy department. Through these initial observations, I generated ideas for how I might, as a Writing Fellow, support the development of students’ writing skills. Through tutoring students in the classes, I was able to get a clear sense of their writing abilities, which helped to inform the workshops I developed.
In collaboration with the faculty, I designed and facilitated three workshops. The first engaged students in critiquing and revising a written report on a debate held in class, providing students with a clear model of how to write a debate report according to specific criteria developed by the faculty. In the second workshop, on plagiarism and paraphrasing, students collaboratively defined what constitutes plagiarizing and practiced paraphrasing, helping them prepare for their final research paper. The third workshop provided students with a model for answering short essay questions on exams. I also consulted with the faculty on the design of the final writing assignments for the courses, helping to bring the requirements in line with what students learn in their freshman composition course.
Since the courses to which I was assigned were part of a freshman learning community block, throughout the fall semester I attended professional development meetings for faculty involved in the block program. I then participated in a joint effort on the part of Hunter Writing Fellows to review course syllabi, writing assignments, and assessments from the faculty involved in the Block Program as part of a research project intended to assess the impact of WAC on the freshman learning communities.
I spent the past year with Hunter’s other Writing Fellows working with the instructors and students in the college’s Learning Communities pilot program in the Freshman Block Program, specifically, in my case, in the Diversity in America Block. In the second semester I coordinated a research project on the learning communities, primarily on the syllabi of over a hundred courses in the program. I worked closely with one of the WAC coordinators to complete our IRB application, generating a draft of our research proposal and creating various consent forms. Working with suggestions from the coordinators and fellows, I also created the instrument we used to examine the syllabi, and then I employed the instrument to analyze and collect data from a number of the syllabi. I have further consulted with the WAC coordinators on research methods, data analysis and survey generation programming, and continuing IRB relations.