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Writing & Thriving at UGA: writing support and instruction

Alan Flurry

A February panel discussion featured by Write@UGA 2020 and moderated by Cristyn Elder, Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing and Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of New Mexico, focused on strengthening the community around writing at UGA. The Writing and Thriving panel featured nine writing leaders from seven schools and colleges across UGA:

  •     Ben Ehlers, Associate Professor of History, Writing Intensive Program Faculty, and Former Writing Fellow 
  •     Jennifer Gonyea, Clinical Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Science, College of Family and Consumer Sciences
  •     Becky Hallman-Martini, Director of the UGA Writing Center and Assistant Professor of English 
  •     Katie Darby Hein, Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator, Health Promotion & Behavior, College of Public Health
  •     Keith L. Herndon, Journalism Professor of Practice, William S. Morris Chair in News Strategy and Management, and Director of the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication
  •     Alice Kinman, Senior Lecturer and Writing Specialist, Department of Economics, Terry College of Business
  •     Jake Knox, Writing Coordinator, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources
  •     Nate Kreuter, Director of First-year Writing and Associate Professor of English, 
  •     Christina Lee, Graduate Writing Coach, The Graduate School, and Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology 

The discussion, which took place in the Miller Learning Center on Friday, February 28, presented an opportunity for panelists to share information about how their programs support writing and writing instruction across campus. Highlights detailed dedicated courses for students, the recently launched Grady Writing Lab with resident writing coach and award-winning writer Nick Childs, and support programs from the UGA Writing Center. Ben Ehlers shared his experience with the Writing Intensive Program to support the writing process in the classroom with the help of a dedicated teaching assistant to serve as a writing coach and described The Classic Journal, a publication opportunity for undergraduate students to promote the writing and research they do across the disciplines. 

Audience participation was an integral part of the discussion, and emphasized the challenge of the decentralized nature of writing support across campus, which can make it hard for students and faculty to know which resources exist. Best practices shared by the panelists included improved communication across campus and between programs about writing initiatives and the further development of a rich network among all stakeholders in students’ writing success, from disciplinary faculty and writing faculty to alumni and donors.

“The barriers that exist on campus today are largely structural, but not philosophical,” said Nate Kreuter, reflecting a shared a desire for UGA students to be successful. According to the panel, successfully navigating the institution involves creating a community around writing that is inclusive and vibrant and valued.

“This, necessarily involves programming and planning around writing that should not be viewed as “taking time, but rather investing time,” said Jennifer Gonyea.

The panel considered the future of writing at the University of Georgia and the ways in which the campus community might build a culture around writing as a critical tool to facilitate learning, disciplinary engagement, and professional development.

“Graduate students as writers and teachers of writing are crucial to this effort,” said Christina Lee, “They need guidance, to be taught writing as a process, and more opportunities to work with peers in and beyond their programs.” Future goals include providing students with more opportunities to practice writing and uncovering new avenues to fund and deliver greater support for writers across a large, diverse campus, including the Tifton, Griffin and Gwinnett campuses.

“We inherit institutional structures and are conditioned by them, but we forget how much agency we have,” said moderator Cristyn Elder. “We have to look for points of connection.”

In bringing together panelists and audience members from across campus, Writing and Thriving provided an initial opportunity for precisely that: to identify points of connection that can grow into a community.

Write@UGA is a coordinating body of writing program administrators and writing faculty committed to campus-wide events related to writing. This year’s coordinators included Lindsey Harding, Director of the Franklin College Writing Intensive Program; Elizabeth Davis, Director of the Writing Fellows and Writing Certificate Programs; and Holly Gallagher, science writing lecturer in Biological Sciences. Write@UGA 2020 was supported by the Division of Biological Sciences; Center for Teaching and Learning; the English Department Ballew Lecture Fund; Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; First-year Writing; the Office of Faculty Affairs; Office of Instruction; and the Office of Research.

Written by Lindsey Harding, director of the Franklin College WIP

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