Post-BA Life: How Two Writing Arts Alumni Have Been Using Their WA Education After Graduation - Matt Berrian
So, you’ve graduated. . .now what? As college students, we spend every day of every semester with this question lurking around the corner. But when that big day comes, everyone gets a little blindsided by the weight of what lies ahead. I’m only a sophomore myself, but I wanted to write an article that might help myself and others feel more prepared for when the day finally comes for us to toss up our square caps and start bushwhacking our way through post-graduate life. What better way to begin a post-graduate survival guide than with some words of wisdom from post-graduates themselves?
Rachel Barton and Kaitlyn Gaffney both graduated within the Rowan Writing Arts Department in Spring 2019. I didn’t know them very well during the brief window where their tenure as seniors overlapped with my tenure as a freshman, but I remembered seeing how hard working and professional they were during the several Avant Magazine meetings that I attended. When I got the idea to write an alumni spotlight article, their two names were the first that popped into my head. Rachel is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at NYU, and Kaitlyn is currently working as a teacher’s assistant in France, helping the students learn English.
Interview With Rachel Barton
What drove you to pursue an MFA immediately after graduating?
I chose to go right into a graduate program for a few reasons. First, I thought I could get the best recommendations and support with applications while I was in school. I also felt like I was already in a school mindset; I was used to going to class, sitting in lectures, and maintaining a schedule for my work. The summer before senior year, I had been working in DC and really broke out of all my school habits and mindset. The semester that followed was a little more difficult than the others had been. When I was graduating, I thought it would be best to take my comfort with school and academics and expand upon it, rather than cutting it up by just working or taking a gap year. That being said, lots of people, even in my program, took time between undergrad and their MFA. Different things work for different people.
Can you talk about what the application process for graduate school was like? What prior experiences have you had that you think prepared you for the application process?
I am disgustingly into applications. I think they're organized and make sense; I like figuring out how to best present my experience and interests to fit a position or program. I had experience with applying for countless jobs, internships, scholarships, and fellowships. Once you do it enough, it stops being scary. Failure or rejection becomes like a drop in the ocean. Who cares if you get rejected from one job, if you've also applied to 50 others? (The scariest applications I've ever done were for the Fulbright US-UK Summer Institutes and for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage. They were scary because I cared about them. And if I can get those, I can get anything, right?)
I think the process of applying to grad school starts way before you begin an application. First, you have to think about what kind of program you want (e.g. shifting from publishing to writing) and where you want to be. I interviewed so many of my professors to ask them about their experiences with the process. I also split my applications between fiction and nonfiction programs (I ultimately ended up in a nonfiction program). I knew that I wanted to stay on the East coast, but I also randomly picked some Midwest schools to keep things interesting. It helps to know what you want, but I would recommend trying out anything you feel interested in. None of this is set in stone; after all, they're just applications. Do research into the programs you find. Try to talk to alumni or current students. Check out their social media to see what kind of events they have.
Once I had the programs I was interested in, I made a thorough spreadsheet of basic information as well as application components to keep track of everything. I organized it by deadline—or actually, by weeks before the deadline to make sure everything was in on time. I also gave my recommenders plenty of advanced notice and chose different individuals for fiction vs nonfiction programs (my reportage experience was less important for fiction apps, etc). The whole thing can be daunting, but the spreadsheet helps break it up into bite-sized pieces.
Just a few other tips about applications: Applying to grad school is expensive, but always apply for a fee waiver from the school—the worst they can say is no. You may also be able to get your application fee paid by your current school; for example, the Honors department offered to pay for the fee to Columbia (which doesn't have a fee waiver and therefore hates poor people). Have people read your essays!!!! I used to work in the Rowan Writing Center and they have fabulous tutors to check out your essays and writing samples (in fact, you can take basically anything there).
Here are a couple articles I wrote about the process:
Your Grad School Application Checklist
Grad School: Researching, Applying, & Funding—Oh My!
What have your experiences at NYU been like so far? Do you find yourself using skills learned within Rowan’s Writing Arts Department in your day-to-day life?
I was incredibly nervous to start at NYU. It was one of those situations where you know it won't be a big deal once you're actually there, but that knowledge does nothing to relieve your current stress. After all, so much of the faculty and alumni are not only writers but they are also notable writers. I've read and been blown away by their books. It felt like moving up onto a completely different playing field than Rowan. I was just a kid from a state school in South Jersey; I knew the students in my program and my professors and everyone involved would be... different than me. Maybe even better. But that's all imposter syndrome and doesn't matter. Once I got there, things obviously went way better. I love everyone in my cohort; we're making friends slowly but surely. I even met someone who is from South Jersey and went to Drexel for undergrad. In that room, everyone is so different. They're all different ages, work different jobs, have been published different amounts, and write different things. The things that I thought would make me so blindingly less than actually just made me different in the regular way that we are all different from each other. (I think this understanding happened a bit quicker than it otherwise might have because we were all writing memoir … We learned a lot about each other very quickly.) There are definitely still moments where it hits me how weird this all is or something particularly pretentious happens at school, but it's less of a big deal now.
I think the biggest way RWA comes up in my daily life is through the readings it exposed me to. I thought I would show up to grad school and be dreadfully behind everyone else's reading knowledge, but that wasn't the case. Drew Kopp is going to be absolutely thrilled to hear this, but everything he ever made me read has come up in class or in conversation. I regularly talk about Barthes and semiotics. Someone will mention something I think I have no idea about and out from my mouth comes all of this stuff I learned with him. Similarly, Leslie Allison's assigned texts come up quite frequently—in fact, we just did a John Berger text in my craft class. Those readings, usually theory-based and meta literary, have shaped the way I talk about writing, which makes it far easier to participate in a workshop.
The workshop experience I gained at Rowan has also proven helpful—just to be comfortable in that space to talk about other people's writing and listen to them talk about your own. The time I spent with first Avant then Katie Budris and Glassworks has been super helpful as well, since I'm now the assistant web editor for NYU's Washington Square Review. In fact, that experience, combined with the work I did for the Writing Arts internship, got me the position in the first place. I feel like I could go on and on. I'm a big believer in learning from everything and sort of piecing together your current identity from where've you been and what you've learned. I wouldn't be the me I am at NYU without the Rowan Writing Arts department and all of the incredible faculty members that I couldn't possibly list here.
Now that you’re living and learning in a completely new environment, what kind of advice would you give to a Writing Arts undergraduate who also wants to enter a graduate program after college?
Oh boy. I definitely have an advantage with this since I lived abroad twice and moved to DC for a summer but..
Be scared: When I was choosing between my final two schools, one of my professors (Timothy Viator, English department) asked me which one scared me more. Obviously, it was NYU. I think sometimes being scared has more to do with growth so the scary option may just be the best option.
Don't do it alone: Get a roommate. Make a friend. Not only will it make things cheaper, but it always helps to have someone to talk to, especially if you're moving away from all your friends and family like I did. If you do continue to feel especially lonely, don't be afraid to take advantage of your school's mental health services.
Compartmentalize: I'm actually borrowing this from the NYU Masters school orientation. Multiple current students and alum said the same thing—your life can't just be about the program. You need to have friends who have nothing to do with your program. You need to have hobbies completely outside of it. Your program is just a piece of you; don't let it become the whole thing.
Do the math: Lots of (read: all of) my professors told me to not go into debt for grad school. Some programs are fully funded, but some aren't. See what works for you and figure out how working may have to factor into your schedule.
Be yourself: This sounds lame but it's true. When you show up at grad school, you don't want to be the smartest person in the room—you learn a lot less that way. And you don't need to be someone else to do well or to make friends. Your “self” will change through the process, but that's good. The “self” is a flexible thing.
Interview With Kaitlyn Gaffney
For starters, what kind of work do you do as an English assistant for French students? How did you find your way into this opportunity in the first place?
When I was studying abroad in Paris, I met a woman doing this program called Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF), directed by a subset of the French Ministry of Education. The application is open to all Americans and Canadians with a bachelor’s degree. I loved being in Paris, so this seemed like a great way to return! I filled out one application and got accepted, and they placed me in one middle school and one high school in a small town called Sin-le-Noble, about 30 minutes by train from the metropolitan city of Lille in the north of France.
I assist in English classes and split my time evenly between the two schools. “Assisting” entails splitting the class in two and taking one half (of the students) at a time to another classroom for 20-30 minutes each. There, the focus is conversation and oral/listening comprehension; I don’t give written assignments or tests. My goal as an assistant is to get the students speaking English as much as possible, and therefore my “lessons” often center on modern, culture-oriented subjects like music, television and film, fashion, and American culture in general.
As someone who’s already making a name for herself in the working world, I wanted to ask if you see yourself using skills that you’ve learned from your time as a Writing Arts major in your day-to-day working life? If you do, what skills would these be?
Absolutely. One of the most useful skills I gained during my time as a Writing Arts major is genre/communicative adaptability. Language immersion is widely believed to be the best way to learn a foreign language, so, theoretically, I should just speak as I normally would and allow the students to catch on eventually. However, while this strategy might work with an Honors senior English class, it would be counterproductive in my 6th grade classes. I have to remain constantly aware of the language I’m using, evaluating how familiar the students might be with both basic vocabulary as well as with slang (that might even be unique to my own Northeastern American dialect!).
Besides gauging their language levels, I also have to remember that I am not a teacher, I’m an assistant. The students are used to communicating in a certain way with teachers, and by nature of my contract I have to create an altogether different learning space. I have to find a middle ground in communicating, where I conduct conversations in a judgement-free way, while still maintaining professionalism and control of the lesson. I’ll never give these students any sort of grade, and so the learning that goes on in my classroom is not incentive-based in a classical sense. I’ve had to find ways to mediate (a non-incentive based learning experience) so our time together is still productive in a meaningful, and (hopefully) exciting way.
Would you credit any experiences that you had within our department for encouraging your decision to start working after graduation?
My time with the Writing Arts department exposed me to so many different communities within the field of writing, particularly those with global reach and implications. As an associate editor of Glassworks magazine, I had the opportunity to travel to Portland, Oregon for the AWP conference this past March. I met professionals in the field from all over America, even from other countries as well, and got to meet with representatives and students from Literary Translation MFA programs across the country. In addition, throughout my four years at Rowan, I had the privilege of working closely with the editor-in-chief of Glassworks, Katie Budris, who was a fantastic mentor with a background in travel/international writing. In general, as a WA student with a specialization in creative writing, the faculty I worked with had so much wisdom in the way of workshopping, publishing, getting published, etc. from their own experience and I feel really lucky to have had such a hands-on, professional education from the start.
What kind of student do you think a young writer in our department has to be in order to get the most out of their time within the Writing Arts major? What steps can one take in order to become this type of student?
As much as I’m sure you’ve all heard this, forging relationships with your professors is absolutely essential. Our department is a perfect size for this; we don’t have crazy lecture halls and we aren’t just numbers in school statistics. Your professors know your name and they care about your success. Something I’ve always thought was special about writing, both the craft and the professional field, is that many (maybe most) of our obstacles as writers are not really age- or experience-specific. Writer’s block, submission anxiety, creative self-doubt—these are things that we can experience at any point in our studies and our careers. Your professors know exactly what you’re going through, and could be going through it themselves. Talk to them. They’re awesome.
Communication is created and shared through modes. Modes are ways of meaning-making, manners of expression. The common mode we writers are familiar with is alphanumeric text--words on a page. Yet communication exists beyond the black-and-white, it is visual, audible, spatial, interactive and interconnected. Rachel Shapiro, an assistant professor in the Writing Arts Department, defines multimodality as “the rhetorical (or not) use of multiple modes of meaning making in a single or overlapping compositions, including visual, aural, oral, written, digital and physical elements that can be used in various combinations to achieve a purpose.” Modes can be thought of as tools, each having a specific purpose informed by the context and audience. What are some common examples of multimodal texts?
Ads are a well-known form of multimodal text. Ads apply multiple modes: visual, textual, spatial, and depending on the medium, aural. This is usually accomplished through pictures, graphics, and text. Each mode in an ad works to persuade the viewer to purchase a product or service. Social media is another example; users encounter visual, audible, and textual modes online, and use these modes to converse with others. Podcasts communicate information via the audible mode and are becoming increasingly popular.
But beyond these common examples, some believe that a monomodal text is impossible. Amanda Haruch, a Writing Arts alumni and current Writing Arts Lecturer, explains that “even one who is writing a traditional academic essay is engaging in multimodal writing—the text on the page, combined with the white space (spatial) and document design.” Thus, encounters with multimodal texts are unavoidable, and they play a central role in the way we communicate today. It is for this reason that students inside and outside the Writing Arts Major should work to understand and produce multimodal texts. How does the Writing Arts Department and Rowan University address this need for multimodal study?
Classes offered by the Writing Arts Department address multimodality in multiple ways. Drew Kopp, Associate Professor and Chair of the Writing Arts Department, uses Google Docs in his classes, allowing the students to work in a low-stakes collaborative environment. In Jason Luther’s module for Intro to Writing Arts, students maintain their own blogging website and produce a 90-second podcast which is published to The Phono Project, a digital publication run by Luther. This project enables students to work primarily within the textual and auditory modes, and is one of the first projects Writing Arts students encounter that teaches multimodality. From there, students will encounter multiple modes within their Writing Arts classes. Rachel Shapiro has encouraged her students to produce works in multiple genres such as “digital and print zine making, blogging, microblogging and social media, web design, document design, podcasting, video remix, documentary video, stop motion, infographics and more.” Amanda Haruch has also implemented multiple multimodal genres into her classes, such as “videos (remix and oral history), infographics, blog posts, and multimodal argumentative essays.” Each of these projects allows students to explore, analyze, and produce works in multiple modes; to shift the emphasis from textual arguments and incorporate it in different modes.
One of the best examples of multimodal instruction beyond the Writing Arts Department can be found in the First-Year Writing Program. The First-Year Writing Program (FYW Program) is designed to “foster and strengthen the critical reading and writing skills that students need to succeed at the university and beyond,” enabling students to be “rhetorically adept writers who can respond to a variety of academic, personal, civic, and professional writing situations.” Due to the ever-growing encounters with multimodal texts, there has been a push for students within the FYW Program to encounter and produce multimodal texts. Kristine Lafferty, lecturer in the Writing Arts Department and Assistant Coordinator of the FYW Program, allows her CCI students to produce their final project as an info-graphic, a listicle, or a video. In her CCII class, there are multiple lessons which focus on analyzing multimodal texts. Students then take the techniques they learn and incorporate them into existing essays or analyze an existing multimodal argument. Amy Woodworth, the Coordinator for the FYW Program, also empowers her students with the ability to decide what genre they wish to produce. This decision is based on the student’s audience and how they intend to reach them.
The professors I reached out to also described why multimodality is taught to students, and why it is important. First, it is important for students to have the ability to critically engage with a multimodal text and understand the rhetorical devices used within it. Shapiro highlighted this point, stating that crafting in multimodality helps writers “become better and more critical readers of multimodal texts.” Lafferty echoed this point in her response, stating “by teaching them to compose in multimodality, we are also strengthening their ability to analyze multimodal genres.” Every professor I spoke with understood the importance of equipping students with the tools to critically engage with multimodal texts, and each uses their platform as a professor to instill these skills for students who will venture out into our ever-growing multimodal world.
Beyond engagement, studying and producing multimodal texts enables students to communicate in new genres and to more audiences. Understanding and applying strategies through multimodal texts, as Lafferty states, equips them with the “tools to communicate effectively in the 21st century,” and these tools will be beneficial to students beyond their years at Rowan University. Multiple professors echoed this point, which is why they all incorporate multimodality in their classes!
It’s imperative that all students gain experience analyzing and producing multimodal texts for these reasons. And thanks to these professors, students inside and outside the Writing Arts Department are strengthening the skills they’ll need for our multimodal world and their future careers. The multimodal skills that students will learn will last far beyond their years at Rowan, because of the strides that these professors have taken for their students.
Thank you to all the professors who responded to my questions, allowing me to build this essay. Their names are provided below.
Drew Kopp, Associate Professor in Writing Arts here at Rowan and the current Chair of the Writing Arts Department.
Jason Luther, third-year Assistant Professor of Writing Arts, who teaches Intro to Writing Arts; Writing, Research, and Technology; Senior Seminar; and Self-Publishing.
Rachael Shapiro, assistant professor in the Writing Arts Department.
Amanda Haruch,Writing Arts Alumni and current Writing Arts lecturer, lover of new media writing genres.
Kristine Lafferty, lecturer in the Writing Arts Department, Assistant Coordinator of the First Year Writing Program.
Jude Miller, teacher in the First-Year Writing Sequence.
Amy Woodworth, the Coordinator of the First-Year Writing Program.
This year, for students interested in addressing environmental concerns, the Writing Arts Department has just begun offering a Certificate of Undergraduate Study called Writing for the Environment.
The program allows students to combine knowledge about and advocacy for environmental issues with the reading, writing, and communication skills necessary for success in lobbying, policy writing, project briefs, and communicating one’s position on environmental issues. According to the program’s description on Rowan’s Writing Arts website, “students will learn about the technical, professional, and scientific genres and forms of discourse, while learning to write for a wide range of audiences, including scientific peers, policy makers, and stakeholders in the public at large. Students will develop research, editing, and design skills, and learn how to use these skills in the service of environmental issues. In courses focused on issues relating to the environment and sustainability, students will develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between humans and the environment, focusing on how social norms, cultural attitudes, and political decisions shape the natural world. This CUGS will enable students to forge connections between the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and creative arts to nurture the skills they need to advocate for environmental issues that are important to them and their communities”. Are you a writing student committed to addressing environmental issues? Or maybe an environment student looking to gain the writing skills for advocacy and policy? Then this 12 credit Certificate of Undergrad Studies, Writing for the Environment, would be perfect for you!
For more information about Writing for the Environment requirements and courses, check out the advising sheet and the transcribed interviews below! Two professors both took their time to speak with me a bit about this program, it’s courses, what skills they offer, and what careers this CUGS would be beneficial toward.
I conducted one with Dr. Ted Howell, who created the Writing for the Environment CUGS, teaches courses in the First-Year Writing program and Sophomore Engineering Clinic, has research focused on early ecology and the Anthropocene, and is currently a Fellow with Rowan’s NEH-funded Cultivating the Environmental Humanities group:
Morgan: Would you just tell me a bit about your involvement with this Certificate of Undergraduate Study?
Dr. Ted Howell: Sure, so I was asked by the former department chair, Jen Courtney, to create a Writing for the Environment CUGS or some sort of CUGS related to an environmental theme; we were looking for a way to partner with the Department of Geography, Planning, and Sustainability. Over there they had some ideas about making a CUGS and we were just kind of talking about it informally and then decided to go in on it. I thought it would be a good thing for Writing Arts students who were interested in advocating for the environment and writing about environmental issues to learn about some of the content from the environmental studies courses as well as the skills and know-how they would get from Writing Arts courses. They could combine those into something that would allow them to pursue careers in Environmental Advocacy, more broadly, but things like nonprofits or nongovernmental organizations that are focused on environmental issues.
Morgan: Could you delve more into the courses, like what are the requirements of the CUGS, and courses available?
Dr. Ted. Howell: Yeah, sure, so the way the CUGS works is there’s like a writing arts bank of courses and then an environmental studies bank of courses. Both of them are 6 credits. So in the Writing Arts bank there are three different courses that you can choose from at the moment. They are Introduction to Technical Writing, Scientific Writing and Rhetoric, and Writing for Nonprofit. So you could take any two of those three courses to fulfill the Writing Arts portion of the requirements, and then on the environmental studies bank side again there’s three courses. Two of them are environmental studies courses, one of them is called Environmental Advocacy, the other one is called Human nature, which is basically an introduction to environmental studies as well as environmental advocacy. A Sociology course, Environment Policy and Society, is the other one. So you take two of those three courses to get some of that Environmental contents background, as well as the Writing Arts courses.
Morgan: Great! And what sorts of career skills do they learn in these courses?
Dr. Ted Howell: Yeah I think a lot of things with career skills, like if you want to pursue a career in Environmental Advocacy or you’re just interested in Environmental writing more generally, a lot of it is with nonprofit groups. If you think about things like the Sierra club, right, there’s a lot of these really pretty large Environmental groups now which have a lot of staff, a lot of sway. They do a lot of lobbying and forming policies and making policy proposals to politicians both at state and local, and even federal level. So there are a lot of these kinds of Environmental Advocacy sort of “Think Tanks” and groups around, and a lot of the work involved in that involves, you know, writing grants, writing project proposals, writing sort of like a policy brief that would be designed for someone higher up to read. So, a lot of the technical writing skills that you learn from a writing arts class really come in handy with that because you have to consume a lot of this sort of technical and scientific information relatively quickly, and then produce it in a very reader-friendly way for this ideal business person that’s all busy busy busy and doesn’t have time to read all of that stuff herself, right? So this way they would be able to condense that, package that into a reader-friendly format, and then have that read by people in positions of power.
Morgan: Who are some of the professors involved in this that teach these courses?
Dr. Ted Howell: Sure, so here at the Writing Arts side, we have the Intro to Technical Writing course, which a lot of different professors teach depending on the semester. I know one course, that is really sort of central to it as I envisioned it, is Scientific Writing and Rhetoric course with Dr. Grace Fillenwarth, who’s the one that created it and I think she’s the only one teaching it now on this campus, as well as the Writing for Nonprofits course which I know Dr. Jen Tole teaches very often as well as occasionally getting swapped out for other people as well.
Morgan: What should students do if they are interested in beginning the program? Is there someone they should contact or do they just register for one of these courses and start that?
Dr. Ted Howell: So if you’re interested in registering for this CUGS, like first of all I would be happy to answer any questions about it just to kind of like, if you were interested in “Well how can this help my career, or what are these courses really about? Why would I want to do this?”, just kind of in the more exploratory stage, I would be happy to answer any questions about that. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s my email address, I’d be happy to chat about it. But in terms of actually registering for the courses, they can do that with their faculty advisor, they can talk to Dr. Drew Kopp, chair of the department, as well as pretty much any of the writing arts professors if they just encountered one of them and said “Hey, I heard about this CUGS, do you know anything about it?”. I’m sure any one of the Writing Arts professors could direct them in that way. Or they could visit our Writing Arts Website and look up and read about the details of it there and the advising sheet and get all of those sort of facts and details that they need to know.
Morgan: Is there anything else you would like to say about the program?
Dr. Ted Howell: I think that I am really excited about this program and I really hope that some students will enroll in it, and really use it as a chance to build these sort of credentials they would need to get these kinds of jobs. A lot of times, if you are just out of college and you have a lot of experience with writing, and you want to get a job at a place that might be a little bit more corporate, even if it’s like a nonprofit right, they’re looking for someone with a specific background. What you really need is some sort of credential on your transcript or on your resume that you can point to and you can say, “Hey, I have this certificate; it’s in Environmental Writing; it’s all about environmental studies”. So you can show them with this proof that you have this sort of content, knowledge, and this experience. As well as, I think even more importantly, if you take these courses and you produce some really cool projects in those courses, you’ll be able to go out on the job market and say “Hey look I really did this awesome project, not only did I learn a lot, but I did this on specific project- here’s some of the stuff that I wrote, here’s some of the stuff that I did” that you can show a potential employer as a way to really show that you not only care about this stuff, but that you have the skills that you need that they’re looking for.
The next interview was with Dr. Jordan Howell, who is coordinator of Environmental and Sustainability Studies, studies environmental issues and ways of improving how environmental policy is developed and applied, has research supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and previously by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and teaches several courses on environmental & sustainability topics at intro, intermediate, and upper levels including the Writing for the Environment course “Human Nature: Introduction to Environmental and Sustainability Studies”.
Morgan: First, I’d love to hear a bit about the Human Nature: Intro to Environmental and Sustainability Studies course that’s a part of this Writing for the Environment CUGS.
Dr. Jordan Howell: So that’s the class that’s one of two core classes for all of our majors and then when we partner with other departments, like for this Writing for the Environment CUGS, we try to include that so that all the people that are learning about the environment on campus have at least a couple classes in common. And so, that class focuses on humanistic and social science perspectives on the environment and knowing the Environment. So we talk about environmental history, environmental policy and economics. We try to answer the question of “What does sustainability mean?”, which is really hard to like, say that it’s one thing at any one time— but it’s like an intro class for all of our students so we thought it was important to include in this CUGS too.
Morgan: And how about Environmental Advocacy, that’s another class in the program, so I was wondering about professors teaching it and also just a bit about it?
Dr. Jordan Howell: Right now that class is taught by a gentleman named Mark Lohbauer who has been active over his entire career in kind of advocating for different Environmental causes and in South Jersey in particular, but also throughout the state. That class focuses on environmental movements and how they operate, how they organize ways of being effective in advocating for an environmental issue. It’s a newer class so it’s kind of evolving as to what it is, but we thought it was important to have an option for students who are kind of interested in different kinds of advocacy beyond just working for the government. There’s plenty of ways to be concerned about the environment, and so we wanted to explore that in that class.
Morgan: Great and so for these classes what kinds of careers exist for students interested in environmental advocacy and policy?
Dr. Jordan Howell: Yeah, with those two classes there’s a lot of opportunities to work for environmental groups. So, a lot of times people assume that government is one of the best ways to be concerned about environmental issues as a career, and it is because it has a very important role in dealing with environmental problems, but there’s no shortage of environmental interest groups and kinds of nonprofits and charities out there that all need really talented people so that they can perform their best and help accomplish whatever their mission is. So, we’re hoping with our classes but also with the Writing for the Environment CUGS more generally, that students will be able to step into those types of organizations and help them advocate for positive environmental changes.
Morgan: And how is this experience and skills in writing helpful for advocating for these groups?
Dr. Jordan Howell: Yeah. That’s a great question, I think it’s kind of vitally important, because we can care as individuals very deeply about some environmental problems, but if we struggle to communicate either our own interest in the environment, or struggle to communicate as to why other people should also care about that problem, it’s really unlikely that it’s going to get solved. So you have to be an effective communicator in writing and in your interpersonal relations with other people in order to get them on board with whatever it is you’re trying to do.
Morgan: Is there anything else to want to say with Writing for the Environment and your department at all?
Dr. Jordan Howell: I mean I would just add that we really want to encourage students at Rowan to study the environment from as many perspectives as possible. So I mean STEM classes, science and engineering stuff, is really important for understanding the nature of environmental problems and maybe crafting some solutions to it, but there’s so much like human components to thinking about the environment that we want to make sure that students understand that, and that they engage with that, so that they’re able to really engage with the things that they care about. Not everyone needs to be or wants to be highly technical kinds of STEM students, but that doesn’t mean you can’t participate in protecting the environment or advocating for environmental issues.
The courses are open to any student interested in the program, so if interested, talk to your advisor about registering for these courses and enrolling in the CUGS!
On October 31st, the Writing Center celebrated Halloween writing activities, costume contests, and trivia!
Festivities started at 10 am with walk-in-tutoring for all students. Students met with tutors for short fifteen minutes sessions, allowing students to drop in and quickly resolve any questions or concerns. One of the walk-in-tutors during this time was Alex Geffard, a grad student in the Writing Arts Masters program and the Web Coordinator for the Writing Center. Alex said his sessions “were very productive”, and focused “mostly on grammar and sentence structure”. He said today was a great day to show we don’t have to be scared of writing! If you are interested in drop-in tutoring, First Year Writing students can drop in any day of the week, and all other students can drop by on Tuesdays and Thursdays to work with TJ Schreiber!
In addition to the walk-in sessions, the Writing Center also held mini Halloween-themed workshops. There were Hai-boos (haikus), Horror Flash Fiction, and Terrifying True Tales. These sessions were led by Laura Kincaid, a second-year Writing Arts Masters student who has worked in the Writing Center for two years. Students and tutors in Laura’s workshop wrote Halloween themed haikus, such as these:
Students in Laura’s group read each other’s Hai-boos and told Terrifying True Tales, spooky stories they made up on the spot. These activities allowed students to discuss the craft elements of great horror stories, as well as improve their creative writing skills in a social setting.
Throughout the day, tutors and students were encouraged to participate in the Writing Center Costume Contest. The contest had three categories: funniest, most creative, and best in show. Pictures were posted to the Writing Center instagram account along with a caption about why the student/tutor writes. Here were some of the contestants!
At the end of the day, the Writing Center held a game of Halloween Trivia Pizza Party. This event was hosted by Charlie Rickle, a junior Music Therapy major, who has worked for the Writing Center for two years. Tutors and students ate pizza and candy as they battled it out to be the winning team. Here were some of the trivia questions, see how well you’d do! (Answers provided at the bottom)
There were many more challenging questions like these, but in the end, my team won! Before the party was over, the winners for the costume contest were announced. The winner for the most creative costume was Laura Kincaid. The winner for best in show was Laura Fowley. And the winner for funniest costume...was me!
The Writing Center’s Halloween celebration was a success! Tutors and students had a great time all day long. Activities like these bring our writing community closer together, and I was really honored to be apart of it. Beyond the celebrations, the Writing Center is a fantastic place to work with your peers at any stage of the writing process, for any class. Click here to register for an appointment. I hope to see you there!
(Trivia answers: M&Ms, Harry Houdini, Ireland)