BRAWN Summer Insitute 2016

BU at BRAWN 2014: Marisa Milanese, Sarah Hanselman, Kim Shuckra-Gomez, and David Shawn

The Writing Program will be well represented at this year’s BRAWN Summer Institute, to be hosted by MIT on May 20-21, 2016: Heather Barrett, Joe Bizup, Sarah Madsen Hardy, Marisa Milanese, David Shawn, and Chris Walsh will all be facilitating or co-facilitating sessions. Matt Parfitt and Davida Pines from the CGS Rhetoric Division are also serving as facilitators. For more information about BRAWN (Boston Rhetoric and Writing Network) visit the BRAWN website.

Writing Program Outstanding Teaching Fellow 2016: Sam Shupe


On our recommendation, the Graduate School has named Sam Shupe, a PhD student in the American and New England Studies Program and second-year Graduate Writing Fellow, the Writing Program’s Outstanding Teaching Fellow for 2015-2016. Sam, who teaches a WR 100/150 seminar with the arresting title “American Sweat: The Origins of Modern Sport and Leisure,” is a superb teacher and program citizen, and we give him our hearty congratulations!

Strike Up a Conversation (The Most Enjoyable Kind of Professional Development)

WRX piloters are a great resource for our program. This year’s WRXers–Anna, Jason, Seth, Holly, Maria, and Kim–tried new things in their classes and are ready not only to share their successes but also to help colleagues avoid obvious-in-retrospect mistakes.

Talk to Anna Panszczyk about . . .

  • contract grading (and other alternatives to conventional grading)
  • new ways to work with a research librarian
  • how to turn your current WR 150 topic into a “Diverse Disciplines” course

Talk to Jason Prentice about . . .

  • your doubts about multimodality
  • dealing with technical difficulties
  • digital tools that could be incorporated into any class

Talk to Seth Blumenthal about . . .

  • using interviews as sources in WR 150
  • assigning professional and public genres as well as academic ones
  • ideas for courses that turn on civic engagement or service learning

Talk to Holly Schaaf about . . .

  • assigning short papers to teach concision and control of scope
  • exercises that support planning and lead to substantive revisions
  • trying an alternative to the standard WR 100 assignment sequence

Talk to Maria Zlateva and Kim Shuckra Gomez about . . .

  • working with ESL students in mixed classes (but you already knew that!)
  • scaffolding with low-stakes assignments in WR 150
  • fostering grammatical awareness in the WR 150 context

For more information about this year’s WRX courses, login to Digication and go to the WRX Initiative page.

Faculty Reading: A Tradition is Born

The first WP faculty reading kicked off on February 4th with our very talented faculty, Elizabeth Stevens, Brandy Barents, and George Vahamikos as readers, and a full house of WP faculty in attendance. Note the ensuing response from some attendees:

What could be better at the end of a work day than some home-grown literature and a glass of wine? What a gift. I hope it becomes a WP tradition.” –Sarah M-H

Yes, home-grown and good stuff, and such a range! Ask Brandy B about her grandmother and the hambone, George V about the figure of the Hershey’s Kiss in Golden Age Spanish literature, or Liz Stevens anything, anything, about wolves.  Thanks to these authors for sharing their work, to Dan and Adam for organizing the refreshments, and to Carrie, Kim, and Tom for putting it all together. A new tradition is born!” –Chris W

I am delighted that everyone agrees that the Faculty Reading Series is off to a fantastic start!  Kim, Carrie, and I would like to encourage ALL interested parties to stop us in the office and let us know if you are interested in reading! Thanks to Adam and Dan for the libations and excellent food. And, as for Liz, George, and Brandy — thank you so much for sharing your gifts!” -Tom U.


Recent Faculty News

Massacre-final-coverJay Atkinson‘s new book, Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston’s Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America (Globe Pequot/October 2015), went to a third printing in March. Also, to commemorate the May 15th publication of Blood, Bone and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews, by Ted Geltner, Atkinson published an essay on his late mentor and friend entitled “The Passion for the Thing: An Argument for Harry Crews”. It appeared on in early May.

Brandy Barents‘ photography was published in the spring 2015 issue of the American Literary Review.

Gavin Benke

In February, Gavin Benke presented a paper on Enron and the politics of climate change as part of the 2016 Alan B. and Charna Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency: “The President and American Capitalism since 1945” at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. An expanded version of his presentation will be included as a chapter in a forthcoming edited book to be published by the University of Florida Press.

painted thing

Carrie Bennett‘s book of poetry, The Land is a Painted Thing, was published in March. A review from the publisher’s site: “Sharply chiseled prose blocks build into a world insidiously sinister and delicately haunting, a world built of details accruing an eerie chorus. But amid an atmosphere of slow-motion terror, there is also hope—because there is agency. There is a ‘we,’ and we have a plan. And we have a map. Bennett has given us a finely tuned emotional primer for dark times.”


Amy Bennett-Zendzian‘s essay on gift theory in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, “‘What I did was a radical thing’: Panem’s Corrupted Gift Economy,” just came out in Lana Whited’s edited collection Critical Insights: The Hunger Games Trilogy from Salem Press. In other news, she will be presenting on young adult science fiction adaptations of fairy tales at the Children’s Literature Association Conference in Columbus, OH in mid-June. She is also directing a new play, “Ultimate Things” by Carl Danielson, with Unreliable Narrator Theater Group — that will be at BU’s own Boston Playwrights’ Theatre in early July.

craft of research

With William T. FitzGerald of Rutgers University, Joe Bizup has edited the fourth edition of Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams’s classic guide The Craft of Research (2016). In its first three editions, this book sold over 700,000 copies. Joe hopes there are still a few readers out there who have yet to get theirs. From the publisher: “Following the same guiding principle as earlier editions—that the skills of doing and reporting research are not just for elite students but for everyone—this new edition retains the accessible voice and direct approach that have made The Craft of Reasearch a leader in the field of research reference. With updated examples and information on evaluation and using contemporary sources, this beloved classic is ready for the next generation of researchers.”

Allison Blyler has poetry in the upcoming summer issue of Prairie Schooner.

Seth Blumenthal‘s article Nixon’s Marijuana Problem: Youth Politics and ‘Law and Order,’ 1968–72″ on marijuana and the gateway theory was published in The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture in February. He was also interviewed on Harvard’s “Science by the Pint” series where he discussed marijuana science. 


On April 13, Jessica Bozek hosted An Evening of Documentary Poetry that brought local poet and educator Simone John together with four students from her WR100/150 classes (Interrogating Race in Contemporary America) this year. Simone read from her new documentary poetry project, a chapbook called Collateral, which gives a voice to Sandra Bland and other women of color who are often marginalized in conversations about race and violence. The students read from alternative genre assignments, poetic scripts for victims of police brutality/systemic racism, including Tanisha Anderson, Michael Brown, India Kager, and Tamir Rice. These scripts combined research and speculation, to acknowledge the limitations of pure fact and convey the emotional truth of a situation. The best part of the event was the lively conversation among participants and audience members after the reading.

Tridha Chatterjee‘s article, “Structural Changes in Bengali–English Bilingual Verbs through the Exploration of Bengali Films,” was published in the 2016 Special Issue: Mixed Verbs and Linguistic Creativity of the journal Languages. She presented her paper “Structural changes and stylistic choices: The case of Bengali-English bilingual verbs” at the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics Winter Meeting in Washington D.C on January 9, 2016.

Pary Fassihi has been selected as the Center for Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellow. As a CTL fellow Pary will engage in a variety of program activities over the summer in order to develop and refine her teaching skills in relation to flipped classroom models.

Soomin Jwa, with Dr. Christine M. Tardy, co-authored “Composition Studies and EAP,” a chapter of the Routledge Handbook of English for Academic Purposes, a state-of-the-art review chapter exploring the ways in which composition studies and English for Academic Purposes, in spite of different historical origins, have disciplinary alignments. 

Somy Kim‘s film review of Justin Semien’s 2014 Dear White People was published in the Spring 2016 issue of Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies. In March, she and Kim Shuckra-Gomez presented on the panel “Teaching Writing in the Foreign Language Classroom” that brought together faculty from the CAS Writing Program and the departments of World Languages & Literatures and Romance Studies.

Sarah Madsen-Hardy, Gwen Kordonowy, and Marisa Milanese‘s proposal for the Writing Program’s first upper-division course, Writing 415: Public Writing, was just accepted by the university. To be offered in Spring 2017, the two-unit course is open to students who have passed WR150 (or its equivalent). WR 415 students will learn about the growing call for scholars to communicate their research to the public, study and practice several public genres, and rewrite a research project from a previous course to “translate” it for a public audience.

Anna Panszczyk presented a paper titled “Pictureless Picture Books: The Metafictional Nature of Blank Spaces in Children’s Picture Book” at the College English Association (CEA) conference in Denver, CO this past April.

Joelle Renstrom is now the Daily Beast’s robot columnist, and has been published there a bunch this winter/spring.

Holly Schaaf published a feature article in The Arts Fuse, “Willing Suspension Productions Celebrates The Sea Voyage and a Glorious Anniversary” which focused on the current production and tenth anniversary of the revival of BU English’s Willing Suspension Productions, a theater company in which Holly was involved as a producer during her graduate school years.

Lesley Yoder and Kim Shuckra-Gomez presented on “Academic Writing Issues Faced by College-Bound ESL Students” at CELOP‘s Professional Development Day in March.

Farewell, Sarah Campbell


A Tribute to Sarah Campbell on the Occasion of Her Retirement from Boston University

By Joe Bizup, Director of the Writing Program

Sarah’s career at Boston University began in 1997, with an appointment as an instructor in the Department of English. From 2000-2005 she served as Head of the Writing Program in the School of Management. And from 2005 to the present, she has been a lecturer in the CAS Writing Program.

Prior to coming to BU, Sarah taught at the Catholic University of America, where she earned her PhD in English in 2005, and also at the University of Michigan. A medievalist by training, Sarah has taught courses on topics ranging from Children’s Literature, to rhetorical theory, to the Arthurian cycle. She has delivered many papers and presentations in literature and rhetoric, and is the author of the textbook Introducing Grammar Guides: One Word at a Time, published in 2006.

But this sterile rehearsal of her CV does not do justice to the contributions Sarah has made as a scholar, colleague, and—most of all—teacher. For that, I turn to her students—albeit not all 1972 of them—for it is they who can testify most directly and powerfully to the true difference she has made in their educations and lives. Her evaluations are a refrain of adjectives: “knowledgeable, interesting, enthusiastic, kind, helpful, funny, passionate, . . . compassionate.”

But some students say a bit more:

Professor Campbell is my favorite professor. The most help I have ever had with my writing was when she made me attend a mandatory meeting to go over my last paper.

Good first teacher that actually took the time and actually teach me grammar.

I really thought Professor Campbell knew what she was talking about.

Great course, great teacher. I learned a lot that will be useful for years to come.

Great professor. This class was the only class I didn’t dread attending.

Professor Campbell is very passionate about her rhetoric.

I honestly have never learned so much about writing in such a short time. Professor Campbell helped me develop a sophisticated writing style that works for me.

I actually looked forward to coming to class. Even though grammar is the most boring thing in the world, her sense of humor made it surprisingly fun. Great class.

I learned a lot from this course. It was different from any class I’ve ever had as far as English and writing go.

I am usually shy to raise my hand, but she made it seem easy to become a part of the conversation.

Professor Campbell is so funny, so compassionate, so helpful. One of BU’s best professors.

She is very enthusiastic, a good explainer, and unlike other teachers who suffocate you with their rules, she allows us to breathe in this class. I loved her as a teacher!

Professor Campbell is without a doubt the best teacher I have ever had. I owe to her the joy of writing.

Professor Campbell really cares about her students, and she is always helpful during office hours. She has a hilarious personality, and she also has her own unique understanding of the Arthurian court. I’m really glad I took this course. I learned a lot from her.

And finally, this student captures a sentiment I think all of us share:

Thank you for this semester. We’ll miss you.


2015-2016 Supervisor of the Year Award: David Shawn

On Thursday April 14 David Shawn received the 2015-2016 Supervisor of the Year Award from BU’s Student Employment Office. He was selected to receive this award from among forty supervisors that were also nominated by their student employees. David was nominated in a letter written by Heather Barrett on behalf of the two dozen graduate and undergraduate student tutors that he supervises in the CAS Writing Center. In this letter, many students shared anecdotes that emphasized David’s tireless work to coordinate 2000 tutoring appointments each semester, his genuine compassion for each and every tutor he works with, and his dedication as an enthusiastic mentor for the many tutors who are planning to pursue future careers in education.

Faculty Seminar: Multimodal Writing

PNG Final

Multimodal composition: What is it? How do writing programs teach it and assess it? And how are we incorporating aspects of multimodal composition into our classes now? These were some of the foundational questions we had for our spring seminar. What did we do to find answers to these questions? First, we roamed through texts and videos that gave us a sense of theoretical and practical conversations on multimodalities by scholars such as Cynthia Selfe and Pamela Takayoshi, Tracey Bowen and Carl Whithaus, Heidi A. McKee and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, and Johanna Drucker. Then, we had an intense and informative overview of digital humanities as a field and its presence at BU by Vika Zafrin, BU’s Digital Scholarship Librarian. We also benefited from perspectives from Educational Technologist Amod Lele and Mugar Library’s Head of Liaison and Instruction, Ken Liss.

Next, we had a stimulating time looking at the work being done in the program now – from attendees at the seminar, we learned about MediaKron projects (Gwen Kordonowy and Laura Heath); PowerPoint design and using selfies for reflection (Liz Stephens); using Omeka for annotated bibliographies (Ryan Weberling); and using image and narrative as a complement to writing (Deb Breen and Jason Prentice). Other instructors – Somy Kim, Karen Robbins and Amy Bennett-Zendzian – were not able to attend but circulated information on their work, including, respectively, Twitter, Instagram and Digication. Finally, we had the opportunity to workshop current or future assignments.

What we got out of our discussions: a sense of where multimodality fits within writing program curricula, excitement about the various approaches that are currently in place in WP and enthusiasm to keep exploring the potential of multimodal composition within our program and in the university as a whole. Thanks to all who made it such a rewarding learning experience!

Deb Breen and Jason Prentice, Seminar Co-facilitators

Faculty Seminar: Threshold Concepts in Information Literacy and Writing Studies

Ken Liss from the BU Libraries and Sarah Madsen Hardy led a Spring 2016 faculty seminar on “Threshold Concepts in Information Literacy and Writing Studies.” The seminar brought together writing instructors and librarians to talk about the most important concepts the two groups seek to teach and the many ways they overlap and interact.

 The three sessions focused on: 1) Threshold Concepts and Their Use in Writing Programs; 2) Threshold Concepts and the new Framework for Information Literacy (from the Association for College and Research Libraries); and 3) Librarians and Writing Instructors Collaborating.

 The seminar contributed to the ongoing collaboration between the BU Libraries and the Writing Program and will be followed up with additional activities in the Fall. 

Readings from the seminar are available on the Writing Program’s Blackboard site.

2016 International Women’s Day

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(photos courtesy of Lesley Yoder)

The Writing Program’s second annual International Women’s Day celebration was held at the Pardee School for Global Studies on Wednesday, March 16th. With the generous support from the CAS Writing Program and the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, we organized a wonderful evening of engagement, merriment, and solidarity, with particular attention having been paid to the official 2016 IWD campaign theme: #PledgeForParity

We were happy to welcome Maggi Alexander from the Philanthropic Initiative as our guest speaker, and as part of the event, proceeds were donated to support the local organization

While the beginnings of International Women’s Day can be traced back to the early 20th century labor movement in the United States, it was officially celebrated by the United Nations on March 8, 1975. The day has become an opportunity to recognize the achievements of women in order to promote gender equality in both social and professional life. Now it is celebrated worldwide with an official presence online.