Writing Across the Curriculum in Madison’s Summer Sun

From the Director, Graduate Students, Higher Education, Outreach, Science Writing, Writing Across the Curriculum, Writing Center Research, Writing Centers / Monday, July 30th, 2012
Compass plants, UW-Madison Arboretum, July 2012 (photo by Jeff Miller, University Communications)
Compass plants, UW-Madison Arboretum, July 2012 (photo by Jeff Miller, University Communications)

During the searing heat and drought that the summer of 2012 has brought to the upper midwest, our Writing-Across-the-Curriculum (WAC) program has been busy (inside comfortably air-conditioned buildings) partnering with faculty and other instructors across our campus in exciting new collaborations.  At the same time, our summer writing center has been hopping with lots of individual consultations and workshops and three different dissertation camps, and undergraduate writing fellows have been helping incoming first-year students with their first college writing assignments.  (More about the dissertation camps will be coming in a future blog post.)

Here’s a sampling of this summer’s WAC programming—

The new Union South at UW-Madison
The new Union South at UW-Madison (photo by Bryce Richter, University Communications)

In late May, the WAC program organized a very successful panel of faculty at the University’s Teaching-and-Learning Symposium, at the new Union South on campus.  The panel, titled “Writing Across and Beyond the University: Innovative Writing Assignments That Foster Deep Learning in All Disciplines,” featured Professors—

  • Michael Thornton, Afro-American Studies
  • Leonora Neville, History Department
  • Bryan Hendricks, Psychology Department
  • Catherine Middlecamp, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Faculty on our WAC panel at the May 2012 TLS: Catherine Middlecamp, Leonora Neville, Michael Thornton, and Bryan Hendricks
Faculty on our WAC panel at the May 2012 TLS: Catherine Middlecamp, Leonora Neville, Michael Thornton, and Bryan Hendricks (photo by Stephanie White)

In May, the latest issue of our Writing-Across-the-Curriculum newsletter for faculty, Time to Write, appeared.  This issue, edited by Stephanie White, features stories about a new writing-intensive course for history majors, called “The Historian’s Craft,” at UW-Madison; new writing assignments using wikis in pharmacy and history courses; and advice about making peer review work effectively.  Here’s a link to the spring 2012 issue of that newsletter.

In early June at the Teaching Academy’s Summer Institute on Teaching and Learning, held at the University’s Arboretum, Stephanie White, the Assistant Director of Writing Across the Curriculum, and Brad Hughes, Director of Writing Across the Curriculum and the Writing Center, led several sessions, on writing and learning, on designing writing assignments, and on responding to and evaluating student writing.  At the end of the institute, participants presented posters with plans for a new or redesigned course they’re teaching in a future semester.  To get a sense of how important writing assignments were for their new course, take a look at this Wordle (a word cloud) which captures the words used most frequently in these presentations.  Thanks to Chris Lupton from Academic Technology for creating this Wordle.

In early June, in Savannah, Georgia, several current and former WAC staff from UW-Madison presented their research at the International Conference on Writing Across the Curriculum.

In June, the WAC program was invited to do a workshop on teaching with writing for a national conference on teaching in the animal sciences, held at UW-Madison.

Also in June, the WAC program was invited to do a presentation about WAC principles and about writing-intensive courses at UW-Madison for teachers of advanced-placement courses in high-school English departments  across Wisconsin and from other states.

The Delta Program for Future STEM Faculty
The Delta Program for Future STEM Faculty

In June and July, in a new partnership with the campus Delta Program, the WAC program offered popular workshops on teaching with writing in SBE (social, behavioral, and economic sciences) and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) courses.  The Delta Program “promotes the development of a future national faculty in the natural and social sciences, engineering, and mathematics that is committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse student audiences as part of their professional careers.”  These new WAC workshops for the Delta Program drew graduate students and faculty from a wide range of departments, including botany, psychology, physics, biomedical engineering, cancer biology, geoscience, agricultural and applied economics, space science, limnology, dairy science, astronomy, forest and wildlife ecology, library and information studies, counseling psychology, and environmental studies.  Here’s a link to a gracious blog post about these workshops, written by Lauren Meyer, a UW-Madison psychology graduate student who participated in several of our summer WAC events.

The 2011-12 UW-Madison WAC Sourcebook for Faculty
The 2011-12 UW-Madison WAC Sourcebook for Faculty

During the summer, Stephanie White has been revising our WAC Program’s 300-page Faculty Sourcebook for Teaching with Writing Across the Curriculum, which is always in high demand.  The new edition of the sourcebook will appear in fall 2012, featuring wonderful new assignments designed by UW-Madison faculty and TAs in such varied fields as economics, anthropology, digital humanities, journalism and mass communication, engineering physics, history, pharmacy, psychology, curriculum and instruction, English, and social work.

Throughout the summer, the WAC program has been a partner in planning the University’s new Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence (MTLE) Program—a teaching and learning community for early-career faculty at the University, which launches in fall 2012.

And during the summer, the WAC program has consulted individually with faculty, instructional staff, and TAs in many departments, including counseling psychology, entomology, gender and women’s studies, agricultural and applied economics, Spanish and Portuguese, political science, biology, curriculum and instruction, languages and cultures of Asia, social work, and Future Faculty Partners in the Life Sciences.

Thanks for sampling some of what our WAC program has been up to this summer.  How about your WAC programs and writing centers?  Please share something you’ve been doing over the summer or planning for this fall.  And I’d welcome any comments or questions you have about our programs.

more later,

brad hughes
director, the writing center
director, writing across the curriculum

9 Replies to “Writing Across the Curriculum in Madison’s Summer Sun”

  1. Thanks for this fine blog post, Brad.

    I appreciate all that Brad and Stephanie do for the WAC program and how the WAC program works to enrich and promote a great culture of writing across UW-Madison. It’s always fascinating to hear about how WAC is working with so many different campus partners in the far corners of UW-Madison from my office-mate next door, Stephanie White. And as someone who regularly consults the WAC Faculty Sourcebook for Teaching with Writing Across the Curriculum, I can say with great thanks that as I move on from UW-Madison, and the Writing Center (and on to slightly sunnier climes), I will continue to value all that I have learned about being a good teacher of writing and a good writer. And whether you’re new to reading this blog or new to teaching at UW-Madison, one of the best decisions you can make to improve the quality of your teaching and your students’ learning experiences would be to email Stephanie or Brad about a WAC consultation—Today: If you don’t know WAC, you should!

  2. Thanks for this post, Brad. It’s exciting to see listed all of the work we’ve been doing this summer!

    It’s such a pleasure especially to lead workshops and consult with faculty and instructors and TAs over the summer, because there is a sense of freshness, of the chance for creative problem-solving and dreaming of new possibilities as they we work to revamp or design assignments and courses. I’m so pleased to get to be involved in that process!

  3. Wow, what a productive summer! So far we do not have a wac-program at our university, but when I am back in Germany, I will definitely push towards more cooperation with faculty. I have learned so much here in Madison about ways to do this, about building relationships, about counseling and about faculty workshops. The wac sourcebook is an incredible valuable and extensive resource. Thanks for sharing all this, Brad and Stephanie!

  4. What a lot of exciting work! The Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence Program is delighted to have your wisdom and insights as we launch the new programming for early-career faculty. We look forward to more and deeper connections in the coming months and years.

    Wish us luck for the inaugural Faculty Institute on Teaching, August 23-24, 2012!

  5. Reading this post, Brad, I’m happy, as always, to see the WAC program busy and thriving, but I am also particularly struck by what your calendar of events says not just about the WAC program, but about the UW, more generally: that the WAC program is taking part in an atmosphere of serious commitment to the craft of teaching on campus, which I find impressive and inspiring. And these events, which reached local, statewide and even national audiences, really speak to the life of the Wisconsin Idea in the work of the WAC program and all the others who gathered for these conferences, symposia and institutes. I look forward to the promised “more later” with which you end!

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