By Emily B. Hall, Director, UW-Madison Writing Fellows Program.
Those of us who know her and work with her in the Writing Fellows program are simply thrilled that Alexis Brown has been selected as a Rhodes Scholar for 2012. A deeply motivated student, Alexis has an outstanding academic record and a rich and varied set of intellectual and leadership experiences. In addition to founding and editing the Madison Journal of Literary Criticism, keeping up with her coursework in two demanding majors, and working for Americorps, Alexis has left an indelible mark on our program as a Writing Fellow. She has provided thoughtful, critically astute feedback to students in courses in English, psychology, and legal studies. In her Writing Fellows seminar, Alexis wrote an outstanding paper that explored how phatic speech (or small talk) can create a sense of community between Writing Fellows and students and can facilitate meaningful conversations about writing and academic discourse.
Alexis’s research was so impressive that she was accepted to present her work at two major writing conferences—the Midwest Writing Centers Association Conference (held in Madison in October) and the National Peer Tutoring in Writing Conference (held in Florida last November). Alexis’s presentations dazzled writing professors, writing center administrators, graduate students, and tutors from across the country. And Alexis achieved all of this last fall while “fellowing,” editing the MJLC, studying full time, and undergoing a series of demanding interviews for the Rhodes! I’m beginning to think Alexis must have a Time-Turner like Hermione Granger—how else could she accomplish so much with her days? I hope my comments demonstrate how deserving Alexis is of this great honor, how proud we in the Writing Center and Writing Fellows program are of her, and how grateful we are to have her as our colleague. Congratulations, Alexis!!
By Alexis Brown, UW-Madison Undergraduate Writing Fellow. If being a Writing Fellow has taught me anything, it’s the value of serious revision. For the past two years, I’ve worked as a Writing Fellow in UW-Madison’s Writing Fellows Program, where I help students revise their papers for academic classes. I’ve always enjoyed my work—there’s something really satisfying about watching someone’s ideas slowly sharpen and take form as we go through their writing together, and I love being able to give pointed feedback I think will help them as they edit their work.
Applying for the Rhodes scholarship, though, taught me even more about the value of revision, because this time I was the one doing serious revising—and I needed all the help I could get. The Rhodes application involves a personal statement that has to describe my interests, both academically and in my extracurricular activities. Basically, you have to sum up who you are as a person…in 1,000 words. It’s a tall order, and after my first draft, I could tell, I needed a lot of work. Luckily I had the support of people involved with the campus selection committee and the Writing Center to help me along the way, including our own Writing Center director Brad Hughes and English professor Caroline Levine.
It took a while—I even started over completely at one point—but I’m happy to say my finished draft is one of my favorite things I think I’ve ever written. I’m lucky I had people here to push me along the way, because I know my work wouldn’t have been as polished or interesting if I hadn’t. I just found out I’ll be a Writing Fellow for Professor Caroline Levine’s class this coming semester, before I graduate and head off to Oxford in the fall. I hope I can be as helpful to her students as she was to me.
For more information about Alexis, see this story from University Communications at UW-Madison.