Back to school

My how time flies. It seems like only yesterday I was starting summer break, and here we are now, already two (kind of) weeks of fall classes in the history books.

First, a few housekeeping-type things. I’m still working on updates to the new site design, so there may be some changes over the coming weeks/months or (heaven forbid…) some errors and/or bugs. Also, yikes. I missed three weekly writing tips. First because of prep work, then because classes had started and oh my goodness where was all my free time, and then because I had the migraine/tension headache from hell that left me in bed for 56 hours. I won’t go into the gory details, but it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I’m all better now though! Well, mostly. Food and I are still having a bit of a complicated relationship.

By the way, I’m fully aware that two of those things are excuses for not getting my work done, while only one is a reason.

Okay, back to business! Classes started last Wednesday at MSU, which was treated like a Monday, which didn’t matter one bit to me, since my Monday and Wednesday schedule is exactly the same. Apparently for students who have recitations or one-day-a-week classes, though, this is an important distinction. I’m teaching three classes this semester (that’s full time for me), one of which is a totally new class that I spent the summer (and part of the spring) designing, while the other two are repeats for me. Sort of. I wanted to take some time today to introduce you to some of the work I’m doing in those classes, since I’m sure I’ll be talking about them much more at length in the coming weeks.

First-year Writing, Studio Model

The two repeat sections for me are studio-like models of our first-year writing course at MSU. I teach my sections focused on professional literacies, and really try to give the students a lot of hands-on experience and personalized attention. The students spend almost two months of the semester in groups of around six, working on a project for an on-campus clients. They research and analyze both their client and their audience, use their findings to create a piece of publicity for the client, then write a paper arguing why their proposed publicity material is effective and appropriate. During the course, the students learn how to write professional email, how to write resumes and cover letters, how to design a meeting agenda (and run a meeting), how to conduct interviews, how to talk about their professional experiences through narrative, how to work effectively in groups, etc. The goal is for as much of the class as possible to transfer in immediate and obvious ways. I’m teaching one of my sections as a joint section with another professor (so twice the number of students, but twice the number of professors, too), and I’m teaching the other section in a REAL classroom. (Note to self: you need to add code to change the color of links in text.)

Managing Publication Projects, ing Magazine

My brand new class, which is part of the Professional Writing major at MSU, is a section on producing a monthly magazine. We’ve recently begun to focus on moving the students toward experiences in the classroom, and this is one of the ways we’re hoping to accomplish that. The students in my class will work together to curate, write, edit, and design the content for ing, an on-campus arts and culture publication. They will also work to create an institutional memory for the publication, and will research the on-campus audience as well as other similar publications to get a feel for how we can be most effective. Our big projects this semester, in addition to producing the October, November, and December/January issues of the magazine, are a history report, a landscape analysis, an audience analysis, and a distribution report. Like my first-year writing classes, this one also stresses teamwork in many aspects and seeks to show students the ways in which group work is essential in professional editing and publishing spheres.

And that’s it! Or, well, that’s it on paper. In reality, there’s a lot more going on than two short paragraphs of text can really get at, and it’s those as-of-yet untapped spaces that I’ll be exploring more throughout this semester. It should be fun!

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