Writing in the News
Fall 2012 Common Book Writing Contest
The winners of the third annual Common Book Writing Contest were
recognized at Convocation on Wednesday, August 15, 2012. First place was
awarded to Mathew
Halvorson, a Polymer and Fiber Engineering major from Jonesboro,
Georgia. Halvorson’s response, “Immortality,” focused on the theological
aspects of Rebecca Skloot’s novel The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Second place went to English major
from Johns Creek, Georgia, who wrote an essay comparing the actual to
the theoretical in relation to the life of Henrietta James. Ellen
Rankins, an Animal Science major from Cusseta, Alabama and
Mary Katherine Cook, a undeclared Science and Math major from
Birmingham, Alabama tied for third place. Rankins’ poem “Immortal or Gone”
takes on the voice of Henrietta’s daughter, while Cook’s untitled poem
focuses on the concept of immortality.
This year’s Common Book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, focuses on
the connections between science, culture, and ethics, appealing to students
from all different majors and academic goals. Auburn University Interim
President Timothy Boosinger explains, “The goal of the Common Book program
is the encourage students to become involved in a common academic
experience, one that creates a discourse around complex issues such
scientific research, social inequality, and ethical dilemmas. The students
who entered the writing contest demonstrated their ability to be great
students because they took the time to read and think about issues raised in
The contest was open to all incoming first-year students. Entrants were
asked to submit a written response to this year’s Common Book, The
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, using any genre
they wished. A panel of faculty, alumni, and students judged the
submissions. The competition is sponsored by Auburn Connects! and the
Office of University Writing.
The four winners were awarded with gift cards to the Auburn University
Bookstore. They will also be participating in Common Book events
throughout the semester. The ir profiles will be
published on the
University Writing webpage.
Auburn Featured in National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)
The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) annually surveys
students of participating colleges and universities on their engagement in
proven best practices that relate to set learning objectives. Survey data is
gathered from all disciplines and results are then distributed to individual
institutions to make needed improvements in teaching and learning.
As a participant in the NSSE administrations for eight of the last ten
years, Auburn was recently recognized for its work and devotion to creating
engaged learning opportunities for all students through the creation of the
Office of University Writing (OUW) and a formal University Writing
Committee. The article features information about the writing-in-the-majors
policy, an initiative developed in 2010 that requires each department to
develop a plan that provides multiple opportunities for students to engage
in varied and meaningful writing assignments. The Civil Engineering
department is recognized for their significant revision to an already
writing intensive plan, that now details the integration of seven different
kinds of writing, five different purposes of writing, and four forms of
Also included in the article is a report on the ways in which the Office
of University Writing has worked to involve faculty and promote
professional development. Through a set of symposiums on teaching
writing, a poster reception, and a longitudinal study, the OUW has
worked to improve writing across campus.
For the full article, see
Improving Writing Across the Disciplines
Six Auburn Students Represent the McWhorter School of Building Science
at the Associated Builders and Contractors National Competition in San
Six Auburn students recently represented the McWhorter School of Building
Science at the Associated Builders and Contractors national competition in
San Antonio, Texas. The project challenged team members, Charles Powers,
Seth Slatton, Kathryn Crowley, Jeremy Bolton, Daniel Chapman, and Chelsey
Jacobs, to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real world
experience by crafting a proposal to repair and renovate an abandoned,
inner-city school located in Baltimore, MD. As the team worked diligently to
plan and draft a technically written piece for this first phase of the
competition, they were faced with critical thinking tasks associated with
the industry. “From the beginning, we decided that to get the detail we
needed we should split the task of the proposal by scope, and all in all I
believe we spent well over 60 hours making sure that our management and
staffing plans in the proposal were sufficient,” commented Daniel.
After arriving at the competition, the group was again challenged as
they were tasked with revising their original proposal due to simulated
real-world problems affecting the build site. “All parts of our proposal
had to be revised to reflect the changes. So, we went about making the
changes as slowly and accurately as possible. We read through the new
information as we received it and had a lot of open discussion at our
table to utilize everyone's strengths,” said Kathryn. Daniel added,
“This new proposal took time and effort with many revisions in a
‘crunched’ environment due to the time limit that was set, but it really
helped me further my knowledge of the process behind the preconstruction
In the end, the team’s effort and hard work paid off, as Auburn was
awarded 1st place in the Project Management Category. Daniel shared, “It
was great to be on that stage and hear them announce Auburn University
had received first place in the project management plan. The whole
competition was a great learning experience to practice and apply the
skills we learned in the classroom.” Kathryn agreed saying, “This
competition was really focused on real life applications and presenting
an actual problem that a construction company had a couple years before.
It was interesting, after we completed our evaluation and presented our
solution, when they held the problem statement debrief and we were able
to see how the actual company went about researching the problem,
developing a plan, and executing the solution. The entire experience
will be exceptionally helpful in the future on the job site or in the
office when a problem arises.”
for more information on the competition.
Auburn Faculty and Students Present at the International Writing Across
the Curriculum Conference in Savannah, GA
AUBURN, AL (June 18, 2012) – Eleven faculty members and eight students
represented Auburn University at the International Writing Across the
Curriculum Conference (IWAC) in Savannah, GA. Coming from a variety of
disciplines and backgrounds, these faculty and students shared their
experiences on how to successfully integrate and promote writing. Hosted by
Georgia Southern University, the conference welcomed 440 educators and
students to the Coastal Georgia Center June 7-9.
Auburn’s deep interest in writing has developed in response to a
university-wide writing initiative that began in 2010. Led by the Office
of University Writing, faculty have worked collaboratively within their
departments to bring engaging writing assignments to all courses. In
their group presentation, Sharon Roberts (Biological Sciences), Becky
Barlow (Forestry and Wildlife), Marcia Boosinger, (University
Libraries), J. Scott Finn (Architecture), and Tony Overfelt (Mechanical
Engineering) demonstrated how they have personally brought writing to
their individual classes. “The IWAC conference was a great way to see
the existence of writing at various universities, but after attending
some of my fellow colleagues’ presentations, I am really impressed by
the success of what Auburn has accomplished,” remarked Tony Overfelt.
English Department representatives, Miriam Marty Clark and Hilary Wyss,
joined by three graduate teaching assistants, Michelle Hopf, Amelia
Lewis, and Jessica Sims, led a roundtable discussion on their
experiences using writing in a large section literature course. “The
attendees at our panel asked questions that led to a very productive
conversation. We learned a lot that we are bringing home to our
department,” reported Michelle Hopf.
In another panel, director of the Office of University Writing, Dr.
Margaret Marshall, and graduate students, Neecee Matthews-Bradshaw and
Laura Elmer, presented the beginning stages of a longitudinal study
following faculty teaching writing in upper division courses. Faculty
from the Department of Political Science, Cathleen Erwin and Tina
Zappile, presented their research analyzing their department’s syllabi.
Their analysis showed significant statistical progress in the addition
of writing assignments to courses across all three programs in the
department since the implementation of the writing initiative.
A final Auburn panel focused on the support structures that are needed
to advance and promote the mission of the Office of University Writing.
Travis Adams (Coordinator of Student Services) and students Alyssa
Pratt, Karissa Womack, and Haley Bridges led a roundtable discussion
sharing their varied experiences and how their roles supporting the
initiative through their work in assistantships, internships, and in a
student organization have impacted faculty and students. “The conference
was a great opportunity and learning experience for me,” said Ms.
Womack. “Auburn was the only university that had undergraduate
representatives, and I think that says a lot about the success of the
initiative we are trying to implement.”
“Discovering SHR: A Master Class and Reading” with Alison Pelegrin and
On Saturday, February 11, the Southern Humanities Review invited writers
in the Auburn area to “Discovering SHR: A Master Class and Reading” at St.
Dunstan’s Episcopal Church. The event consisted of two workshops, one poetry
and one nonfiction, that offered writers of all kinds the chance to come
together and learn first-hand from Pushcart nominees Alison Pelegrin and
Pelegrin, a long time resident of the New Orleans area, has published
several books of poetry, including her most recent Hurricane Party (2011),
and her poem “Blessings for a Nemesis” appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of
SHR. Pelegrin led the morning poetry session by sharing some of her favorite
poems and then using those examples as a spring-board for creative
brainstorming exercises. Pelegrin shared personal experiences, inspirations,
and advice to make the session interesting and helpful for aspiring poets.
Bolden, who led the afternoon segment “Thinking Nonfiction: Putting Your
World on the Page” was thrilled to return to Auburn, where she used to teach
English. Currently a Creative Writing professor at Georgia Southern
University, Bolden has published several chapbooks and has appeared in
numerous journals, including the Fall 2010 issue of SHR. Bolden encouraged
the attendants to begin their own memoirs by leading the group in exercises
designed to get them thinking about thematic connections between specific
narrative episodes. Bolden also talked about research, psychic distance, and
effective plot devices.
After the workshops concluded, all the writers were invited to reconvene
at Gnu’s Room, one of Bolden’s “favorite places in the world,” to drink
coffee and listen to both authors read aloud from their original works.
During her time as a professor at Auburn, Bolden spent a lot of time pouring
through the Gnu’s Room selection of antique etiquette books. “That place was
like a second home to me,” she said. Bolden started the reading event off by
sharing poems of an uncommon theme—witchcraft. The poems, which focused on
different perspectives and were inspired by intensive research of historical
documents, captured the essence of a tragic and fascinating historical
Pelegrin chose to read a diverse smattering of her poems with subjects
ranging from naughty keychain bobbles to her hometown after hurricane
Katrina. Many of her poems, such as “Ode to Contractors Possessing Various
Levels of Expertise,” showcased her ability to write and entertain with both
humor and poignancy.
Chantel Acevedo, a chief editor of SHR, was extremely grateful to the
Auburn University English Department, the Liberal Arts Department, and the
Alabama State Council on the Arts for making the master classes and reading
possible with their generous support. Everyone in attendance agreed that the
entire event, from the morning workshop to the evening poetry reading, was
an immense success.
19th Century Novel Course Hosts "Poster Session"
Dr. Emily Friedman, inspired by her work with Dr. Devoney Looser at the
University of Missouri, designed a "Not-Austen" early nineteenth-century
novel course in which students read a variety of novels that were written,
printed, and sold during the last years of Jane Austen's life. The course
culminated with a "final exam" editing and presentation project that
provided students with the opportunity to meet and learn from experts in
various fields. According to Dr. Friedman, the students gained a new and
important perspective by completing the project. "I think that my students
came away with a real appreciation for how much work and thought goes into
every component of the books they study, both in prior centuries as well as
today's scholarly editions," she said.
On December 7, 2011, Professor Friedman and her students held a "poster
session" in RBD Library where they showed off the hard copies of their final
products and discussed what they learned with librarians, faculty members,
and peers. "A poster session allows you to speak one-on-one, which most
students find a little less intimidating, but still includes the challenge
of sharing your knowledge in a clear and effective way," said Dr. Friedman.
Dr. Friedman included this speaking opportunity to help her English students
cultivate the key communication skills that are needed to impress future
MIT lends a hand to Auburn writing
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Writing Across the Curriculum
program is lending a helping hand to the Auburn Office of University Writing
(OUW). Two videos entitled “No One Writes Alone: Peer Review in the
Classroom” will be featured on OUW’s website as a guide for both
students and instructors on the benefits of allowing students to help
each other with writing.
“These videos are an excellent tool for students and professors to
consider how peer review supports writing,” said Dr. Margaret Marshall,
Director of University Writing. “It is my hope these videos can show
instructors that writing is not just something students do at home. Peer
review is an engaging, hands-on activity that can get students talking about
the subject matter. We’re thankful that MIT encourages their wide
distribution and gave us permission to place them on our site.”
While peer review and workshops are a mainstay of writing courses, MIT’s
videos show that peer review can be a helpful tool for writing assignments
of all kinds.
The student tutors at OUW’s Miller Writing Center understand the value of
peer review. “I think that in general students tend to trust their peers
more,” said Kelly Tsaltas, a sophomore tutor at the Miller Writing Center.
“Sometimes it’s easier to take advice from someone who’s in the same place
as you than from someone who’s ‘been there done that.’ ” Tsaltas added that
in her experience, students are much less intimidated by a peer review than
a paper conference with their professors.
Dr. Marshall said the videos are a great addition to OUW’s mission of
supporting writing across the curriculum at Auburn. “Professors of all
disciplines have realized the value of writing, but they aren’t always
certain how to incorporate writing effectively in their courses” Marshall
said. “We hope these instructional videos provide another illustration of
how writing can become a productive activity for students within
disciplinary classrooms and that they give professors and students ideas
about how to adapt peer review to their situations.”
Writing as Therapy
Are you worried or stressed about that next big exam coming up? Is test
anxiety making it hard to even remember what you studied? There’s hope! You
may not believe this but writing might be the best way to alleviate those
concerns. A recent study at the University of Chicago found that
expressive writing before test taking can actually boost scores
dramatically. Expressive writing allows students to openly communicate any
ideas, opinions, or feelings about any subject they choose. Researchers
found that when students wrote specifically about why they were worried
about the exam, the result was an increase in their test scores. The
article provides numerous explanations as to why this type of writing can
benefit both teachers and students. If you’re not convinced this will work
for you, visit
Sciencemag.org to read this fascinating study.