Writing Across the Curriculum in Madison’s Summer Sun

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

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