Where Are They Now? Writing Fellows Alumni Edition


Technology, Uncategorized / Monday, March 5th, 2018

By Calley Marotta –

Calley Marotta is a PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric in the English Department and a TA Assistant Director in the Writing Fellows Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Calley Marotta is a PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric in the English Department and a TA Assistant Director in the Writing Fellows Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Although I participated in the UW Writing Fellows program from 2004-2006, it wasn’t until a decade later that I realized how the undergraduate peer tutoring program had shaped my career choices. At the time, I was moving from a career in elementary special education to college composition and a kind mentor suggested I look into Writing Studies. Only then did I realize Writing Studies was a field I had begun to study in our Writing Fellows tutor training seminar. And it was only then that I realized how and why I still valued a key component of the program–peer collaboration, with students ranging from 3rd grade to college. Today, I am privileged enough to be back at my alma mater studying Composition and Rhetoric while mentoring and learning from a new generation of Writing Fellows.

I have always been interested in how the undergraduate tutoring affects students after they graduate. How are they able to transfer the skills and philosophies that they learn in the program as they move to other fields and disciplines? As an undergraduate in the tutor training seminar, my original research paper asked those exact questions. And, in fact, my dissertation research still examines the way that adults, this time university custodial staff, utilize their literacies on the job. But alumni don’t have to be working in Writing Studies to use their Writing Fellows experience. As many of the alumni below demonstrate, they find that their time as an undergraduate peer writing tutor has influenced their work in variety of fields from law to education and administration. They value not only the perspectives they learned about writing across the curriculum but the invaluable friendships they made with their peers along the way. It was my pleasure to catch up with these alumni who generously detailed what they have been doing professionally since they were Fellows. I thank them for sharing and helping us think about how undergraduate peer tutoring continues to impact alumni lives. I look forward to sharing their experiences with current Fellows preparing to graduate.

Joseph Wong

Joseph Wong

Year Graduated: 2008

Major: English with a concentration in Creative Writing

What have you been doing professionally since you graduated?

Since graduating, I’ve worked and studied in the field of public interest legal services. It has always been my aim to work directly with folks who are trying to navigate the various judicial and administrative systems that dictate their access to their homes, their families, and their liberty. Throughout law school, I worked in New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta at a variety of public defender organizations as well as civil legal services organizations in the fields of immigration and public housing. I’m currently a staff attorney in the trial division at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where I represent people charged with serious felonies who cannot afford to retain a lawyer.

How has Writing Fellows influenced your current work?

I can honestly say that the skills and ethos that I developed during my time as a Writing Fellow influences every aspect of my work. Of course the ability to step back from my written work when revising, to outline and reverse-outline, and to think outside the box helps me to draft more persuasive and creative legal motions than I would otherwise be able to. But what I learned in the program arguably has a much more significant impact on my non-written work. In my line of work, I have to collaborate, negotiate, and advocate for and against a number of different audiences–clients, co-workers, support staff, judges, and prosecutors– all of whom bring a diversity of life experiences, educational backgrounds, and assumptions with them. What the Writing Fellows helped show me, and what I bring with me in my work every day, is that to communicate effectively you need to know your audience and to know your audience you first need to listen to them, to understand their priorities and goals, and to acknowledge those priorities and goals as valid. In the same way that the program taught me to avoid concentrating on line-edits to the detriment of refining the big-picture message, it has also taught me to cut out the static and get to the heart of the most vital issues to the person with whom I’m communicating which comes into play in every professional interaction I have.

What is a fond memory you have of the program?

There are many, but probably the most meaningful one to me was when Emily Hall invited me and two other fellows to present to an advisory board about what the program meant to us and ideas for expansion of the program. As funny as it seems looking back, that presentation was one of the first times I realized that I had the ability to make an impact outside of my writing. Sitting there, answering questions and making suggestions was one of the first times I realized that I had the confidence and ability to pursue a career outside of academia and literature. If not for that moment, who knows? I might never have had the guts to pursue my legal career.


Trevon Logan

Trevon Logan

Year Graduated: 1999

Major: Economics

What have you been doing professionally since you graduated?

After UW, I worked for a year at Wells Fargo and then enrolled in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. Currently, I am the Hazel C. Youngberg Trustees Distinguished Professor of Economics at The Ohio State University.

How has Writing Fellows influenced your current work?

It’s relatively easy when you become a professor! I incorporate writing into all of my courses. I think it’s important for students to engage with material by actively thinking about it. Writing IS thinking, and it’s still the best intellectual exercise that we can participate in. One way in which I’ve incorporated Writing Fellows philosophy into my own courses is to meet with students individually as they work on their writing assignments. It helps to break the large writing project down into small parts and students are more invested in their writing because they see that a faculty member is taking an active interest in their development. It’s a very rare win-win situation!

What is a fond memory you have of the program?

I remember the course we took as writing fellows and Brad’s desire to provide feedback on our papers. I have never seen so much blue ink anything I’ve written in my life before or since! But one especially fond memory was learning that Brad’s favorite Shakespeare play was King Lear, and I remember this because his office was so cold that he had to wear a winter coat while telling me this!


Jenna Mertz

Jenna Mertz

Year Graduated: 2014

Majors: English, Spanish, and Environmental Studies

What have you been doing professionally since you graduated?

After graduating from UW-Madison, I served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Ås, Norway. I provided written and audio feedback to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in academic writing courses, tutored in the writing center, and led workshops on oral communication. I also launched a course embedded peer tutoring program (like the Writing Fellows) comprised of international students.

When I returned to the United States in 2015, I began graduate school at Iowa State University, where I am currently pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing and the Environment. As a graduate student, I teach introductory composition courses and serve as a Graduate Communication Consultant in the Writing and Media Center.

I’m also excited to announce that I will be the Assistant Director of Iowa State University’s Writing and Media Center starting in August of 2018.

How has Writing Fellows influenced your current work?

I said it as an undergraduate, I say it a graduate student, and I will continue saying it as a writing center administrator: the Writing Fellows Program was the best thing to happen to me at UW-Madison. Hands down, without a doubt, end of story. It was a joy to be part of such a thoughtful community of writers and professors.

Gushing aside, I use the listening and questioning skills I learned as a Fellow every day as a writing center tutor and composition instructor. I practice listening. I practice empathy. I practice creativity. I practice being present.

I have also found that my training in non-directive tutoring has shaped how I offer feedback in creative writing workshops. I am more interested in the intent of the author than what may be on the page. My questions usually seek to uncover what the writer wants rather than what “the story” wants.

What is a fond memory you have of the program?

When I was the Undergraduate Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows program, I started a trivia team. On Monday nights, we trekked across campus to Union South and battled twenty other teams for generous gift certificates to the Sett. We had a killer team name and a killer team synergy, which once combined with our misplaced bravado, dumb luck, and fortuitous knowledge of Jaws and Danish statues, resulted in numerous sweet victories (and heartbreaking losses). We finally won enough gift certificates to buy everyone Babcock ice cream, Oprah-style.

 

Eric Lynne

Eric Lynne

Year Graduated: 2013

Majors: English and History

What have you been doing professionally since you graduated?

Since being a Writing Fellow–and largely because of being a Writing Fellow–I’ve been in the field of education. I got my Masters in the Arts of Teaching at Brown University and then helped start the Jane Goodall Environmental Sciences Academy, a project-based learning school in Maple Lake, Minnesota. I then spent a year in Iowa teaching introductory writing and reading courses at Des Moines Area Community College. This past summer, I was ecstatic to return to Madison and work for the UW-Madison PEOPLE Program as a writing instructor. Currently, I am happily employed as the Assistant Director at Galin Education, a private tutoring company in the Madison area.

How has Writing Fellows influenced your current work?

I use the skills I learned in the Writing Fellows program every single day. In my work as a language arts teacher and tutor, the pedagogical techniques I learned to help students approach writing tasks with a novice- and growth-mindset have been especially useful. Though these skills have been invaluable for my specific discipline and career, the Writing Fellows program also provided me with many of the “soft skills” needed to succeed in any career field. Writing Fellows made me a better writer, listener, a better collaborator, a better teacher, and a better professional. There are few undergraduate experiences that are as worthwhile as the Writing Fellows program.

What is a fond memory you have of the program?

The Writing Fellows program put together a weekly trivia team that competed at the Sett in Union South. We called ourselves The Fellowship and always had a blast together–win or lose. We were a formidable group that gained respect in that crowd of trivia nerds. The most dedicated members of The Fellowship are still friends, and we try to play trivia whenever we are together.

********

Special thanks to the contributors as well as Annika Konrad, Emily Hall, and the cover photo by Faustin Tuyambaze on Unsplash

2 Replies to “Where Are They Now? Writing Fellows Alumni Edition”

  1. Calley, thank you so much for bringing us the stories of these impressive individuals! I’ve always felt not enough work is done to measure long-term impacts in education, when this is the level at which we can truly see how teaching and learning shape futures. (I also can’t help but think a more long-term view would result in better pedagogy, policy, and practice.) I know I’ve been forever altered by my experiences as a teacher and learner as well. Thank you to the Writing Fellows program for cultivating opportunities for undergraduate students to get these leadership experiences.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Calley. What these narratives attest to is the mutual benefits of tutoring. That is, it is not only the students who are being tutored whose writing, and ways of thinking about writing, improves; but it is also the tutor who gains immeasurable skills that pay dividends long after any one-on-one meeting. When I first started teaching at the college level, I was convinced that I needed to reproduce a bunch of “mini-mes.” Because I wanted all of my students to become literature scholars, I equipped them with a very limited range of writing and rhetorical skills. As I’ve become more experienced in the classroom, I’ve seen the benefit of having good writers and thinkers specifically NOT become aspiring literary critics. Rather, as Erica suggests in her response, we need a lot of different people, in a lot of different jobs, capable of writing and thinking well so as to influence a whole range of social issues. And the writing fellows program is a perfect space and model in which to foster these kinds of writing relationships.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *