Abigail Covington: 2019

May 16, 2019

“This award is a great honor! I sincerely appreciate the faculty and staff that nominated and supported me. My time in the Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition Department has been bolstered by classes and professors that genuinely care about the well-being and personal development of their students. Their encouragement combined with the strength of the stories of my mother and grandmothers allowed my writing to truly take shape. I have been retelling the narratives I grew up listening to. The characters may have changed over time, but the themes always remained the same. I am proud that the stories of my ancestors combined with the power of my pen can be honored in such a way.

“I would like to thank the Writing Department as a whole but especially Professor Tony Scott, Professor Lois Agnew, Professor Brice Nordquist, and Professor Jonna Gilfus for their encouragement and guidance throughout my many writing courses during my tenure at Syracuse.”—Abigail Covington

In nominating Abigail Covington for the 2019 Carol Lipson Outstanding Writing Major Award, Associate Professor Tony Scott writes, "Abigail’s equanimity, her intellectual depth and curiosity, and her commitment to doing excellent, meaningful work set her clearly apart from most of her peers. Her writing and general communication skills exhibit a maturity beyond her years: her ability to assimilate theory and research in projects that engage and challenge readers is rare in someone so young. I have come to look forward to reading everything she writes. I have also been impressed with her ability to speak extemporaneously in classes—offering thoughtful, often fully developed arguments and insights that quite often change the directions of conversations. Abigail conveys a calm, respectful confidence when speaking, and her peers clearly see her as leader….The writing is not only nuanced, novel, and intellectually mature, it is highly engaging reading …. Regardless of her pathway in life, I am confident that she will impress, and I look forward to seeing what she does in the world. It is difficult to imagine anyone being more deserving of our award.”


Brice Nordquist, Jonna Gilfus, Abigail Covington, Tony Scott, and Patrick W. Berry.

Assistant Teaching Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Jonna Gilfus writes, “It was truly a pleasure to work with Abigail as a student during her first semester. The inquiry for the course focused on literacy and its relationship to cultures, communities, and identities. Abigail was one of the most sophisticated writers in the class, but she was always hungry for critical feedback. She has a humble, reflective attitude that allows her to grow as a writer and as a student . . . . In the classroom, Abigail is a leader by example—she asked thoughtful questions and encouraged her peers during our class discussions, and generously shared her perspective and experiences with the rest of the class. Abigail’s natural interest in learning and serious attitude toward the work was infectious.”

Additional words about Abigail:

Abigail is an outstanding student and leader who, in the three years I have known her, has demonstrated academic excellence, perseverance in forging connections both across and beyond the university, and a persistent devotion to finding and articulating the relevance of her academic training…. She has developed sophisticated and flexible writing skills across a broad range of genres and topics from education to voting rights to democratic practices. She believes in the power of language to bring about change…. She can think proactively, is unafraid to speak up, and is always diplomatic and clear. Her training in digital media and communication enhances her already strong writing skills. Having worked with Abigail in various capacities, most recently as her advisor, I continue to be impressed by her intellectual depth, high energy, and caring demeanor. —Patrick W. Berry, Associate Professor, Chair, Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition

Abigail consistently demonstrated well developed analytical and research skills, as well as maintaining a strong commitment to building on her understanding of rhetoric and communication. In addition to her intellectual strengths, Abigail exhibited the personal maturity that enabled her to assume a leadership role in my class. She was a regular participant in our class discussions, a skillful peer reviewer, and a strong role model for other students. She thoughtfully presented her own views while inviting others to share their different perspectives…. Abigail’s immersion in questions across various disciplines, along with her internship experiences, enabled her to arrive at valuable insights that were evident in my class, and this expansive and incisive intellectual scope has been a central feature of her work throughout her time at Syracuse University…. Her extraordinary intellectual commitment, work ethic, rhetorical awareness, and strengths and versatility as a writer, speaker, and researcher place her among the very best students I have encountered in twenty-five years of teaching. —Lois Agnew, Professor of Writing and Rhetoric, Associate Dean of Curriculum Innovation and Pedagogy, Arts and Sciences

Class of 2019!

May 10, 2019

2019 Outstanding TA Award: Brett Keegan

April 29, 2019

Congratulations to Brett Keegan, doctoral candidate in the Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program, for being awarded a 2019 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. Selection for the Outstanding TA award is made by a university-wide committee of faculty recognized for their teaching excellence, and is given to approximately the top 4% of all TAs campus wide.

In response to receiving this award, Brett says, "I feel honored to receive this reward during my time here at Syracuse. I have learned a great deal about pedagogy in the classroom, through mentors, and through coursework and community functions with faculty and peers. In an increasingly ‘post-truth’ world, rhetoric, literacy, and other skills that we work with in the classroom are increasingly important. I feel privileged to have worked with students here in Syracuse—learning from them as well—and l look forward to continuing this work."

The following are excerpts from letters nominating Brett for this award:

"In addition to supporting students’ individual needs and goals, Brett fosters a sense of collective purpose in his courses by encouraging engagement with the diversity of perspectives, experiences, resources, and rhetorical strategies present in every class. He accomplishes this exchange, in large part, through carefully designed courses, assignments and daily activities. Through my engagement with Brett’s teaching, I’ve been consistently impressed by his ability to balance the, often, competing demands of academic life in ways that make his students feel as though they are always receiving his full attention and best effort. Across his course evaluations, Brett is consistently recognized for his responsiveness and availability to students."—Brice Nordquist, Assistant Professor of Writing & Rhetoric, Graduate Director

"In each of his courses, he has developed a curriculum informed by commitment and dedication to student success, and he has repeatedly proven himself to be sensitive to the diverse needs of his students. ‘Since students have different goals, learning styles, and abilities in the composition classroom,’ he writes in his teaching statement, ‘I want to open a space where they can grapple with individual concept formation and learning objectives, encouraging them to take ownership of their writing tasks, situations, goals, and voices.’ This sensitivity towards student agency truly distinguishes Brett; students particularly comment on how much they appreciate him and the flexibility he offers them."—Patrick W. Berry, Chair, Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric

"When I first observed Brett’s teaching, I was struck both by his rapport with students and the degree to which his teaching style is aligned with how he conducts himself in other professional settings. Brett had years of experience teaching prior to coming to graduate school at Syracuse, and I think that this contributed to his calm, confident demeanor in the classroom . . . . Brett is a creative and ethically conscientious teacher-scholar, and his teaching is worthy of recognition."—Tony Scott, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric

"He encouraged so much participation, and there were lots of awesome discussions and relatable articles that we read in class. One memory I have from that class is writing about YouTube and how it uses its platform to control what you watch. It was one of the most interesting topics that I wrote about, and he gave me awesome feedback. I can say that this was my favorite class of my Freshman year. I became more open with people in the class and I was also able to form a relationship with Brett as well."—Tyler Crouch, SU student

"From the moment I entered his class I saw him laughing and smiling with other students. This energy kept the class alive even throughout Syracuse’s bleakest days. Mr. Keegan always kept the class entertained through showing his extensive knowledge of Digital Writing while geeking out about video games, Star Wars, videos on YouTube that were hilarious, and more. This shows personality and willingness to open up to his students who were very receptive and entertained by his vibrant attitude."—Brianna Johannes, SU student

"I found that Brett’s class offered excellent preparation for my writing in college. As an international relations major, most of my coursework involves essay writing and revision, and the ability to think critically about others’ work and structure my reading and watching habits has helped me greatly. I credit much of my writing success to Brett’s class and his approach to writing classes. He’s the finest TA I’ve had in my time at Syracuse and one of my best teachers, and I can think of no better candidate for the Outstanding TA Award."—Sebastian Burns, SU student

20 to Present at CCCC 2019

March 8, 2019


Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition is pleased to announce that 20 of our teachers will represent SU at the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in Pittsburgh, March 13-16. The theme of the 2019 conference is "Performance-Rhetoric, Performance-Composition."


Lois Agnew

“Rhetoric’s Histories, Theories, Pedagogies”: Rhetoric and CCCC (Special Interest Group Chair)

Spotlight Session: After Plato: Performing Ethical Theories and Practices

Madhura Bandyopadhyay

 “Circulating Identities: The STEM Capstone Project Showcase and Academic Globalization”

Patrick W. Berry

Performing Prison: Intentional Teaching, Research, and Writing Inside & Out

Ana Cortés Lagos 

  “Inventing PLEA: A Social History of a College-Writing Initiative at a Chilean University”

Telsha Curry
Spotlight Session: Black Swag on na Real, Nigga Dis Ain No Ack!: Interrogating Embodied Linguistic Knowledges and Swagger Jackin

Lauren Esposito

“‘Being Funny Isn’t the Goal’: What Improv Comedy Teaches Students about Learning to Write”

Genevieve García de Müeller  

Performing the Rhetorics of Family-Friendly Policies: Rhetorics versus Realities in Writing Programs

W[h]AC[k]-ing Academic, Institutional, and Literacy Hegemony (respondent)

André Habet

Remaking Spaces through Critical Performances

Alex Hanson

"Acknowledging who is Excluded: The Limitations of Family Friendly Policies for Graduate Student Parents."

C.C. Hendricks

“Mobilizing Affect: The Rhetoric and Circulation of Popular Political Satire”

 “Beginning a Conversation with SWR”

Rebecca Moore Howard

Style and the Future of Composition Studies

Stephanie Jones

Spotlight Session: Black Swag on na Real, Nigga Dis Ain No Ack!: Interrogating Embodied Linguistic Knowledges and Swagger Jackin

Autumn Laws

Methods, Theories, Stories for Performing Emotional Labor Rhetorically

Aja Martinez
Performing the Rhetorics of Family-Friendly Policies: Rhetorics versus Realities in Writing Programs (respondent)

Career Quest: Navigating a Future in Composition, Rhetoric, and Writing Studies

Brice Nordquist

 “Historicizing Concurrent Enrollment in a Segregated City”

Stephanie Parker

Performing Pedagogical Ancestors: bell hooks, Gertrude Stein, and Mother Jones

Eileen E. Schell

Plant Something: Performance-Rhetoric, Community Writing, and Food Activism

Performing the Rhetorics of Family-Friendly Policies: Rhetorics versus Realities in Writing Programs

Tony Scott

Attunement, Performance, and Valuation across the Scales of Composition

Kurt Stavenhagen

Peaceable Places, Performative Spaces: Toward a New Vision of the Ecocomposition Classroom

Joshua Wood

Remixing Performance in Games
Role-Playing Social Justice: A Game That Is a Panel

Class of 2018!

May 11, 2018

2018 Outstanding TA Award: Vani Kannan

April 30, 2018
Vani Kannan

Congratulations to Vani Kannan, doctoral candidate in the Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program, for being awarded a 2018 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. Selection for the Outstanding TA award is made by a university-wide committee of faculty recognized for their teaching excellence, and is given to approximately the top 4% of all TAs campus wide.

In response to receiving this award, Vani says, "I have learned a lot about pedagogy during my time at SU, and worked with some truly inspiring teachers. I appreciate that the department and Graduate School have recognized my commitment to working with students. This is a deeply challenging time for educators who are committed to social justice, and I want to recognize that many face racist, sexist, and other biases in classrooms and  teaching evaluations. I understand this award as a charge to engage my students more deeply and critically in the future."

The following are excerpts from letters nominating Vani for this award:

"I have had the pleasure of serving as Vani Kannan's teaching mentor as part of the Future Professoriate Project (FPP) for the past year and a half. As a teaching assistant and FPP Associate, Vani has had the opportunity to teach across the span of our writing curriculum, offering courses that include the college preparatory writing course (WRT 104), first-year writing (WRT 105), sophomore level research and writing (WRT 205), and an upper-division research and writing course (WRT 303). Since becoming her mentor, I have had the opportunity to conduct two observations of Vani's classes during the 2016-2017 academic year and have held multiple meetings with her to discuss her teaching and review her materials. I am impressed and inspired by her teaching, and I find her a very deserving candidate for the OTA."—Eileen E. Schell, Professor of Writing & Rhetoric, Graduate Director

"I admire how Vani continues to seek out opportunities for developing new approaches to writing pedagogy. While in my composition class, she expressed an interest in learning more about an advanced undergraduate course I was teaching on editing and publishing. It was there that I first observed how she connected with students, listened to them, and responded in ways that were always respectful and encouraging. Vani went on to develop a first-rate course on multigenre pedagogy, which was a favorite among students. Recognizing that a classroom space can be transformative, Vani excels at teaching course content while building connections among students and between them and their teacher. She has worked in a wide range of teaching contexts, including writing centers."—Patrick W. Berry, Chair, Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition, Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric

"Vani is an able writing teacher across levels, adapting her course design and classroom strategies to the needs of each student population and the distinct interests of students in each class she teaches. I have not had the opportunity to observe Vani's work in the classroom directly, but in my role as department chair I have had many opportunities to learn about Vani's skillful work with students in the classroom. I have also been impressed with the thoughtful reflections about teaching that she has shared in conversations with me and in departmental workshops, and I have had the opportunity to read her consistently glowing teaching evaluations each semester. Due to her strength as a teacher, Vani was chosen as one of a select group of graduate students who have had the opportunity to teach an upper-division course that primarily serves writing and rhetoric majors. Her WRT 303 advanced research class was a terrific success and demonstrated Van i's creativity in adapting her teaching practices to the needs of diverse student populations."—Lois Agnew, Arts and Sciences Associate Dean of Curriculum Innovation and Pedagogy, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric

"I dreaded the idea of waking up every other day at 8 a.m. for a writing prerequisite, but Vani Kannan always made it a joyous time. Vani is a spunky, knowledge-hungry instructor who was the first teacher to create a comfortable class environment that helped my education. When I was a freshman, she pushed me out of my box and ultimately taught me to accept myself and my interests through my writing . . . . I truly appreciate the work and time that Vani Kannan has dedicated to Syracuse University, and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to be taught by her and to have been mentored by her outside the classroom."—Nuhami T. Mandefro, SU student

"Vani was one of the best instructors I've had at Syracuse University. She always did her best to make sure I utilized my creativity in my writing while understanding the fundamentals of making a great writing piece. Besides being a writing instructor, Vani is a very caring, sweet person. When I see her in passing, she asks me how I'm doing and tells me to send her an email and that she would love to know how things are going . . . . I have yet to meet another instructor like her. I know Vani will continue to be the best in everything she does."—Ronnette Powell, SU student

Elizabeth Elton: 2018

April 27, 2018

"My passion for writing began in grade school but was mostly isolated to creative writing and literary analysis. Still, there were times when my teachers assigned rhetorical writing assignments. In those moments, I found myself fervently arguing and reveling in the act of using my words in order to illuminate relevant issues to my audience. When I transferred from an English Education major at another university to SU, I knew that I wanted to keep writing as part of my major somehow. I joined the Writing and Rhetoric Major because I knew that it would challenge and expand my abilities as a writer. Through the major, I found a deeper passion for research through writing. I found a love in the act of discovery through writing, and I found wonder in the arrangement of words to reach an audience

And so, I feel truly honored and humbled to be recognized with this award—especially when I consider the rigor of the Writing & Rhetoric Major. The last three years studying in this department have not only challenged me as a writer, but as an individual too. Of course, as a writing program, my classes emphasized writing tropes, tools, and style. This was invaluable to my writing as a whole. However, more importantly, I found that my writing improved and expanded in depth because of the way the professors in this program pushed every student to think and research beyond our comfort zones. By this, I mean that writing in the Writing and Rhetoric Major is more than a discussion about tools and style. The conversation broadens to include cultural, ethnic, racial, gender, and sexist issues within writing. Or, more briefly stated, the conversation includes the consideration of ethics. The attention to these issues allowed me to research topics more deeply and grow as a person while writing. For these reasons, I would like to thank all the professors who helped me reach this point: Professors Lois Agnew, Collin Brooke, Martha Dillingham, Chris Feikes, Anne Fitzsimmons, Rebecca Moore Howard, and Brice Nordquist. Thank you for everything!"—Elizabeth Elton

Outstanding Major 2018

Rebecca Moore Howard, Elizabeth Elton, Carol Lipson, and  Krista Kennedy (Director of the Major and Minor).

In nominating Elizabeth Elton for the 2018 Carol Lipson Outstanding Writing Major AwardAssistant Professor Brice Nordquist writes, "[Elizabeth] may be the most engaged and invested student I’ve had at SU. She’s very smart and always prepared. She’s a leader in class discussions and in small groups, consistently elevating the work of her classmates. She has a clear sense of purpose and finds ways to use the work of the course to pursue her goals, but she’s also mentally and practically flexible."

Professor Rebecca Moore Howard also nominated Elizabeth: "She has an enormous humanizing, calming effect on her fellow Writing majors. Elizabeth is an outstanding, hard-working, enthusiastic, accomplished student who is double majoring in Linguistics and Writing and who has just been accepted to the SU Linguistics MA degree program. Her ethos comes across clearly to her classmates, and they respect her greatly. She was in my WRT 413 last fall and is in WRT 308 this spring. I just can't say enough about what Elizabeth brings to class discussion, small-group work, and peer review. She can be relied on to have a firm grasp of the assigned material when she arrives in class, and she willingly shares what she knows in class discussion. Remarkably, she doesn't do it in a tiresome "perform for the prof" mode, but in actual dialogue with her fellow students. It's wonderful."

Senior Lecturer Chris Feikes adds, "Elizabeth is a serious, hard-working scholar with a depth of intellectual curiosity. She makes course assignments her own, going far beyond requirements. For WRT 301, Elizabeth worked in a “power group,” designing with peers some writing heuristics for working with SCSD students at Nottingham High School. Because Elizabeth has had prior experience working with young people in YMCA programming, she brought “real world” insights and pedagogical experience to these group-designed materials. In both WRT 114 and 301, she was intellectually generous; she always contributes to class discussions and she is genuinely enthusiastic about her peers’ work and contributions."

Writing and Rhetoric Major Rafy Evans Awarded Research Grant

April 27, 2018
Rafy Evans

Rafy Evans has  been awarded an Undergraduate Summer Research Award in the amount of $2,000. Funds to support this stipend are provided by the Syracuse University Student Association, the Provost's Office, and the Office of Research at Syracuse University.

Rafy will be continuing to work on a project that she has been developing over the past year with Professor Steve Parks. She says, "The project is a book that aims to define and outline how to be an ally towards those living through the Syrian Conflict through a feminist lens. Three female writers and editors, including myself, are developing the book through telling personal narratives with testimonies of Syrian women dealing with the conflict happening in Syria. My chapter of the book talks to my relationship with digital media and my previous research relating to human rights violations in Syria. This chapter aims to continue the conversation I see between political reform and social activism happening online."


21 to Present at CCCC 2018

March 8, 2018

CCCC 2018 Logo

Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition is pleased to announce that 21 of our teachers will represent SU at the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in Kansas City, March 14-17. The theme of the 2018 conference is "Languaging, Laboring, and Transforming."

Lois Agnew

Rhetoric’s Histories, Theories, Pedagogies Special Interest Group (Chair)
“The Ethics of Tolerance: History, Argument, and the Writing Classroom”

Patrick W. Berry

Activist or Educator? Rethinking the Transformative Potential of Education in Prison (Co-Chair)
“Can Critical Pedagogy Work in Prison?”
Teaching in Prison: Pedagogy, Research, and Literacies Collective Meeting (Co-Chair)

Jordan Canzonetta

“How Automated Writing Evaluation and Plagiarism Detection Services Use Students’ Intellectual Property: A Case Study of Turnitin”

Ezekiel Choffel

All Our Relations: Teaching Social Justice Movements (workshop)
“Ethical Research In New Terrains: Shifting Geo-Locations of Indigenous Rhetorics”

Telsha Curry

“Beginning a Conversation with SWR”
"Unapologetically Apologetic: Black Women Preachers and Counter-Hegemonic Proverbial Languaging at Arlington Church of God'

Seth Davis

“Pulling Trade: Reading Literacy Narratives of Space, Love, and Survival”

Andre Habet

“Beginning a Conversation with SWR”

Kate Hanzalik

“The Art of Code Meshing: Languaging and Laboring with Multimedia”

Tamara Bassam Issak

All Our Relations: Teaching Social Justice Movements (workshop)
Arab/Muslim SIG (Co-Chair)
“Muslim Women Write Back”

Stephanie Jones

“Figured Speech as a Strategy of Domination: Epistemological Pursuit of the Gentrified Black Genius”

Vani Kannan

“Feminist Workshop: Anti-Imperialist Methodologies for Intersectional Alliance-Building”
“The Labor of Alliance Building: Writing against Racism, Sexism, and Imperialism”

Avi Luce

“Challenging and Expanding How We Characterize Transgender Labor in the Writing Classroom”

Aja Martinez

Career Quest: Navigating a Future in Composition, Rhetoric, and Writing Studies (Roundtable Leader)

Brice Nordquist

Laboring across Borders: Ethical and Practical Challenges in Administering Transnational Writing Programs (Chair)
“Writing across the City: Translingual/Transmodal Composing on the 7 Train”

Steve Parks

Allies with Undocumented Students through Writing (Chair)
Studies in Writing and Rhetoric: Exposing the Gears of a Disciplinary Languaging Machine (Chair)

Vincent Portillo

Writing the Imaginary into Reality: A Study of Immigrant/ Refugee Writing Projects in the USA, UK, and Syria

Eileen Schell

“Food Literacies and Gangsta Gardening: Labor and Food Justice in South Central Los Angeles”

Chad Seader

“Assessment as a Tool for Positive Action: Building Relationships across Institutional Boundaries”

Benesemon Simmons

“Critical Race Theory and Structural Racism: A Counterstory for the Academy”

Karrieann Soto

All Our Relations: Teaching Social Justice Movements (workshop)

Resistance, Roadsides, and Remembrance: Decolonial Methodologies of Presence

Kurt Stavenhagen

“Honey to the Bee: The Rhetoric and Agency of Honey and Honeybees in US Food Movement Narratives”

Sakura Tomizawa: 2017

Krista Kennedy (Director of the Major and Minor), Carol Lipson, Sakura Tomizawa, Lois Agnew (Chair)

September 1, 2017

Outstanding Major"I’m so grateful and honored to have won this award. This award is also really a celebration of all the faculty and staff in the Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies department who provide all these opportunities for their students to thrive and learn! I admire and look up to each and every one of them, and it’s a department that I’m proud to represent. I switched over to the Writing & Rhetoric major my sophomore year.

To be honest, I was feeling a little lost after finishing my freshman year as a film major, and uncertain of what kind of career I wanted to pursue. I chose the Writing and Rhetoric major because I knew I liked to write, but I didn’t feel that majors like journalism or English were really for me. I liked how the major was a broader approach to writing, and that choosing this major didn’t mean that I had to commit to a specific industry of work. Everyone says that writing is crucial in every line of work, so all I was hoping to gain from the Writing and Rhetoric major was some practical writing skills that would help me get a job after college. I sure learned how to write, but I also gained so much more; because of the major’s humanities approach and focus on human culture, the major really helped me become a more reflective, empathetic, and critical thinker--both in and outside the classroom.

I’m thankful for each and every professor I had in the program, but in particular, I’m extremely thankful for Professor Patrick Berry who was my academic advisor, faculty advisor to the WRSO, and also the professor in a few of my writing classes. It was also his WRT 205 class that really cemented my decision to switch over to the major."—Sakura Tomizawa

In nominating Sakura Tomizawa for the 2017 Carol Lipson Outstanding Writing Major Award, Professor Rebecca Moore Howard writes, “Sakura was one of only four students who qualified to pursue Distinction in Writing this year, which places her in a rarified group. Within that small group, I have arrived at a deep respect and admiration for her social commitments and intellectual tenacity. Her Distinction project is a rhetorical analysis of a Presidential speech—Obama's speech on military intervention in Syria. She began the fall semester wanting to understand how Presidential rhetoric operates in times of crisis, and she gradually came to focus on this particular speech. Much of the winter was devoted to her researching and trying out various techniques of rhetorical analysis, finally settling on pentadic analysis. I'm not sure I've previously encountered an undergraduate so engaged in issues of research methods.”

Associate Professor and Director of the Major and Minor Krista Kennedy adds, "Sakura’s intellectual curiosity is one of her most striking attributes. Whether she was working on topics related to ethics and automation in my Rhetoric and Robots class or learning to do voter recruitment talks for NYPIRG, Sakura always digs into the ways that arguments function and can be both persuasive and ethical.  The depth of her inquiries always surprise me in the best ways, as does the sophistication of her writing. It’s been a pleasure to work with a student who both wants to know how the gears turn and then makes them turn through the strength of her own work."

Sakura's NYPIRG internship supervisor comments extensively on her excellent contributions. In particular, he notes that “Sakura is a phenomenal addition to any team. She has worked hard every minute of every day working with our organization. Sakura is extremely active participating in numerous groups on campus and is able to juggle all of her commitments perfectly without sacrificing quality. I can always trust Sakura and have the utmost confidence in her work.”

Writing and Rhetoric Majors Evans and Barlow Awarded Grants

May 30, 2017

Writing and Rhetoric Majors Rafaela Evans and Zachary Barlow Awarded Grants to Support International Research Projects in Tunisia and the United Kingdom


Rafaela Evans and Zachary Barlow have each been awarded an Undergraduate Summer Research Award in the amount of $2,000. Funds to support this stipend are provided by the Syracuse University Student Association, the Provost's Office, and the Office of Research at Syracuse University. Through this grant, they will be providing essential research to two international projects currently taking place in the Department of Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition.

Rafaela EvansRafaela Evans will join a team of SU Writing and Rhetoric faculty, Tunisian High School teachers, and Tunisian NGO human rights activists in a project being developed in conjunction with the Tunisian Ministry of Education and the United Nations. The goal of the project is to research and develop cultural programming in Tunisia designed to blunt the recruitment strategies of ISIS, who have a principal route through Tunisia on their way to Syria. During this upcoming summer, Evans will work with this international team to gather research on the current political situation in Tunisia as well as the social media recruitment strategies of ISIS, specifically as it relates to young adults in southern Tunisia. In addition, Evans will begin to find responsive social media models which can be integrated into the Tunisian public school curriculum and enable students to develop and distribute a more inclusive democratically informed public rhetoric in the community. Finally these research efforts will support a collaborative effort in which Syracuse University students and Tunisian High School students will create print/multimodal pieces focused on tolerance and inclusion designed to circulate in school and neighborhood communities in Tunisian and the United States.

Zach BarlowZachary Barlow will join an international research team of SU, London Metropolitan University, Texas A&M, and Sheffield-Hallam faculty to support the continued development of a digital/print archive of the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP). The FWWCP was a network of over eighty working-class writing groups distributed across the United Kingdom that over its thirty-year history self-published close to one million books documenting how the British working class was altered by global economics, immigration trends, and emerging identity-based politics. Barlow’s current grant research emerges directly from his role as an Assistant Editor of New City Community Press where he oversaw development of Transitions, a book project drawing from the FWWCP archive and placing it in context of a recent writing project uniting SU students and UK community writers on the topic of cultural change. Over the summer, Barlow will continue to help to build the archive, researching the best methods for digital preservation, as well as joining ongoing efforts to create an oral history of the FWWCP.


—Steve Parks


Dreams and Nightmare

Rafaela Evans, Amalie Velázquez-Brown, and Zachary Barlow

May 30, 2017

Writing and Rhetoric Majors Help Edit Story of Undocumented Guatamalan Girl’s Journey to United States

Writing and Rhetoric Majors Amalie Velázquez-BrownRafaela Evans, and Zachary Barlow have spent the past semester helping to edit, design, and publish a new bi-lingual publication by Parlor Press entitled Dreams and Nightmares: I fled to the United States when I was fourteen. As part of their work, they have also developed a plan to integrate the book into campaigns being conducted by non-profit immigration advocacy organizations as well as into the curriculum of high schools.

Dreams and Nightmares tells the story of Liliana Velásquez, who at fourteen years old fled violence and poverty in Guatemala and headed out alone for the United States. On her trip through Mexico she was robbed by narcos, rode the boxcars of La Bestia, and organized thirty of her fellow Central American bus passengers to convince the Federaleswho had arrested them to allow them to continue on their way. Finally, she made it to the US border and headed out across the Sonoran Desert, where she encountered dead bodies and was caught by US Immigration. After four months in a detention center, she was placed in foster care while the courts decided whether to deport her. She spent a year in a horrendous foster situation and eventually landed on her feet with a family that loves and protects her. After having to recount her story of abuse several times, the judge determined it was too dangerous for her to return home and finally granted her a green card. She is now in high school, while she works to support her family back home and plans to go on to nursing school. To learn more about the book, go to dreamsandnightmares.org

In helping to shepherd this book to publication, Amalie, Rafy, and Zach were hoping to interrupt a cultural narrative which demonizes such children. Indeed, each year since 2013, an average of 50,000 such unaccompanied children have been arrested at the U.S. Border, and their fate is decided by the immigration system. In this sense, Liliana’s story is uniquely hers, but it is also the story of tens of thousands of children who have fled violence and poverty in their home country to make a safer life in the United States. In this time when the issue of undocumented immigrants is causing great divisions within our country, much is written about them, but little is told by them in their own voice. It is for this reason that each of them worked so hard to make sure Liliana’s story needs to be part of our national conversation. A recent visit to Beaver Country Day School underscored the value of Lilliana Velasquez’s  story in educating students about the reality of immigration versus the popular myth of "immigrants."

The book has already received positive reviews and has been adopted in Philadelphia grade school classrooms. 

—Steve Parks

Class of 2017!

May 15, 2017

2017 Outstanding TA Award: Chad Seader

May 1, 2017

Chad SeaderCongratulations to Chad Seader, doctoral candidate in the Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program, for being awarded a 2017 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. Selection for the Outstanding TA award is made by a university-wide committee of faculty recognized for their teaching excellence, and is given to approximately the top 4% of all TAs campus wide.

Asked to comment on his award, Chad responded, "I see teaching as a means of creating and strengthening relationships with others in the department, on campus, and across Central New York. I take pride in my work, and receiving this recognition is an honor. This award also reflects the consistent support I've received from my mentors and peers, and it speaks to our commitment in the Department of Writing Studies to develop engaged, mindful approaches to pedagogy that could potentially make positive and lasting impacts on our students and the communities that matter to them."

The following are excerpts from letters nominating Chad for this award:

"Chad's creativity and commitment as a teacher were evident the moment he began his doctoral study in CCR. During his first year in our program, he impressed me with his thoughtful reflections on teaching, interest in exploring ways in which community engagement could foster students' development as writers and thinkers, and ability to connect insights from his course work to classroom issues. Following that first year, I have had ample opportunities to note Chad's persistent determination to develop new insights that sustain and extend his pedagogical expertise. Chad seamlessly integrates teaching with learning. He is committed to learning from his students and from his colleagues, and this commitment ensures that all of us are able to learn from him in turn. Chad's strength as a teacher derives from his fundamental belief that he can never know enough about teaching . . . . [h]e is constantly attentive to putting his theoretical understanding to practical use in ways that will be accessible to students and colleagues. He also shows remarkable humility in his approach to teaching; he persistently interrogates his teaching practices, constantly initiates revisions that make strong courses even better, and challenges himself to adhere carefully to each course's learning goals even as he finds innovative ways to connect those courses with new insights he has acquired . . . . Chad Seader's thoughtful approach to teaching, commitment to student learning, and dedication to working with other teachers have enabled him to make an outstanding contribution to our department." —Lois Agnew, Associate Professor of Writing & Rhetoric, Chair

"Chad has hit his stride over the last two years as both a teacher and scholar, passing his doctoral exams, starting a promising dissertation project, and earning stellar teaching evaluations and contributing greatly to our WRT 307 course . . . . In sum, Chad is a truly outstanding teacher, but he is also that rare graduate student community member who thinks about the whole department and the bigger picture of higher education rather than just his slice of it. He has my highest recommendation for the Outstanding TA Award." —Eileen E. Schell, Associate Professor of Writing & Rhetoric, Graduate Director

"Since he began teaching WRT 307: Professional Writing, I have been consistently impressed with the ways that Chad Seader has engaged with this course. At first, this engagement came from close attention to the ways that he was carefully aligning his own classroom with our shared outcomes and syllabus, and then to refining his approach to incorporating service learning aspects. He not only met with me, but also consulted with several experienced instructors and regularly attended our 307 Conversations group. With his appointment to the Major/Minor Committee in August 2016, he has become an important voice in the ways that we are thinking about the administration of this course. He has offered thoughtful considerations of issues related to teacher recruitment and retention as well as continuing professional development issues. In response to committee discussions on this topic, he has proposed and planned an innovative colloquium on the ways that instructors have applied the theoretical training offered for our introductory writing sequence to 307." —Krista A. Kennedy, Associate Professor of Writing & Rhetoric, Director of the Major & Minor

"Through [our] conversations I have become deeply impressed with Chad's sophisticated, research-informed understanding of literacy and learning, and his constant inquiry into his own teaching practices. With Chad, there is little distinction between his teaching work, his scholarly work, and his work in the community-those realms merge together into a singular way of being and working as a professional. So, for instance, Chad doesn't just make assignments because they might be interesting or because others have used them: he draws on his understanding of research in the field to consider assignments in terms of the stances they invite from students and what they potentially teach students about genre, language, situation, etc. The issues of the field of writing research are the issues of his pedagogy." —Tony Scott, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric, Director of the Lower Division

"Not only did [he] instruct this course well, he did so professionally, treating his students as if they were adults in the real world, personally meeting with them one-on-one to make sure their needs were being met and feedback given, and providing the best attitudes and highest enthusiasm towards a subject that can be seen as extremely intimidating." —Ashley Balzer, Industrial & Interaction Design. Class of 2018

May 2017

Nonfiction Reading Series

April 13, 2017

About the Series

Welcome to the Nonfiction Reading Series sponsored by the Syracuse University Department of Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition.

The Nonfiction Reading Series features local, national, and international writers of all types of nonfiction: memoir and autobiography, the personal essay, political essays, and historical narrative, among others. The series launched officially in spring 2008 with the signature event "What is Nonfiction?" headlined by Judith Kitchen and Minnie Bruce Pratt. In addition to sponsoring local, regional, national, and international writers, the series features undergraduate, graduate, and faculty writers from the SU campus presenting their works in-progress.

For the complete listing of the series, visit Nonfiction Reading Series

Krista Kennedy Publishes Book

December 13, 2016
According to Wikipedia, Ephraim Chambers’ 1728 “Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences” was one of the first general encyclopedias produced in English. A very long subtitle summarizes the broad goals for the two-volume work, concluding, “The Whole Intended as a Course of Ancient and Modern Learning.” The entry in the very modern online “free encyclopedia” does not mention Wikipedia’s debt to the 18th century publication. Krista Kennedy, associate professor in the College of Arts Sciences’ Department of Writing Studies, Rhetoric and Composition, explains the connection in a new book. [full story]

Morgan Conover: 2016

Professor Emeritus Carol Lipson presents Morgan with the award that bears her name, with Lois Agnew

May 15, 2016

"I am truly humbled and honored to receive this award. Whenever I tell people I'm a Writing Major, they always say, "Oh, so like English?" I love using that opportunity to explain what the writing major is all about. Writing is a crucial skill for, well, everything. So knowledge of how to write well, and also how to read others' writing well, is essential. I genuinely believe that the Writing Program does incredibly important work. I am so proud to be a part of it." —Morgan Conover

In nominating Morgan Conover for the 2016 Carol Lipson Outstanding Writing Major Award, Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition chair Lois Agnew writes, "Her intellectual curiosity and thoughtful engagement with important questions are evident in her coursework. Her work in my WRT 424 course was stellar. She was thoroughly prepared for each class, engaged critically with challenging readings and topics of inquiry, and continually pushed herself as a writer and thinker. She is also an excellent colleague. Her open and generous attitude toward other students helped to foster respectful class discussions and productive peer review sessions." Agnew adds, "In addition to her academic strengths, Morgan has been an important leader in our program. As president of the Writing Program Student Organization*, Morgan has played an extremely important role in maintaining the ongoing vitality of this new group. I am confident that the WPSO has been significantly strengthened as a result of Morgan’s leadership style, and I am confident that she has helped to instill a vision that will sustain the group for many years to come."

nordquist & conover & scottOther nominating letters make similar observations and echo simlar sentiments:

Senior Lecturer Chris Feikes: "Morgan Conover was my student in WRT 255. Even though the course was in 2014, she’s kept in touch.  Morgan is a talented writing major and a hard worker.  She is a leader in classroom settings, but outside of classes as well."

Assistant Professor Brice Nordquist: "I’ve had her for two upper-division courses—last spring and this spring. Her growth as a student and scholar from last year to this year is remarkable. She was one of the strongest students in my WRT 424 course last spring in terms of engagement and ability, but this spring in my WRT 308 course, she is doing master’s level work and has found a way to bring other students up to her level. She is smart, generous and committed; she’s more invested her work and the work of writing studies than any undergraduate I’ve worked with at SU." 

berry & conoverAssistant Professor Patrick Berry: "She embraces a deep commitment to learning based not solely on professional ambitions but also on a genuine desire to learn. With a double major in Writing and Rhetoric and Middle Eastern Studies, and a minor in Global Security Studies, she has pursued her academic endeavors with a desire to make sense of some of the most pressing social issues of our time. As she explained to me, she chose a major in Middle Eastern Studies because she wanted to better understand what was happening in that part of the world. Through the Study Abroad program, she has extended her inquiries through study in Beirut, Lebanon; Amman, Jordan; and Herzliya, Israel . . . . I have recently been meeting with her as she plans doctoral study in rhetoric and composition with a particular focus on how to teach writing more effectively in an age of high-stakes testing. Recently, one of Morgan’s essays, “Moving Off the Education Conveyor Belt,” has been accepted for publication. In it, she discusses how the purpose and value of education can be lost when the focus is solely on professionalization."

Agnew & conoverMorgan credits her success to many: "I want to thank Ivy Kleinbart for gently urging me to become a writing major. She believed in me as a writer long before I thought to believe in myself. I also want to thank my Professors: Patrick Berry, Lois Agnew, Brice Nordquist, Tony Scott, and Krista Kennedy. Also thank you to Chris Feikes. You all should get an award for reading my terrible first drafts while keeping a straight face."

"The things I've learned from this Major and this Program have been so formative for me. Here, I have found my passion and I am forever grateful and indebted. I plan on continuing my study of writing and rhetoric in graduate school—but only after I take some time off for a five-month road trip across the United States Jack Kerouac style."

Morgan's Kerouacian adventures can be followed at morganconover.com.

images above:
1. Brice Nordquist and Associate Professor Tony Scott congratulate Morgan at Commencement
2. Patrick Berry and Morgan at Commencement
3. Lois Agnew and Morgan

*The student organization has recently changed its name: Writing and Rhetoric Student Organization (WRSO)

2016 Outstanding TA Award: Tamara Issak

May 1, 2016

Tamara IssakCongratulations to Tamara Bassam Issak, doctoral candidate in the Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program, for being awarded a 2016 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. The award recognizes teaching assistants who demonstrate excellence in teaching. Selection for the Outstanding TA award is made by a university-wide committee of faculty recognized for their teaching excellence, and is given to approximately the top 4% of all TAs campus wide.

Asked to comment on her award, Tamare responded, "I am honored that students and CCR faculty nominated me for the Outstanding TA Award, and I am grateful for the support and close mentoring I have received as a TA in the Writing Program. My teachers and peers have really been models for me and I have learned so much from observing them in action. I have a long way to go to be the teacher I want to be, and I view this award as encouragement to keep working at it."

The following are excerpts from letters nominating Tamara for this award:

Tamara is highly respected as a thoughtful and dedicated teacher. I have read all of her teaching evaluations and can attest to the fact that they are uniformly stunning. Tamara's students clearly enjoy working with her and like her, but their praise goes far beyond their appreciation for her warm and caring presence in the classroom. They write at length about the ways in which Tamara both challenges and supports their learning, pressing them to complicate their perspectives in ways that lead to writing that is stronger and more nuanced. They consistently praise her timely and helpful feedback, skill in leading class discussions, availability and willingness to help them succeed as writers, and unique capacity to guide them to acquire new insights about writing that they will take away from the class. It is always a pleasure to read such strongly positive comments about a teacher, and it is particularly gratifying when students across all sections are able to recognize that their writing class has given them greater confidence, enhanced their critical awareness, and made them more excited about writing.
—Lois Agnew, Writing Program Chair and Director

Tamara has distinguished herself as one of our strongest teachers. What stands out about Tamara is her incredible capacity to communicate thoughtfully and clearly with students and colleagues in a range of situations. Students repeatedly note how much they value the detailed and helpful feedback she provides and how she has helped them see what skills and practices are needed for development as a writer and the production of various documents. I especially appreciate how she helps students develop a critical distance from their topics, to recognize that the answers to their inquiries are dependent on multiple factors. It is this careful attention to reading and writing and, by extension, listening, that is emblematic of Tamara's pedagogy to a diverse range of students.
—Patrick W. Berry, Director of TA Education

Whenever I felt the need to ask a question through email, her replies were always prompt and thoughtful. Furthermore, Tamara was actively involved in our class discussion boards throughout the entire semester. She frequently responded to students’ conversations while providing her own insights and points for consideration. However, what impressed me the most about Tamara’s involvement was the way she clearly took the time to read the articles and watch the videos her students were posting. The learning process in Tamara’s class always felt engaged and reciprocal. As a student, I cannot stress enough how important and refreshing that was. Under Tamara’s guidance, I am certain that I grew as a writer, a critical thinker, and as a person.
—Jeremy Rood, Student

Mrs. Issak was my WRT 205 teacher for the Spring semester of 2015 and to date stands as the best teacher that I have had throughout my enrollment at Syracuse University. From day one, she created a safe space for us to be honest and vulnerable, a space that allowed us to fail and learn without the fear of embarrassment or feelings of inferiority. Her greatest strength was patience. She understood writing as a process and our own development as one too. Through her class, I gained a greater understanding of writing then I ever had before. I was challenged to break old habits and frameworks of thinking in order to succeed at meeting the course objectives of critical analysis and exploratory research. I became able to identify gaps in arguments and challenge ideas. I no longer “looked for the right answer,” but was able to form and articulate my own perception based on provided knowledge from other sources. Mrs. Issak embodies what it really means to be a teacher because the skills that I took away will remain relevant far beyond academic and professional settings. I grew as a person as well.
—Kristina Bugg, Student

Overall, my experience taking this online class with Professor Issak was outstanding. Especially since my previous experiences with online classes were not so great, I really enjoyed having her as an instructor for the course. She made this class very manageable with my busy schedule and in balancing the work with my other classes at this time.
—Danielle Leslie, Student

Her passion for teaching and challenging her students to look at topics in a different light pushed me, and continues to push me, to expand my viewpoint on many issues. The discussion that she encouraged humanized the topics that others cared so passionately about. This fundamental discussion of issues struck home and allows me to see things in a different light, and for that I am grateful. Thanks to her, I continue to look at the world in a different light, to form the best opinion I can, and to put that opinion on paper.
—Alexander Fedrizzi, Student

Photo Credit: Kate Navickas

April 2016

Johnathan McClintick: 2015

Lipson and McClintick

January 4, 2016
"I was very blind-sided and very humbled when I learned I was going to receive the award. I was sure it would have gone to one of my peers; there were so many great, inspiring students in the 2015 graduating class. When I accepted the award, I tried to credit my peers as much as possible, trying to really give it back to them as much as a I could—it was an immense honor, and I felt very grateful to the program as a whole for it . . . . I want to leave a special shout out for everyone on the original WRSO E-Board, first and foremost. Plus Patrick Berry and Eileen Schell for being great advisers (even if Patrick always did it in an unofficial capacity) and John Colasacco for being a great friend and writing mentor."—John McClintick
Mcclintick and Schell

In nominating Johnathan, Professor Eileen Schell wrote, "It is rare that we allow any undergraduate students to take our doctoral seminars, so Johnathan's presence in my seminar demonstrates how greatly I believe in his abilities . . . . Johnathan combines an interest in poetry and also in rhetorical theory, feminist theory, and queer theory. In my doctoral seminar, he is working on a project that examines the phenomenon of the "selfie" photograph in relation to contemporary digital rhetoric scholarship and also Burke's theories of identification. He has recently proposed to Collin Brooke an independent study where he can continue that research beyond my course. Throughout the 631 course, Johnathan has read the course texts—from I.A. Richards, Weaver, Burke, Booth, Lakoff and Johnson, and others—with a great deal of zeal and commitment. In class discussions, it is evident he knows the texts and has specific insights to contribute drawn from passages and concepts. His writing in the course blogs is often equally well informed and insightful. Johnathan is very serious about continuing his work in rhetoric and imagines enrollment in an MA and then PhD program in Rhetoric and Writing or an MFA program, although he is leaning toward the MA/PhD program track these days."

McClintick and Berry

Assistant Professor Patrick Berry also wrore on Johnathan's behalf: "John was also a student in my advanced editing class in 2014, where he did excellent work. After the class ended, I kept in touch with him as he served as Entertainment and Poetry Editor for The OutCrowd and, this past year, as co-editor and designer for The Birds We Piled Loosely, a newly formed literary publication. His commitment to developing as a writer and as a reader is impressive and persistent. This past semester, his writing was recognized by the editors of the 2015 issue of Intertext. Two selections—“For Those Who Do Not Swallow” and “Postcards from Tornado Alley”—from his experimental memoir will be featured in the next issue, and I understand that an excerpt from this work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize . . . . John was also a student in my upper-level writing course focused on rhetoric and ethics, in which students read a range of philosophical, theoretical, and popular accounts about what it means to be an ethical writer, especially in the twenty-first century. Without fail, John came to each class prepared and ready to discuss the material. What I especially appreciated was how he responded to his peers. Whether offering constructive feedback or raising questions about the text, his responses were always about extending the conversation, and as a result, he earned the respect of those around him."

Reflecting on his time in the major, John adds, "It wasn't until after I got out of the major that I appreciated just how much of the work for my degree taught me how to be a more persuasive writer and communicator. From the little things in document and web design in Professional Writing and Digital Writing to the broader strokes of Advanced Argumentation and Rhetoric and Ethics. The Writing and Rhetoric major not only prepared me for my graduate student work and teaching work, it also made me a better communicator and listener in the broader world, a skill that often feels in short supply these days." 

Like You’re Not Afraid

November 13, 2015

The author of three New York Times best-selling memoirs, Mary Karr encourages her students to “write what’s true; write like you’re not afraid.”  In an event co-sponsored by the Raymond Carver Reading Series and the Nonfiction Reading Series, Karr offered a number of insights into her own writing and read from her work. 

With Gifford Auditorium packed, dozens of students asked Karr questions about her influences, the process of writing her memoirs, and specific details about the books.  Karr responded to student questions in a frank, no-holds barred style, engaging directly with the questions and also telling stories along the way. After the question and answer session, Karr read some of her poetry before reading an excerpt from her most recent memoir, Lit.  Karr described memoir as an act of memory, not an act of history.  “The line between memory and imagination is fluid,” Karr explained as she talked about the ways in which her childhood memories played a role in her books. 

Noting that she has been influenced by writers that range from Shakespeare to Eliot, Karr described herself as a child who was obsessed with books and writing; when she was ten years old she jotted a line in her journal about how she would write poetry and autobiography as an adult.  But Karr has found it more difficult to write memoir than poetry—memoir, she says, is “longer, bigger, and requires that you spend more time in your head.” 

Ivy Kleinbart, creative nonfiction teacher and co-chair of the Nonfiction Reading Series, said of the reading, "Part of Mary's gift as a writer (and particularly in her most recent book, Lit) is that she manages to transform nightmarish situations . . . into hilarious narratives that expose the absurdity of her family dynamics. It takes an enormous amount of courage to see one's own traumatic past through the lens of humor."

The Nonfiction Reading Series features local, national, and international writers of all types of nonfiction: memoir and autobiography, the personal essay, political essays, and historical narrative, among others. The series launched officially in spring 2008 with the signature event "What is Nonfiction?" headlined by Judith Kitchen and Minnie Bruce Pratt. In addition to sponsoring local, regional, national, and international writers, the series features undergraduate, graduate, and faculty writers from the SU campus presenting their works in-progress.

—story by Emily Dressing

Nicky Zamoida: 2014

Professor Emeritus Carol Lipson presents Nicky with the award that bears her name.

June 1, 2014

Finding a Home

"If someone had told me entering freshman year that I would graduate SU with a major in Writing and Rhetoric and a minor in LGBT Studies, I don't think I would have believed them," says 2014 Carol Lipson Outstanding Writing Major Award recipient Nicky Zamoida.

Nicky came to Syracuse University as an Entrepreneurship major and a Music Industry minor with the goal of founding and running her own recording label. However, she says, she discovered that business was not her forte and found herself struggling with a decision to either transfer to another college within the university or leave SU altogether. Nicky credits Emily Luther, her WRT 105 instructor, with helping her decide to stay and declare a major in Writing & Rhetoric. "I found a mentor early on," she says, "and stayed in touch with her during my four years, and the new home I found in the Writing Program was undoubtedly due, in large part, to her support and encouragement to do what I love."

"I don't think I took one writing class at SU that I didn't love, and every writing professor I had had an influence on me, as writer, as a student, and as a person. Collin Brooke made me view technology and the internet with regard to writing in a totally different light and largely influenced me to start my blog that I still update to this day. Patrick Berry's Intertext course threw me headfirst into the world of design and taught me the skills I needed to get the job I have right now. And Minnie Bruce Pratt and Kevin Browne had a great impact on my creative writing and my views of myself and the world around me. I cannot say enough good things of all the professors I had in the Writing Program."

In nominating Nicky for the Outstanding Major Award, Patrick Berry says "she demonstrated excellent skills as an editor and writer. Equally important was how she works collegially and thoughtfully with others. She has been an active participant at program events including the creative nonfiction series."

lipson zamoida and agnew

Nicky says she knew that Writing & Rhetoric was more than a major—that it was an actual home for her—when she took part in Eileen Schell's Distinction course during her senior year. She says Schell, "encouraged me to take my design skills to a new level and explore the pro-natalist world I live in as a woman who does not want to have children, and in doing so helped me find something I want to continue researching and writing about for the rest of my life. I am inspired by her to provide a voice for childfree women like me, and a goal of mine is to one day contribute to the material on this topic."

In her nominating letter, Schell refers to Nicky's participation in her Feminist Rhetorics course. "In a classroom filled with PhD students as well as undergraduate students, Nicky is a consistent classroom participant: thoughtful, focused on the texts, and on making connections across the readings. It's easy in a class full of highly motivated graduate students to get lost in the crowd, but Nicky stands out. Some of the graduate students have even asked me if she is a graduate student, not an undergraduate, due to the quality and insightful nature of her participation and remarks." Schell adds, "What I consistently admire about Nicky is that she is constantly pushing herself to be better, never satisfied with doing just a good job. Nicky strives for excellence in every way and also is truly excellent as a writer, thinker, and human being. She combines all of this with being incredibly humble and kind. I can't wait to see what she does after graduation!"

distinction class picture

Nicky is currently working for GateHouse Media—a newspaper company that publishes nearly 300 daily and weekly newspapers across the United States—in Austin, Texas. She works in a division that designs newspapers for weekly publications in New England, which allows her to stay connected to her home in New Hampshire. She would like to get into book publishing and says that a masters degree in publishing may be in her future. In the meantime, "I am using the design and copyediting skills that I learned and strengthened while at SU."

Looking back at her decision to stay at SU and become a Writing and Rhetoric major, Nicky says, "I know that I made the right choice, and it was a journey I would take again and again if I could."

Images above:

middle: Carol Lipson, Nicky Zamoida, and Writing Program Director Lois Agnew.

bottom: Nicky celebrates with her Distinction classmates and Eileen Schell at their end-of-the-year event. From the left: Emily Gilson, Nicky Zamoida, Brianna Edgerley-Dallal, Katherine Richards, Eileen Schell, Taylor Baker, Michelle Polizzi, Teresa Nigolian.

Creative Nonfiction from Student Writers

April 10, 2014

On Thursday April 10th, eleven students read pieces of their own work at the annual Nonfiction Reading Series Student Nonfiction Reading, hosted by The Writing Program. Professor Minnie Bruce Pratt and Ivy Kleinbart co-coordinators of the Student Nonfiction Reading, and Professor Eileen Schell, founder and coordinator of the Nonfiction Reading Series, organized the event. The work showcased was developed in WRT 114, WRT 422, WRT 438, and CCR 738, during the 2013-14 academic year. Student readers included Johnathan Harper, Naomi Falk, Kaitlyn Woelfel, Brent Elder, Eashaa Parekh, Jessica Palomo, Daisy Hayes, Haskell King, Anastasia Selby, Emily Latainer, and Erika Sandoval. Below are some insights readers shared on their topic of choice and the course that inspired them.

—story by Kylie Daniels-Diehl

I wrote my piece, "Me Looking My Age," in Professor Schell’s WRT 422 class last semester. It describes a rather shoddy adventure I took as a fourteen year old to a festival in downtown Seattle. I created nearly my entire graduate school portfolio using work created during that semester. A writing workshop isn't just for "writers" or people who like to label themselves as such. Having 15 other students in a course who are willing to push your work to its full potential is absolutely invaluable.—Naomi Falk

"Prompts" is an excerpt from a series called Birthday Poems​. After spending Christmas alone, Birthday Poems was a response to my upcoming birthday and dealing with the isolation of living hundreds of miles away from any friends or family I might have spent it with. Birthday Poems were written in John Colasacco's WRT 422: Visions and Voices​ class, and at his encouragement I excerpted a few of the poems for the reading.”—Johnathan Harper

I stumbled into WRT 114 with Ivy Kleinbart really quite accidentally in the fall of my freshman year. Not only did I discover this passion for writing I never really knew I had, but 114 became an outlet for me to discuss my transition into college life, and I have Ivy to thank for being the first person I felt that I could really open up to. In "Not so Anonymous Alcoholics" I explore my complicated relationship with alcohol, and the unique role it has played in my family dynamic.—Kaitlyn Woelfel

I shared a piece that I wrote last Maymester in CCR 638. I started the class knowing I wanted to write about my recent experiences doing inclusive education development work in Kenya. Minnie Bruce's class was emotionally intense, but in all the right ways. We were all consumed in our own work, and the work of our classmates. It was one of the most challenging, productive, and rewarding academic experiences of my life.—Brent Elder

Most of the stuff I write are character pieces. So this piece is a character vignette, basically a compilation of character portraits, mostly provocative characters from Latin communities. I wrote this for WRT 422 with Minnie Bruce, and she was so great. I really enjoyed the class because of her; it was my favorite class.—Jessica Palomo

My piece comprises brief anecdotes from my life back in Bombay and interweaves segments of Indian culture that have thoroughly embedded themselves in my life today. It's also significantly about my family and the struggle that surrounds missing them beyond belief (they're all back home). I developed it in WRT 114 under Santee Frazier's guidance, and [WRT 114] continues to remain one of the best classes I've taken in college.—Eashaa Parekh

May 2014

Jayme Brown: 2013

Professor Emeritus Carol Lipson presents Jayme with the award that bears her name.

June 1, 2013

The Right Place

Jayme Brown came to Syracuse University to be a broadcast journalist; she says that the plan was that someday she would sit behind the ESPN SportsCenter desk and yell about the New York Yankees. Instead, Jayme found her way to the Writing & Rhetoric major, and in 2013 she was awarded the Carol Lipson Award for Outstanding Major.

Jayme’s introduction to the major came when she was a sophomore in Writing Program Director and Chair Lois Agnew’s Style (WRT 308) course. Agnew describes Jayme as an exceptional student: “I was delighted by the pleasure she took in working with language, her determination to expand her range as a writer with each assignment, and the care she took with each word she wrote.” Though Jayme was nervous to be in a class with juniors and seniors, she says that Agnew made her feel like she belonged in both the classroom and the major. “Dr. Agnew spent time with me one-on-one and told me I was a better writer at nineteen than she had been. I didn’t believe her—and still don’t, for the record—but it was the shock of confidence that I needed. I was in the right place.”

Others agree that she had found the right place: Assistant Professor Patrick Berry’s nomination letter for the award included the following, “She is in my WRT 340, Advanced Editing Studio, and I have been impressed by her leadership, writing and editorial skills, and overall desire to do the best job possible. In a class of strong students, she really stands out." Assistant Director for Writing Technologies George Rhinehart added the following about her work in Digital Writing (WRT 302), "She was certainly proficient in the digital areas, but I found myself looking forward to her blog posts in the way I look forward to the new work of professionals. That happens with one student in a thousand. Jayme is a writer; the medium doesn't matter."

A number of other experiences in Writing & Rhetoric helped to shape Jayme as she moved through her coursework: working on creative nonfiction with Professional Writing Instructor Stephen Thorley, thinking about the ins and outs of plagiarism and copyright with Professor Rebecca Moore Howard, exploring the depths of digital communities with Associate Professor Collin Brooke. Jayme also appreciated the copyediting and proofreading experience that she gained from working on Intertext in Berry’s Advanced Editing Studio, which she described as “a fun but work-intensive resume builder.”

lipson brown and agnew

But Jayme discovered her passion through her fulfilling work in the Writing Center as part of Writing Center Administrator Ben Erwin’s peer consulting course. She spent a year working as a consultant and says that she never felt more gratified than when a fellow student left with more confidence in his or her skills: “Through my time there, I learned alongside my peers; I learned how to look at writing at both the micro and macro levels and how to both generate ideas and deal with sentence-level issues. My year at the center taught me how important one-on-one writing instruction truly is.”

To continue to pursue this passion, Jayme has recently accepted an offer to intern in the programs department at 826 Valencia. Jayme says she had long planned to apply to the organization so that she could help students aged 6-18 improve their writing skills and learn to love the craft. This fall she is focusing on writing instruction outside the classroom by working on creative writing assignments with 3rd and 4th graders at a K-8 dual language school in the Mission District.

Jayme describes this one-on-one work with student writers as a dream come true. “I credit every single one of my professors as well as my fellow students in the Writing Program with helping me find something I'm so passionate about—aiding others in learning to love writing as much as I do.”

                                                                                           —story by Emily Dressing

 images above:

Carol Lipson, Jayme Brown, and Writing Program Director Lois Agnew.

Connecting the Dots

Brad Herzog

April 1, 2013

Acclaimed travel writer and lyric essayist Brad Herzog was the final reader of the academic year in the Writing Program’s Nonfiction Reading Series. Herzog read from his memoir Turn Left at the Trojan Horse, the third in his trilogy of travel memoirs that chronicle his experiences traveling across the continental United States in a RV. All three books are composed of essays that come together to form the narrative arc of an epic journey.

“I examine the big picture by traveling through some of the tiniest dots on the map,” explained Herzog. He described America as “a masterpiece of pointillism,” or a dot painting made up of small towns: “When you look from a distance all the dots blend together and they form an overall image. But if you look up close, each little dot has its own colors, its own size, its own little story to tell . . . I think the best way to understand America is to connect these little dots, these small, tiny little towns where there are authentic people off beaten paths.”

Ivy Kleinbart, Nonfiction reading Series Co-Chair and Professional Writing Instructor, described Herzog’s travel memoirs as volumes that “trace his experiences traveling across the United States in search of the great diversity and complexity of the American experience as well as the common bonds that unite us.”  Though Herzog has written in a number of different genres—everything from short stories to poems to children’s books—he says that creative nonfiction is his favorite.  But creative nonfiction is difficult to write because it incorporates many elements of other genres: “You have to have the eye for detail of a biographer; you have to have the character development of a novelist . . . you have to have the ego of an essayist . . . and you have to have the soul of a poet.”

The Nonfiction Reading Series, which began in 2008, features local, national, and international writers of all types of nonfiction: memoir and autobiography, the personal essay, political essays, and historical narrative, among others. Recent participants include Jim Johnson,  Mary Karr, Arthur Flowers, Stephen Kuusisto, Harriet Brown, and Minnie Bruce Pratt.


—story by Emily Dressing

April 2013

Creative Nonfiction from Student Writers

March 27, 2013

On Wednesday, March 27th, nine students read from their work as part of a Nonfiction Reading Series event featuring creative nonfiction from undergraduate and graduate student writers. The event, which was organized by Professor Minnie Bruce Pratt, Associate Professor and Nonfiction Reading Series co-chair Eileen Schell, and Professional Writing Instructor and Nonfiction Reading Series co-chair Ivy Kleinbart, showcased the work that these students have developed in AAS 338, CCR 760/WGS 700, WRT 422, and WRT 114. Readers included Peter Harrington, Karrieann Soto, Nicky Zamoida, Elaina Crockett, Kassie Brabaw, Courtney Hytower, Red Thomas, Andrew Miller, and Becca Glaser. Here they offer some insight about their work with creative nonfiction in their courses:

I submitted the piece on a whim after my professor, Ryan Johnson-Travis, said that he really liked it . . . . Needless to say, I was pretty shocked when "Grazi" was picked. I've always loved to read and write, and AAS 338 is the first writing class that I've taken at SU that isn't required in order for me to graduate. I really like the class, Ryan does a great job of creating a sense of community within it.—Peter Harrington

[The piece is] an exploration of my many different identities and how these have been formed by my historical contexts and relationships, juxtaposed to a description of those contexts and events that influenced the formation of such identities. Taking CCR 760 with Minnie Bruce Pratt has opened up my perspectives in considering how different events in my life have shaped who I am as an academic, as a woman, as a person.—Karrieann Soto

I LOVED Minnie Bruce Pratt's Feminist Narratives class! She is an incredible teacher, so warm, conscious, and dedicated. She continuously urged us to make sure we were writing to our own 'burning question'. . . She gave extensive feedback on the writing we wrote each week, and she focused on fostering a community among the students. . . . The class enabled me to put together this piece that I'd been thinking of writing for at least seven years. . . about losing loved ones to suicide. . . I write about the heartbreak of being a person, an activist, facing the reality that sometimes we can't even stop the suffering of the people right next to us.—Becca Glaser

WRT 422 was really a great way for me to better my work with all of the different elements we were supposed to incorporate into our narratives. Trying new ways of storytelling really helps if you cannot figure out how pull a story to its full potential. It allows you to play around with it until it seems just right. Creative nonfiction is the way to get your story out and it really has a therapeutic effect on the psyche. The writing I did helped me process my feelings and needs during this difficult transitional stage of my life.—Red Thomas

I knew that the Fall 2012 offering of WRT422 (the creative nonfiction of place, location, setting) was looking me in the eye when I considered signing up. It was 2 months out of army and 8 months out of my most recent Afghanistan deployment. I knew I would write about things I had not yet discussed with others, and I knew that would change me. I did not know that confronting, dissecting and sharing my memory of "An Ugly Place" was just the start of a new path. I enjoy all forms of writing but right now, and I expect for quite some time, CNF dominates my use of writing.—Andrew Miller

It could only have been [WRT 422] that allowed me to discover so much about myself and my relationships. The reflection that the exercises allowed me to do led to realizations that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I was writing my story, and I learned a lot about me.—Kassie Brabaw

My piece is about the difficulties a family faced while dealing with their mother's drug addiction. As someone outside of the family, I struggled to place myself in their shoes, viewing the situation with forgiveness, when I only felt resentment and anger. Ultimately, I come to a realization upon a heartbreaking event in the family that forever changed me. If I could compare Creative Nonfiction to a treasure, Minnie-Bruce Pratt's 422 class would be the map. It was eye-opening and inspired me to dig deeper, to explore both myself and my role as a writer.—Nicky Zamoida

The piece, "Mister" is my first adult nonfiction short story. . . The longing the main character has for "Mr" develops as she grows older. Essentially, this is a coming-of-age piece that we can all relate to, on some level or another. My Creative Writing class is amazing. I love how passionate our professor, Ryan Johnson-Travis is about our work. I am very grateful to have taken this class and I credit it as a huge inspiration for a lot of my work.—Elaina Crockett

As far as the piece I wrote, for me it was about trying to find meaning in the struggles I faced in high school through writing. All of my memories of those four years were sort of jumbled up in my head, and being able to write about them provided a lot of insight to what I was really feeling through it all because this time I had the privilege of hindsight . . . . Although I have little experience in it, I often see creative nonfiction as a type of therapeutic writing, because when the work is finally complete, it allows you to find an inner truth that perhaps at first was not clear.—Courtney Hightower

An Unseen Wound

March 1, 2013

Dr. James (Jim) Johnson kicked off the first Nonfiction Reading Series event of 2013 with a powerful reading from his book Combat Trauma: A Personal Look at Long-term Consequences.  Joined by combat brothers and members of the Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group, Johnson, a chaplain during the Vietnam War, offered a moving account of living with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The reading was attended by a number of veterans and community members as well as SU students and faculty, and it even drew people from as far away as Watertown and Carlisle, PA. The event was co-sponsored by the Syracuse University Writing Program, the Aging Studies Institute, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, the Department of Psychology, the Department of Sociology, and the Department of English.

As both a clinician and a survivor of PTSD, Johnson is able to view and write about the topic from multiple perspectives. Johnson explained that PTSD is "an unseen wound to the mind, heart and soul" as well as “a natural reaction to a very unnatural situation”—namely, exposure to both the presence and threat of death and serious injury. He describes PTSD as a life sentence and identifies himself as 100% disabled as a result of the condition. Combat Trauma is an account of life with PTSD, and fifteen of Johnson’s combat brothers contributed to the book. All proceeds from the book go to the Wounded Warrior Project

In his reading, Johnson described powerful images that still haunt him in nightmares and flashbacks, and he offered insight into the guilt that he lives with every day. He emphasized the importance of getting help and seeking treatment, as well as the vital role that other veterans can play in helping those with PTSD. For family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and health care providers, Johnson offered the following message: “Yes, life goes on, but it is so much better when we can understand and be understood, and can nurture and be nurtured through our historical hurts.”

Johnson was joined by Bob Stumpf, a contributor to the book, who read excerpts about his own flashbacks and his path to getting help. Bob Marcuson and Pete McShane, members of the Syracuse Veterans’ Writing Group, served as respondents and offered their own accounts of their experiences with PTSD. Terry Balfe also participated, and in many ways the event was also a reunion of men who served together and their families. 

In her introduction to the reading, Associate Professor Eileen Schell described Combat Trauma as one of the best books out there on PTSD.  Schell, who is co-facilitator of the Nonfiction Reading Series and the Syracuse Veterans’ Writing group, explained, “What makes the book so great is the personal and straightforward style in which it’s written, and the honest narratives provided by Jim and his fifteen combat brothers. Although the book addresses suffering and pain, it also offers hope in starting an honest conversation about how the trauma of warfare lingers and continues in the daily lives of those who served.” 

The Nonfiction Reading Series, which began in 2008, features local, national, and international writers of all types of nonfiction: memoir and autobiography, the personal essay, political essays, and historical narrative, among others. Recent participants include Mary Karr, Arthur Flowers, Stephen Kuusisto, Harriet Brown, and Minnie Bruce Pratt.


—story by Emily Dressing

March 2013

Benjamin Zender, 2012

Professor Emeritus Carol Lipson presents Benjamin with the award that bears her name.

June 1, 2012

What It Means

Benjamin Zender describes his first Writing course as “scary, rewarding, and thrilling.” That course, a Maymester creative nonfiction class with Professor Minnie Bruce Pratt, taught him to approach his own writing differently. “It was just so freeing,” Benjamin says. “For the first time I was typing furiously without hitting the backspace key a million times. And by the end of it I had produced things that I was proud of and that spoke to me.” Benjamin soon declared a major in Writing & Rhetoric, and in 2012 he became the recipient of the Carol Lipson Award for Outstanding Major.

Currently a Senior Administrator in the Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute at SU, Benjamin hopes to someday become a professor in the humanities. His ideal position would be interdisciplinary in nature, and he says that the interdisciplinary aspect of the Writing & Rhetoric major was part of what appealed to him. As an undergraduate, Benjamin took courses in Writing, Communication & Rhetorical Studies, and LGBT Studies, among others disciplines. He even took a few graduate-level courses, and he notes that the opportunity to “work up” to the graduate level made him care more about his writing and more excited about academia in general.

Benjamin attributes some of his success as a student in the major to the opportunities that he was afforded through his coursework.  In WRT 340, for example, he acted as the design editor for Intertext, which prompted him to learn a number of graphics programs and taught him to become a stronger leader. Working under Professor Eileen Schell in the Distinction Program, Benjamin spent two semesters creating a thesis-length project.  In the first semester, Benjamin gathered materials and explored different ideas; in the second half of the program, he wrote and revised his thesis, which seeks to make connections between queer communities and hipsters, ultimately presenting a conclusion about ironic self-fashioning.  Benjamin found the experience incredibly rewarding, especially because it yielded sources and approaches that “have a life beyond the distinction program,” and he hopes to return to them in the future. 

According to Schell, Benjamin achieved success because of his desire to challenge himself and those around him. "Benjamin is intellectually curious, passionate about ideas, and wonderfully adept at posing questions and entertaining different perspectives," says Schell. "In the distinction class, he was always ready to explore ideas, ask questions, and look at his work objectively to assess what he needed to do to push it along. He also was incredibly generous and helpful in commenting on his fellow Distinction student Meghan Donohue's thesis. He encouraged Meghan to challenge herself, read more, write more, and take intellectual and artistic risks."

As an undergraduate, Benjamin was active in planning CARR:  the Conference on Activism, Rhetoric and Research.  He served on the core committee of the joint academic and community conference, which appealed to him because of the way that it bridged the gap between the two worlds.  “The Writing Program’s mission mentions that it is helping to build citizens that are going to help the world in certain ways,” explains Benjamin.  “The philosophy of the conference reflected the values of the Writing Program really well, and it was an exciting and ambitious project.”

But Benjamin says that it was the faculty in the Writing Program who really provided him with the opportunity to achieve his personal and academic goals.  He found that the faculty members genuinely enjoy their work with students: “Again and again, every single professor I had in the Writing Program was so supportive, and they were really into learning from their students. Teaching was important to them, and research was important to them, but they never thought of those things as in conflict.”

With mentorship from Pratt, Schell, and Margaret Himley, who now serves as Associate Provost for International Education and Engagement, Benjamin found himself attending his professors’ office hours in order to engage more deeply with the course material, and those conversations helped to guide him and lead him toward opportunities.  His professors would get excited when he tried to make course projects his own and took control of his own learning.  Instead of viewing that as a challenge to their authority, Benjamin says that his professors thought, “Wow, this student really wants something out of this class.” 

Benjamin encourages current and prospective Writing & Rhetoric majors to consider the range of opportunities that the major presents and to find ways to tailor the experience to their own unique goals.  And he emphasizes the importance of developing an identity within the major and working with the faculty to achieve one’s own objectives while also meeting the degree requirements.  “If you do that from the beginning—if you understand that that freedom is an opportunity that is specific to students in this program—then when graduation comes you won’t have any difficulty explaining what it means to be a Writing major.

Kuan Luo, 2011

Professor Emeritus Carol Lipson presents Kuan with the award that bears her name

June 1, 2011

Seeking Connections

Kuan Luo, recipient of the 2011 Carol Lipson Award for Outstanding Major, has focused on seeking connections with her Writing and Rhetoric degree. As a 2011 graduate from Syracuse with a double major in Graphic Design and Writing and Rhetoric, Kuan has learned the art of multitasking. Having juggled the demands for both majors, Kuan says, “The most powerful and valuable thing I learned at Syracuse is how to find connections between multiple seemingly irrelevant ideas, and studying Writing and Rhetoric and Graphic Design helped me tremendously in understanding that those connections are sources of creative ideas.”

Kuan currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, where she connects her Writing and Rhetoric and Graphic Design majors as a graphic design intern. Still learning and with the same thirst for knowledge, Kuan remembers her time at Syracuse as an opportunity for academic growth.  She reminisces on how she became interested in the Writing Program. The summer before her freshman year at Syracuse, Kuan was enrolled in SummerStart, a six-week program that provides incoming srudents with an opportunity to become familiar with the academic, social, and cultural life at SU, where she met Writing Program instructor KJ Rawson, who urged Kuan to pursue her talents in the Writing Program. KJ speaks highly of Kuan, especially her drive as a writer: “I always enjoyed her upbeat personality and the enthusiasm she brought to her work. She was never satisfied with an ‘acceptable’ piece of writing; she always strived to make it excellent.” Kuan soon learned the value of Writing and Rhetoric and cites the flexibility in the Program as giving her the freedom to choose classes that interested her.

Writing Program Director Eileen Schell, Kuan’s advisor, says that she saw firsthand the drive and will to succeed in Kuan. Kuan invested her time in community organizations, receiving hands-on experience working on OutCrowd Magazine, SyrGuide, and a number of other projects. Kuan took the initiative to go above and beyond what was asked of her. What most impressed Schell was Kuan’s ability to develop her interests and incorporate them into her major. “Kuan represents the heart and soul of the Lipson Award: she is an academic achiever, but she balances that with her community engagement, departmental involvement, and her interest and love of travel and the world.”


Kuan has maintained a close relationship with many of the professors who have influenced her. “I have luckily known my advisor Eileen Schell and Dr. Lois Agnew from the very beginning, and they not only offered me academic support, but have always been role models for me—they've shown me how to be compassionate, tolerant and inspiring.” Professor Lois Agnew noticed the drive in Kuan after witnessing her performance in WRT 255, where she worked to discover the nuances of argumentative writing.

Another mentor, Professor Krista Kennedy, remembers Kuan as someone who had a hunger for learning and investigating topics discussed in class as well as others that intrigued her. “Kuan was the sort of student who dropped by office hours just to chat about the reading she'd assigned herself to do that weekend and brought not only smart ideas but journal entries, drawings, and maps.” Her earnest passion for what she was doing and desire to see what else was interesting in the world made her stand out. Exploring new avenues was not just something she experienced in the writing classroom; Kuan also became an avid traveler. Taking every opportunity to see new places,  such as Antarctica, she took to blogging along the way.

Luo Family

Pairing a Graphic Design major with Writing and Rhetoric has allowed Kuan to express her creativity in different avenues.  Kuan encourages current Writing majors to “seek connections between rhetoric and some other disciplines, either by picking up another major or maintaining some interests of their own.” Seeing the importance of rhetoric, Kuan believes that it always will be a significant part of her career: “As for the future, I don't think I will ever leave rhetoric, as it constantly shows me surprising facets about the world. I would like to continue to deepen my study in rhetoric by looking at how it intertwines with other disciplines and be inspired by finding out the powerful connections.”


images above: 

middle: Kuan and fellow Distinction Program participants Nonna Tsiganok (left) and Marina Charny (right) pose with Distinction Program mentor and WP Director Eileen Schell

bottom: Kuan and family celebrate after her Distinction Program presention entitled "What is Participatory Art?"

Still Outstanding

September 26, 2010

Like Kim Wolfe, this year's recipient of the Carol Lipson Outstanding Major Award, Caitlin Heikkila (2009) and Mary Gallagher(2008) won the prestigious Outstanding Major award for their success as writing majors in the Writing Program. Both Mary and Caitlin have accomplished a great deal since graduation and attribute their success to the support and attention of the faculty and staff in the Writing Program.

Caitlin HeikkilaCaitlin has recently picked up and moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn and is conveniently working a few blocks away from her apartment at a PR & Marketing firm called Mother Nature & Partners.  This company focuses their efforts on “the environment and corporate responsibility," which is something that Caitlin says is important to her.  Caitlin spends most of her time writing marketing materials for clients in addition to helping companies become more eco-friendly.  By trying her hand at social media and media outreach for the organization, as well as event planning, Caitlin has begun exploring other facets of the PR & Marketing world. 

When Caitlin moved to Brooklyn she began an entertaining blog entitled “Becoming Brooklyn,” which chronicles her transformation from a Manhattanite to a Brooklynite. Caitlin says that she loves Brooklyn because “there's really an entrepreneurial spirit here, with tons of small businesses—shops, restaurants, artists, etc.” something that seems to be right up her alley. Additionally, local bloggers around her neighborhood have recognized Caitlin for her witty commentary and stellar writing and have asked her to contribute to their sites as well.

Caitlin is also taking classes at Long Island University-Brooklyn Campus, working to get her Masters in Writing & Rhetoric. Caitlin attributes this great fit to the recommendation by the Writing Program Chair Eileen Schell. While finding time for work, class, blogging, and social life, Caitlin makes time to tutor ten hours a week at the Long Island University writing center: “I love reading others' writing pieces—not only because I like helping students, but also because I selfishly like learning from others' work!”

Mary Gallagher“I have no doubts that where I am today has been completely shaped and informed by my involvement in the Writing Program," Mary, another Outstanding Major award winner states, and it seems that Mary shares the same passion for writing consulting as Caitlin does. Today, Mary works as a coordinator in the Center for Academic Success at the Universities at Shady Grove in Maryland. She develops and presents workshops on study skills, time management, and writing. Moreover, Mary has begun working with the Disability Support Services and supervises Guided Study Sessions, a peer tutoring program. Mary reports that she has built collaborative relationships with the faculty and staff, and she has enjoyed growing as an academic support professional while watching her students grow as well.  

Mary attributes some of her success to the Writing Center practicum course that she took in the Writing Program, claiming that “life could be very different now if it wasn’t for the course.” The practicum course caused Mary, as a sophomore, to begin thinking about changing her major to her undiscovered passion—English. This vital collegiate turning point enabled Mary to find “an avocation [she] could craft into a vocation,” as well as allowing her to gain the experiences her current job now requires. 

“I built fantastic connections in the Writing Program,” Mary says, explaining how Writing Center Administrator Jason Luther encouraged her to apply for her current position. Mary affirms that the valuable advice, support, experience, contacts, and development opportunities from the Writing Program and its faculty were instrumental in helping her land the position she holds and loves today.

—story by Samantha Paige Stark, Writing Program Intern

Kim Wolfe, 2010

Kim with Director of Undergraduate Studies Lois Agnew

June 1, 2010

Anything I Want

When skeptics asked Kim Wolfe, the recipient of the 2010 Carol Lipson Award for Outstanding Major, what she could do with a degree in Writing and Rhetoric, her answer was clear: "Anything I want." And since declaring the major, she has done plenty.

Lipson and Wolfe

Kim says that she became involved with the Writing & Rhetoric major "by mistake." Carol Lipson, for whom the Outstanding Major award is named, was Kim's freshman year advisor. Lipson's encouragement and advice were instrumental in Kim's choice to pursue a degree in the field. However, it wasn't an easy sell; although Kim had written journals and other creative pieces for most of her life, she still wasn't sure that the major was for her. She attributes part of her decision to pursue Writing & Rhetoric to the persuasive ability of Writing Program Director Eileen Schell. "Eileen really convinced me that creative nonfiction was the way to go."

Schell and Wolfe

Once her decision was made, Kim jumped right in, serving on the Student Advisory Board for the major, consulting in the Writing Center, and acting as Editor in Chief of Intertext, the Writing Program magazine that showcases student work. She did well in her courses, and it was in the classroom that she was prompted to become involved in the Syracuse community. For a Civic Writing class with Lois Agnew, Kim began volunteering at the Inner Beauty Parlor on Syracuse's Near West Side, where she helped to create a safe space in which young girls could cultivate their inner strength and beauty.

Though Kim thrived in Civic Writing, she couldn't get Schell's words about creative nonfiction out of her head. While studying in London, Kim took a creative nonfiction course, but she found that she didn't do as well with this genre as she would have liked. Rather than giving up on it, though, Kim kept working and eventually grew to love creative nonfiction. "I was intimidated," Kim says. "I could hide more easily behind something that was fictitious. But through my classes and relationships with Writing Program faculty, creative nonfiction was no longer daunting—it was exciting." Kim is still excited; she's currently working on a memoir she began this summer.

Professors in the Writing Program also encouraged Kim to continue working in the community. At the suggestion of Steve Parks, Kim applied for a prestigious Engagement Fellowship, which provides a year of paid employment and remitted tuition to Syracuse University graduates working to benefit the community. A native Syracusan, Kim was eager to continue to serve the community, beginning work on the Near West Side this fall.

As part of her fellowship, Kim is involved with a collaborative project at 601 Tully, a former residence being converted into a sustainable storefront and community center for art, writing, publishing, and entrepreneurialism. Assisting Parks, Kim is working to create a writing group and establish a press to publish the group members' stories. Kim's responsibilities include working with Say Yes to Education and Mobile Literacy Arts Bus (MLAB), where she will facilitate afterschool programs for Syracuse city school students. Parks is excited about Kim's involvement: "She will bring both a deep knowledge of the community as well as a deep commitment to using writing as a means not only for self expression but for enabling communities to find a collective voice." Schell adds, "Kim was a very civic-minded student searching for a place to bring together her various areas of passion—writing, community engagement, and social justice work. She is always thinking about how global issues play out locally, and she is willing to get involved and make things happen. I'm glad the Writing and Rhetoric major became her home base; we benefited and continue to benefit from her leadership."

Wolfe Family

Kim is also taking graduate courses, including an independent study with Parks in which she is trying to link her two passions: writing and social work. She urges current majors to follow her lead and keep an open mind, especially with respect to courses and genres that they may find difficult. Kim repeatedly surprised herself as a Writing major, and she knows that she will continue to do that in the future: "No matter where I end up, I have the tools to look at things analytically and to overcome my weaknesses. I can do anything I want to do."  

Images above:

Professor Emeritus Carol Lipson presents Kim with the award that bears her name

Kim with Writing Program Director Eileen Schell

Kim celebrates graduation with her family.

Caitlin Heikkila, 2009

Caitlin is congratulated by Carol Lipson as the second annual recipient

June 1, 2009

What Could Be Better?

A year ago, Caitlin Heikkila was an SU senior spending most of her time attending class, writing papers, and applying for jobs. Now she lives in New York, works in marketing, and attributes much of her success to her experiences and opportunities as a Writing and Rhetoric major.

According to Caitlin, it's easy to spot a Writing major. In a piece she read—"The Top 5 Signs You Are a Writing Major"—upon receiving the Carol Lipson Award for Outstanding Major, Caitlin facetiously explained that Writing majors suffer from carpal tunnel as a result of spending excessive time at a keyboard, and struggle with the urge to "grammar-police" their friends.

Caitlin's humorous piece got a lot of laughs, but it also made it clear that students who declare the new Writing and Rhetoric major are part of a campus community in which they are challenged to think critically both inside and outside of the classroom.

The 68* Writing majors have a number of opportunities to work and learn in the community, and Caitlin took advantage of many of these when she was a student. Working with Eileen Schell, she did an internship at The Nottingham Senior Retirement Community, where she created a newsletter that showcased the residents' writing and put together resident profiles for a website. A Community Research Fellowship with Steve Parks put Caitlin in touch with unionized hotel workers for a book that will be published by Syracuse University, and she also worked with students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. elementary school through the "Roots and Wings" afterschool apprenticeship program, which encourages hands-on learning in science, journalism, government, photography, law and the arts.

On campus, Caitlin served as a marketing intern for SU Press and the marketing editor for Intertext, the Writing Program magazine that showcases students' work. As a peer consultant in the Writing Center, Caitlin worked one-on-one with writers from different disciplines. She also majored in Communication & Rhetorical Studies. There were challenges, but Caitlin is thankful that the experiences offered her new perspectives, ideologies, and relationships.

At a post-graduation reception in the Writing Center, Caitlin celebrates with Director of Undergraduation Studies Lois Agnew (left) and Writing Program Director Eileen Schell

These experiences prepared her for the job search, and Caitlin says that her writing background was instrumental in landing her current job doing marketing for Besen & Associates, a real estate firm in New York City. Caitlin noted on her resume that she had written a piece for NPR's "This I Believe" public dialogue as part of her work in Eileen Schell's WRT 255 course. Her future boss looked it up, loved it, and wanted to put Caitlin's creativity to work. Caitlin's job responsibilities include creating marketing documents using Photoshop and InDesign, communicating with different store owners to see if they are interested in the company's properties, and assisting with lease signings and brokerage.

Caitlin created the blog Blogging with Besen Retail, and it has been so successful that serving as its editor has become part of her everyday job. She writes about retail trends and neighborhood happenings in New York—everything from Fashion's Night Out to trends such as juice bars, coffee stencils, and invisible dog walkers. And she loves it: "I am so happy that I get to come into work every day and be creative. What could be better?"

* as of October 22, 2009

The Top 5 Signs You Are a Writing Major

Caitlin Heikkila

April 26, 2009

There are currently 77 writing majors at Syracuse University. While you may not know all 77 of these individuals, they are surprisingly easy to pick out from the rest of the student body. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of identifying the top five signs you know you are a Writing major.

5. You have advanced carpal tunnel at 22 years old.

You've tried icing them. You've tried massage. You've tried heat packs, but your finger joints permanently ache. Countless nights spent typing your "This I Believe" essay, editing your analysis of President Obama's inaugural speech, and formulating your hypervisibility thesis have caught up to you. Rewriting, revising, reworking, redoing, you try to re-member why you chose to procrastinate. Your hands cannot be unmolded from this position, leaving you looking like a bear that recently visited the taxidermist. The Health Center has put you on a daily dosage of prednisone for the swelling, but at least you have something in common with those at your internship at The Nottingham Senior Retirement Community.

4. You have no friends because you "grammar-policed" them away.

"Me and Jen want coffee. Wanna come?" Your grammar-trained ears start bleeding. You hesitate for a moment, considering keeping your mouth shut, but her sentence echoes through your head, waiting to be corrected. You can't hold it in. 

"Jen and I!" You blurt out instantly relieved. 

"Jen and you what?" she frowns.

"Jen and I, not me and Jen." 

"No, me, you and Jen." Quickly this conversation escalates into a new rendition of Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" When you can finally make clear that you were only correcting her grammar, she scowls at you and rolls her eyes. You will be drinking your mocha java alone this afternoon.

3. You've memorized the Writing Program website's description, so you have an answer for the ever so popular question, "What is the Writing major?"

The Writing and Rhetoric Major focuses on different genres and practices of writing as enacted in specific historical and cultural contexts. Students write in a wide range of genres: advanced argument, research writing, digital writing, civic writing, professional writing, technical writing, creative nonfiction, and the public essay. In the process of exploring and practicing these genres, students study and analyze the interaction of diverse rhetorical traditions and writing technologies and assess how these factors shape the nature, scope, and impact of writing in a variety of contexts. The major also asks students to examine writing and rhetoric as embedded in culture, and looks at writing identities, their emergences in cultures and subgroups, and the relations among writing, rhetoric, identity, literacy, and power.

You catch your breath. 

"So . . . you just write?" a blank face stares back. You are so misunderstood.

2. You've moved into the basement of HBC and nobody has noticed.

A bat whizzes by your head as you click on your flashlight, so you can make it safely down the gloomy Huntington Beard Crouse staircase. Clearing out a mass of cobwebs, you spread out a sleeping bag across the cold cement floor. Names of three professors adorn each door, yet you haven't seen a soul since you moved in. Lois Agnew sent you 17 emails saying there is a student lounge down here, but you still haven't seen it. On the bright side, you will have some place quiet to write your final 205 research paper. 

And the number one sign that you are a Writing major is . . . You have taken a class that has changed your life.

You may have arthritis. Your only friend may be Eileen Schell. You may be residing in the dreary caverns of HBC, but . . . it's all been worth it. Whether it was Creative Non-Fiction with Minnie Bruce Pratt, Studies in the Politics of Language and Writing with Adam Banks, Digital Writing with George Rhinehart, or maybe an internship experience, every Writing major will tell you the same thing. "You have to take that class. It will change your life!" New perspectives, new ideologies, new relationships: you have gained all of these. You were challenged. You transformed. You grew. And while you may still have to recite the mission statement to outsiders, fellow writing majors will always understand, and be able to bond over their experiences in the Syracuse University Writing Program.

Thank you. 


Mary Gallagher, 2008

Mary (center) is congratulated after commencement by former and current WP Directors, Carol Lipson and Eileen Schell.

June 1, 2008

Ground Breaker

Mary Gallagher's resume is an impressive mix of internships, fellowships, and professional development experience. But it makes one thing very clear: she is not afraid to break ground. And as the first Writing & Rhetoric major to graduate from SU, that's just what Mary has done.

Mary made history in May, but she also accomplished a great deal while she was a student. A Chancellor's Scholar who made the Dean's List every semester, she also participated in the Renee Crown Honors Program and served on the Executive Board of OrangeSeeds, a leadership empowerment program for first-year students.

Many of Mary's accomplishments came in connection with the opportunities that she was afforded as a Writing & Rhetoric major. Mary presented her work at Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) and served as Copy Editor for Intertext, the Writing Program magazine that showcases students' work. As a Writing & Rhetoric major, Mary also completed a number of internships and says that it was this emphasis on civic engagement and pre-professional experience that drew her to the major. Mary served as an intern at the SU Press and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, and she spent a number of semesters working as a peer consultant in the Writing Center. These internships opened her eyes to numerous career options and helped her learn to be a versatile writer who is aware of her audience.

As an Undergraduate Community Research Fellow, she worked with Professor Steve Parks on a project in which she interviewed blue-collar hotel workers and crafted their stories into a book. The experience was wonderful, Mary says, because it allowed her to help these workers' voices be heard. Mary appreciates being given the opportunity as a Writing & Rhetoric major to work in the community and make an impact: "It's great to see that your writing can do something outside of the classroom."

"The empowering nature of becoming a skilled writer and reader" has always interested Mary. As a high school student in a small town in Pennsylvania, Mary was inspired by two of her English teachers and found that she enjoyed the details and connections that are part of reading literature. Mary's love of reading also came in part from her father, who works as a librarian. His career choice was great, she says, since it meant that she could her keep her borrowed books as long as she wanted, with no late fees. Mary entered SU as a Biology major but soon realized that she missed writing, ultimately finding her place as a dual major in English & Textual Studies and Writing & Rhetoric, with a minor in South Asian Studies.

Mary has some great advice for the many Writing & Rhetoric majors who will follow in her footsteps. She urges students to explore the wide range of course offerings that are available to majors, both in the Writing Program and beyond. She also advises taking advantage of the many internship opportunities, which allow students to try things out, see what they like, and be exposed to a variety of experiences.

Mary is currently working at a law firm in Washington, D.C. and considering graduate school in Library Science. She thinks she would like to one day work in the public library system, where she could use her love of reading to inspire others. Whatever her future holds, Mary knows that it will include writing: "I definitely want writing and communicating to always be a part of what I do."

—story by Emily Dressing