What is the Grad WAC Fellows program?
The WAC Fellows program seeks to explore ways to increase the quantity and quality of teaching writing in classes conducted by graduate teaching assistants in a variety of disciplines across campus. They explore the effectiveness of various pedagogical methods and tools for developing writing practices and assessments that occur in undergraduate classrooms taught by graduate students. Two main pedagogical methods under investigation in this study include Writing Across the Curriculum and Writing In the Disciplines.
Grad WAC Fellows who have completed two semesters in the program are eligible to apply for the Pearce Center’s Professional Practicum in WAC and WID. Fellows in this practicum will expand on the skills learned in Grad WAC Fellows and will put WAC and WID strategies into practice through a variety of writing-focused activities, including making presentations on strategies for writing, revising and communicating in the disciplines.
If you are a graduate student looking for resources on written or visual communication, check out our Resources page for more information.
WAC Fellows is a professional development program for graduate teaching assistants, from ALL disciplines, designed to assist GTAs in increasing the amount and improving the quality of writing that occurs in their undergraduate classrooms. WAC Fellows join a cohort that meets for one or two semesters to discuss writing practices and implement writing assignments. WAC Fellows must apply, interview and, if selected, earn a professional development stipend!
To apply to become a WAC Fellow, please click on the following link and complete the Google form.
The WAC Fellows program helps Clemson University to reestablish practices that support Writing Across the Curriculum and Writing In the Disciplines, using writing as a primary tool in
1. the process of learning,
2. communicating what has been learned,
3. improving critical thinking and
4. building confidence in writing and communicating abilities for various academic, business and public audiences.
Research in the WAC Fellows program will focus on helping graduate students improve teaching and assessing writing in their undergraduate classrooms. They will learn how to implement low-stakes writing, rubric design and assessment strategies within existing syllabi, whether engineering, science, social science, humanities or other discipline.
Spring 2022 Grad WAC Fellows
Nafiseh Ebrahimi – Mathematical Sciences
Leslie Heffington – PRTM
Abhishek Khanal – Physics
Mahesh Koirala – Physics
Ashish Kumar – Civil Engineering
LaToya McDonald – Bioengineering
Ahmad Momeni – Civil Engineering
Srinivasan Nagarajan – Civil Engineering
Patricia Ng’ethe – Policy Studies
Aniruddha Pan – Physics
Maira Patino – PRTM
Mojtaba Qanbarzadeh – Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences
Gugu Selela – Policy Studies
Mina Shokrollahi Ardekani – Planning, Design and the Built Environment
Devi Soman – Planning, Design and the Built Environment
Kumar Tripathy – Civil Engineering
Andrew Waters – PRTM
Heather Watkins – Human Factors Psychology
Samaneh Zamanifard – Human Centered Computing
Professional Practicum in WAC and WID Fellows
Stone Washington – Policy Studies
Oluwadara Abimbade – Learning Sciences
Graduate WAC Fellow Reflections
I try to take the practice of writing seriously, so one of the most important parts of the WAC program for me is being part of a fellowship of writers on campus. The weekly practice of talking and thinking about writing is like therapy for me, an important part of my emotional life even outside of academia. Writing is an interior process, but it helps to talk about writing with others. As a part of the WAC program, the Pearce Center staff is an important part of that fellowship.
Even though I’ve written for most of my adult life, I’ve never had to think about teaching writing to others before. The WAC program is helping me articulate the craft of writing to my students and giving me useful tools to teach that craft in my classroom. One of the most enjoyable parts of the program is the diversity of academic and cultural backgrounds among the fellows. Listening to the writing challenges and successes of people from other academic disciplines, many of whom are teaching and writing in a language that isn’t their native tongue, gives me a helpful perspective on my own teaching and writing efforts in the field of PRTM.
I discovered the Grad WAC Fellows program through a GRAD 360° event. I was interested in becoming a WAC Fellow because I love to write in my personal time, and I was intrigued to learn more about writing applications in the classroom. I began teaching as a graduate teacher of record for a Creative Inquiry course in the Fall of 2021, the same semester I enrolled into the WAC Fellows program. My CI course consisted of transfer students who were not familiar with research principles and skills. I was able to create writing assignments with the skills I developed from the WAC Fellows program that helped my students to not just gain surface knowledge of research principles but also to better understand the applications of them in a classroom setting. My role as a WAC Fellow has helped me redefine my instructional goals as a second-semester graduate teacher of record. My biggest takeaway from the WAC Fellows program is that every instructor should take part in the program if they can. Through being a part of the program, I am able to think outside of the box in application to my CI class and as a Ph.D. student.
As a bioengineering major, I see the Pearce Center as a beneficial resource for both undergraduate and graduate students. Not only did it help me as an instructor, but it also helped my personal and professional writing. I find myself approaching my writing with a different mindset. For example, instead of simply focusing on getting my point across, I now focus on writing based on my audience, my goal, my knowledge, my knowledge gaps, the audience’s knowledge, the audience’s knowledge gaps and the genre in which I am applying my writing. I came into the WAC program somewhat insecure about my professional writing skills; however with the tools I received as a fellow, I feel better equipped. I believe other students, whether confident or not in their writing, will benefit as well. Overall, I believe it will mature students as professional engineers in industry or academia. Next year, I will be teaching at a community college through the ACE Fellows program, and I am excited to apply what I’ve learned as a WAC Fellow in my CI course at Clemson and in introductory engineering courses beyond Clemson.
I joined the WAC program with the intention of honing my writing skills for the students I teach, as well as for myself. This program has given me insight into writing as a vital tool to promote critical thinking and active learning. The biggest takeaway for me is the impact of very small, yet so powerful, techniques like free writing and exploratory writing. I share these techniques not just with students but with everyone around me. The most memorable experience for me has been regular lecture discussions, especially when we talk about people of different cultures and nationalities, because this increases our mutual respect for each other. This class has been the most diverse class for me so far in terms people from different majors, different countries and different experiences, which I feel is true bliss. We all have learned so much just by sharing our experiences of teaching and working with students.
While I’m not sure how many people in my field are aware of the Pearce Center’s programs, I definitely share my experience with others so that they can take advantage of the WAC Fellows program and from the center itself. This knowledge sharing is especially important in the engineering field where we do not have dedicated courses for writing. The need for guided writing has shaped my thinking to impart whatever I have learned through this program to my students. As a teacher, we sometimes forget how important these writing steps are for students who are in the first year of their college career, and this program focuses on forming these building blocks through the fellows. I am thankful to the Pearce Center and to our teachers for providing us with this opportunity.
I started the Grad WAC Fellows program because, as an international student, I struggled with my writing skills. In addition, I felt intimidated by the teaching practices at Clemson as they seemed starkly different from my home country, India. As a fellow, I was able to overcome both of these challenges and much more. I acquired new skills in writing, including articulating my thoughts, reflecting and summarizing using writing and not just words. I also learned a lot about various tools available to instructors on Canvas and how to use them for teaching.
Because architecture revolves around drawings and studio culture, I think one of the ways the Pearce Center can assist architecture students by guiding them to put their design ideas into words and refine them as they present their work. One moment that stood out to me was when I informed my instructor that I would be teaching the first-year studio in Spring 2022, and she helped me break down a design class into a mix of design, writing and fun. We discussed how we could use writing to explain the thoughts that go into the design within a design studio. During every exercise, I ask my students to own their work and tell or show me why they are doing what they are doing.
Graduate WAC Practicum Fellow Reflections
I gained awesome opportunities from the practicum experience that I can add to my curriculum vitae, such as presenting with GRAD 360°. These professional experiences have allowed me to network within the Clemson community as well as develop possible future opportunities. One of the biggest things I have realized is the importance of having good mentors in your corner. I am grateful for the time and energy Jennifer Hagen Forsberg gave to help me improve my presentation skills and visual aids. Forsberg’s feedback helped me think more critically and introspectively about the audience and purpose, which I will carry with me as an early career teacher and researcher. In the field of PRTM, we focus on teaching our students how to be strong communicators. This practicum gave me hands-on experience in critiquing how my and my future students’ writing skills are communicated. I am truly thankful for the practicum experience.
As I look back on my time as a WAC Fellow, the first feeling that comes to my mind is gratitude: the gratitude of knowing amazing mentors, delivering challenging yet meaningful lessons and learning so much in the process. As a professional practicum participant, it was a new experience assuming an instructor’s role. When I took classes as a student, I often did not think about the background efforts to put a lesson together to optimize learning. But designing workshops, where my mentor was ready with the best resources, was an exercise that led me to think about why someone needs to know something in my discipline. In retrospect, this practicum taught me to put myself in the audiences’ shoes and prepare any lesson.
Professional writing, especially in academia, is something very rigorous and, in my opinion, often overlooked in higher education. Teaching students the specific requirements and things to look out for when writing in their disciplines is almost as important as coming up with the technical information. It was a pleasure to be involved in training next-generation writing coaches and leaders in discipline-specific writing.