Graduate WAC Fellow Reflections
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.
Arup Bhattacharya, a Ph.D. student in the Planning, Design and the Built Environment program, found the WAC fellowship to be an interesting opportunity to learn different ways to include writing in traditionally non-writing intensive courses. As an instructor for a construction estimating class, Bhattacharya encountered students who prepared accurate estimates but could not communicate them efficiently. “Integrating different short writing assessments, I tried to convey to my students what are the things a reader looks for when they go through your report,” he explained. In addition to improving his own writing skills through this fellowship, he learned important insights into evaluating writing and how writers should always consider the audience. “Apart from improving my own scholarly writing expertise, I have found ways through WAC fellowship to pass on that skill to my students so that they also achieve confidence to deliver quality writing,” Bhattacharya said.
Olivia McAnirlin, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Parks,
Recreation and Tourism Management, joined the Pearce Center’s WAC Fellow program to help strengthen her teaching skills in the classroom. McAnirlin wanted to create homework assignments and in-class activities that would teach necessary, transferable skills for the job market, such as writing that conveys a clear message to its audience. McAnirlin shared, “I want students to walk away from a course thinking about how to clearly articulate course content and make it applicable to the real-world. Students may not be writing traditionally, but through press releases, social media posts and emails in the park, recreation and tourism fields.” The Grad WAC Fellow program helped McAnirlin think critically about bringing an increased focus to writing in her classroom and facilitating conversations about the importance of writing in everyday life.
Amir Malek, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, became involved with the Pearce Center’s WAC Fellow program when he realized there was a serious need for engineering students to improve their writing skills. He loved teaching but found it difficult to grade his students’ work. “I constantly came across assignments that were great content-wise, but they struggle to convey the message due to the lack of writing skills,” said Amir. He assumed this was “the curse of engineering majors” until he became familiar with the Graduate Writing TA Program. “This program made it possible for me to provide my students with engineering-friendly writing tips,” he explained.
As a WAC Fellow, Rachel is constantly working on incorporating written communication into her STEM background. When asked how she got involved in the WAC program, she explained, “As a teaching assistant in biological sciences, I was seeking ways to improve my skills and help my students achieve higher quality writing. When my advisor recommended this position, I knew it was the right fit. I believe it is critical to communicate scientific research effectively, both with other scientists and with the public.” Her top tip for effective writing is to know your audience and then write clearly and briefly for that audience. Rachel also completed her bachelor’s degree at Clemson.