Exploring the ins and outs of the WAC Fellows and WAC Faculty programs
The Graduate WAC Fellows Program is one of seven programs at the Pearce Center. This program was founded in 2017 by Cameron Bushnell and Austin Gorman to explore ways to increase the quantity and quality of teaching writing in classes conducted by graduate teaching assistants in various disciplines across campus. Bushnell described the program as “Filling a niche.”
“The program was designed as a professional development opportunity for graduate TAs tasked with designing and assessing writing for undergraduates in their departments, such as lab reports, field notes or proposal cover letters,” she said.
The program examines the effectiveness of various pedagogical methods including Writing Across the Curriculum and Writing in the Disciplines. Fellows who have completed two semesters in the program can apply for either of the Pearce Center’s Professional Practicums in WAC or WID. These fellows expand on the skills learned in the WAC Fellows while putting WAC and WID strategies into practice. These strategies include making presentations on strategies for writing, revising and communicating in the disciplines.
The ultimate goal of the program is to better equip TAs with the skills they need to teach and assess writing in their classrooms. Fellows learn how to implement low-stakes writing, rubric design and assessment strategies within existing syllabi, no matter the discipline.
“Grad WAC Fellows will not only learn how to use and assess writing more effectively in their classrooms, but they will also find that their writing will improve in the process,”Bushnell said.
Students who have had the opportunity to join any of these programs have seen immense improvements in comprehension skills, creative problem solving and writing.
Doctoral candidate Maira Patino said that the two most valuable skills she learned throughout these programs were the ability to talk about writing comfortably and to share that with others outside of WIC/WAD.
“Not only have I been equipped with writing tools and strategies to approach my dissertation and conference, but I am lucky to have such amazing mentors.”
The WAC Faculty program, another vital component of the Pearce Center, focuses on co-teaching the Grad WAC Fellows classes. There are currently four members of the WAC Faculty program: Cameron Bushnell, Katalin Beck, Phil Randall and Will Cunningham. Each of these members have been working with students for years to help them achieve their long- and short-term goals.
According to Beck, “Our students grow as thinkers, since they develop metacognitive insights into how language works; they grow as teachers, since they create and test writing pedagogies in their classrooms; and they grow as writers, since they gain a rhetorical awareness of written communication.” The synergistic relationship between these programs is key in the success of each.
While mastering core curriculum coursework remains of prime importance for graduate students, the ability to communicate and convey information, especially in theses and dissertations, may run a close second. The Grad WAC Fellows program is essential in ensuring that Clemson’s graduate students remain at the forefront of not only research and innovation but can effectively put those ideas to work.
By: Delaney Swaim