Michigan State University
Michigan State University
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Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
Department of Writing
Rhetoric & American Cultures


WRAC Course Spotlight: Travel Writing with Dr. Nancy DeJoy

Researched and written by Suzanna Smentowski

As PW students we are on a journey to discover where our writing talents and interests will take us in the world. Lucky for us, there are several electives offered within the College of Arts and Letters that can help point one in the right direction. In WRA 491 Special Topics-Travel Writing, which ran in the Fall 2015 semester, students were asked to explore what it means to be on a journey, both physically and metaphorically.

In this class, led by Dr. Nancy DeJoy, students were given a chance to creatively express themselves through the writing process while looking at life as a journey one travels through. Dr. DeJoy formatted the class in a way that not only gave students a chance to have fun with their writing, but to learn new methods of invention and to write personal pieces that appeal to a broad audience.

Taking the course didn’t mean you had to be a world traveler. According to Dr. DeJoy, “the class gives everyone the opportunity to explore their own personal experiences and take it to the next level.”

The class involved three major assignments, but students also had the opportunity to pick additional topics to write about from a larger list. Because everyone has had different travel and life experiences, this gave students the chance to talk about the topics that they wanted to share. Students could also set their own due dates for assignments, helping them build time management skills important in professional life.

Students in the class were also given a chance to learn about travel writing from one of PW’s own alumni. Joel Heckaman, who graduated from MSU in 2011, now works as the associate editor of the Awesome Mitten. This widely-read online site publishes travel writing about places and things to see all around the state of Michigan. Joel gave students an opportunity to pitch article ideas and even write pieces for the site. Students learned to transform their personal experiences into pieces that are engaging to others interested in learning about a particular place or experience.

The PW program is hoping to make Travel Writing a regularly-offered course. Dr. DeJoy is looking forward to teaching this class again and hopes to work with another great group of students. “The mix of the class brings all sorts of perspectives,” she says. “Where you come from is an important part of the conversation”.