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First-Year Writing Students Remix Research

by | Posted December 1st, 2010

On Thursday, November 11, 2010, students in Mary Ann Sherby’s WRA 110 Writing: Science and Technology sections shared their multimedia projects with one another. The projects ranged from posters and PowerPoint presentations to handmade comic books, collages, and videos–all visual representations of students’ research.

All students in First-Year Writing courses are assigned what is called a “remix” project. The projects are based on research students conduct throughout the semester. These projects allow students to take the research they’ve done and present their findings in a genre that is different than the standard research paper. The projects also give students the opportunity to address their presentation to an audience of their choosing.

Professor Sherby’s students had written a formal research paper in a traditional format earlier in the semester. The research topics ranged from health care to environmental issues. For this remix assignment, Professor Sherby asked her students to “create a visual text in which you present the findings from the inquiry that you just completed to an audience of your choosing.” Professor Sherby hoped that making time for students to share their projects would allow them to learn from each other.

On this particular day, students shared many different types of projects. Jack Burk made a video and Yuyang Tian produced a hand-drawn comic book. The projects were informative and several were even humorous, as evidenced by the giggles and smiles coming from the groups of students gathered around some of the projects.

After students had the opportunity to view their classmates’ projects, they were asked to revisit one project carefully and write a letter to the creator. In the letters, the students commented on the effectiveness of the project. Professor Sherby hoped that writing the responses would help students better understand what types of visual representations are most effective in conveying meaning.

Professor Sherby said she hoped students would learn about the different types of things they need to consider when asked to present research findings in a new genre. She also hoped students would gain a greater understanding of what it takes to engage an audience by emphasizing graphics rather than words. Most of all, Professor Sherby hoped her students would learn from each other and have fun presenting their research findings in a new setting.

View all photos from this event on WRAC’s Flickr page.

Zazzle Contest: PW Creativity Put to the Test

by | Posted November 30th, 2010

Writers’ Bloc recently created a VivaPW Zazzle store where PW merchandise including  t-shirts, sweatshirts, bags, hats, mugs, and bumper stickers will be available for purchase. They are holding a design contest, inviting anyone who would like to participate, to submit designs for the merchandise. The store will be a great way to publicize the PW program and to show PW pride. Writers’ Bloc is calling for design submissions by December 20th, 2010. 

Submissions should be posted in JPEG format (at least 300 dpi) to the WRAC Facebook page or emailed to nuferdan@gmail.com. After December 20th, 2010, a  Surveymonkey survey will be posted so that all of PW can vote for their favorite designs. The top designs in each category will be added to the store. Winners will receive a free copy of the products they’ve designed and the satisfaction of having the design live in the VivaPW Zazzle store for years to come!

Ellen Cushman Attends American Society for Ethnohistory Conference

by | Posted November 26th, 2010

In October, WRAC associate professor Dr. Ellen Cushman attended the 2010 American Society for Ethnohistory Conference. The theme of the conference was “Creating Nations and Building States: Past and Present,” with a specific focus on “indigenous societies and their relations with expanding colonial and modern state structures of Canada, America, and Latin America.” The conference was held to facilitate discussions about relations between Native societies and expanding state structures in the Americas. She presented along with MSU faculty Dr. Mindy Morgan and Dr. Rocio Quispe-Agnoli as well as Margaret Bender (Wake Forest). Their panel explored indigenous writing systems and tribal people’s resistance to outside impositions of alphabetic writing systems. Cushman was interested in the conference because it focused on research that explores the writing systems native societies adopt or resist and reasons they do so. She was able to meet many scholars committed to the study of indigenous societies as well as scholars from a great number of tribes. 

Cushman is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation; she has spent the last six years researching the Nation, and its writing systems. The Cherokee Nation is one of the largest tribes in existence today with more than 290,000 citizens, yet best estimates suggest there are only 10,000 people fluent in the Cherokee language. Cushman hopes that her research, publications, and conference presentations, will make the study of Sequoyan more transparent and cultivate support for increased education and preservation of the endangered writing system and language.

The CCCC: Malea Powell Brings Big Change as Program Chair

by | Posted November 24th, 2010

This is Part 1 of a series on the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

In late March or early April of each year, a large portion of the WRAC faculty members and graduate students disappear for several days for something they call the “CCCC”.  The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC, or 4Cs) is a professional organization dedicated to the field of collegiate writing. For many, including WRAC faculty and students, the CCCC is the defining conference in their field and many go out of their way to attend every year. The conference is a venue where scholars of rhetoric and writing gather to learn about the work of their colleagues and to present their own work to the community. Each conference has a different theme, selected by the program chair, which is intended to serve as a frame for all of the presentations.

This year’s program chair for the CCCC is WRAC’s very own Dr. Malea Powell. Her responsibilities as chair include organizing the conference, acting as assistant chair of the organization, and having a seat on the executive board of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).  To help her try to manage the daunting task of organizing the conference, she enlisted Rhetoric & Writing PHD student Daisy Levy to assist her.

This year, the CCCC is being held in Atlanta, GA, from April 6th to April 9th of 2011.  The theme of the conference is “All Our Relations: Contested Space, Contested Knowledge,” which is inspired by Native American philosophy and meant to reflect an interconnectedness between relationships of humans and all living things – that all living things are important and should be treated as relatives.  This philosophy encourages an understanding of an individual’s place in the “larger web of meaning.”  For this conference, Malea asks “all our relations” to come and learn how to balance knowledge and space, which are often disputed; in addition, she hopes it will bring the organization together to encourage greater connections outside of higher education, connections constantly affecting the work being done by members on all levels.

Malea had been approached several times to run for election for program chair of the CCCC. She turned down the offer repeatedly, busy with directing the graduate program at Michigan State and with her other scholarly obligations. After being approached by the previous program chair, she finally agreed to run and was subsequently elected.  Her election provided her with opportunities to make major changes within the organization, changes based on her belief that scholars in composition and communication work within multiple spaces:

“No one works in those categories that they [the CCCC] ask us to submit to. People work at intersections. A lot of people whose work is really important to folks who are in the classroom teaching writing every day weren’t being seen at the convention because they felt like the conference wasn’t a place for them, a place for their work to be seen or heard. They felt unwelcome, so they stopped coming. My goal has been to get those people back and to also raise some excitement among new scholars, graduate students, and beginning assistant professors about the possibility of what the field could be, instead of what it has always been.”

Malea Powell

A call for proposals went out last spring designed as an attempt to address these concerns. Malea created a new category–113 Contesting Boundaries–to solicit proposals that don’t fit within traditional categories. Some disagreed with the creation of this new section because of the broad range of topics it invited into the conference. However, the call produced the highest number of submissions to one category ever in the history of the CCCC and was the second highest number of submitted proposals in the past ten years. Malea is enthusiastic about the tremendous response to this new category and hopes that the changes she has implemented will help the CCCC better meet the needs of the entire field.

Other changes made in the conference include having those she calls “emerging scholars” present as featured speakers and in featured sessions, rather than having only those famous in the world of college composition. These “emerging scholars” may be advanced graduate students, beginning assistant professors, or may not even work within a university. This allows people who have not had the chance to speak at such a major event to play prominent role in shaping the learning environment of the conference.

This year, there will be panels on current studies such as the definition of digital humanities and the impact of Arizona’s immigration laws on ethnic studies education.  The conference will also feature men and women of Cherokee descent in featured sessions and demonstrations in the exhibit area. All of these sessions and panels work to reflect the conference theme, an attempt to “connect the past and present to really push people to think about the future of the discipline, in a really different, more complicated way.”

Malea’s overall goal is for this conference to be a reconsideration of what defines college composition and communication. She hopes to inspire educators and learners to think outside the box of how writing is currently thought of and to work together, across boundaries, to inspire the best work possible.

This is Part 1 of a series on the CCCC. Part 2, a behind-the-scenes look at the planning of the conference, will be coming in early December. In March, look for a complete report of WRAC’s presence at the conference.

Seeking Communications Management Interns

by | Posted November 22nd, 2010

WRAC has been very fortunate to have two outstanding interns for the past several months who have been steadily growing and cultivating our online community.  Alexandra (Ali) White and Laurel Sutherland are the department’s first Communications Management Interns and they have done outstanding work getting WRAC’s presence on the web and in social networks established and engaged.  Unfortunately for us, both Ali and Laurel will be moving on after this semester, so the search is on for two people to fill their very big shoes.

They still have some time left this semester, so Ali and Laurel took a moment to talk about the internship, what it entails and what they’re taking away from it:

Complete details about the position are available below.  If you’re interested in being one of the WRAC Communications Management Interns for spring or summer 2011, or just want more information, contact Mike McLeod or Laura Julier.

Communications Management Intern

Hours: Approximately 10 hrs/week
Start Date: January 3, 2011
End Date: May 13, 2011 with a possibility of extending to other semesters
Supervisor: Michael McLeod


The Communications Management Intern of the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures department is responsible for implementing and maintaining both inter- and extra-departmental communication. This includes, but isn’t limited to, developing promotional materials (web content, press releases, etc) and sustaining an active departmental presence inside social networks. This position requires a person who is outgoing and sociable and actively engaged with faculty, staff, students, and the public. Hours dependent on academic program’s internship requirements, if any, but are ideally 10 hours per week.
**Please note this is an unpaid internship.


  1. Working with a content management system;
  2. Actively listening to “channels” of conversation (face-to-face, email, Facebook, Twitter, listserv, etc.) for significant and interesting conversations or observations amongst program members
  3. Attendance at and documentation of program events
  4. Researching stories by communicating with primary sources
  5. Writing in multiple genres (listserv messages, blog posts, press releases, social media updates, etc.) and cross-promoting that writing in other mediums
  6. Maintaining regular office hours

Required Qualifications

  • Outgoing and social personality
  • Attendance of and participation in Writers’ Bloc events
  • Presence in and working knowledge of social networks (esp. Facebook and Twitter)
  • Ability to edit and manipulate images (Photoshop, Gimp, Picnik, etc.)
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office
  • Reference from at least one Professional Writing instructor

Desired Qualifications

  • Experience writing in xHTML and CSS
  • PW junior or senior, or graduate student
  • Ability to write in and maintain WordPress
  • Advanced Acrobat PDF creation skills

Application Process

Submit resume (with references), cover letter, and sample press release (or similar professional writing sample) to Michael McLeod by December 15, 2010 (only if applying for Spring 2011; an announcement of summer deadlines will be announced as that semester gets closer).

VIM: A Spartan Fashion First

by | Posted November 17th, 2010

For the first time on MSU’s campus, student volunteers have worked together to launch MSU’s first fashion magazine by and for Spartans. VIM covers fashion, health, college living, and advice on college life for MSU students.  WRAC sat down with Lauren Montemurri, Professional Writing undergraduate and VIM‘s layout designer and web editor, to learn more about the newly launched magazine.

VIM was founded by Kerry Chereskin, Julie Christopherson, and Lauren Christopherson in February of 2010 after they noticed a fashion community on campus without a voice.  They decided to remedy this by creating a magazine that would not only feature the latest style, but be tailored to the needs of the MSU community.  The team received faculty advising from WRAC professor Dànielle DeVoss and employs another PW student, Emily Drake, as the web editor. The founders invested a lot of money into the project, but wanted VIM to be free for anyone who wanted a copy. In order to make that possible, they sold ad space in the magazine to ASMSU, stores and boutiques around campus, and other local hot spots.

Originally called “The Vogue Project,” the team wanted to think of names that were short, easy to remember, and MSU-inspired.  The name VIM came from the eleventh line of the MSU fight song, and means “vigour” and “energetic.”  “We thought it was perfect for our magazine because we want it to be fun for the whole MSU campus to enjoy,” says Montemurri.  The passion of all of those involved is abundant, with a team now exceeding 80 volunteers. This includes writers, directors, photographers, models, web designers, and bloggers.  Even with this team in place, VIM is still looking for anyone who is interested to get involved.  Several professional models approached the directors to ask if they could be involved in this issue, but most of the models were friends of the team.

VIM is not focused solely on women’s fashion. There is also a men’s fashion section, which they hope to grow and expand in each issue.  Gathering pictures for women’s fashion wasn’t nearly as difficult as it was for men’s fashion, with big support from American Apparel and Jeanologie. The store owners let models borrow the clothes and go on photo shoots for the magazine.  When shown VIM‘s media kit, store managers seemed very impressed by what had been created so far.

“The very first issue is the hardest, definitely the hardest. We kind of were feeling in the dark. It was hard to get people, like advertisers, interested [...] but I think that now we have something to show them, it will be a lot easier to get people involved,” Montemurri says. “A lot of people have been really great about spreading the word.  I’ve had a lot of people contact me saying ‘You’re working on VIM! That’s so cool!’.”

The first issue was released on October 25th; pick up a hard copy in shops on Grand River, at the Union, or at the library. It was also recently published online and can be accessed on the VIM blog.  Look forward to the winter issue coming out either in mid-December or early January. Congratulations to everyone who helped make VIM possible!

Johnson Cheu Published in Collection on Why We Cry

by | Posted November 11th, 2010

Johnson Cheu was recently published in On the Verge of Tears: Why Movies, Television, Music, Art, Popular Culture, Literature, and the Real World Make Us Cry. The collection of essays is a deeply personal investigation of what makes us weep. It does not theorize what crying is, but it identifies weeping as a universally understandable, human language. Cheu’s chapter is entitled “Let’s Go Swimming: (Not) Crying at the Movies.”

“As someone who works in cultural studies, media studies, and disability studies, I was intrigued with the idea of crying, since the idea of pity is such a big stereotype when it comes to disability,” says Cheu. “Let’s Go Swimming: (Not) Crying at the Movies” also explores filmic depictions of disability that Cheu says often include “the idea that one ‘overcomes’ being disabled.” He dislikes that idea. Johnson says, “It’s not like we leave it behind; it’s just something people learn to work with, which, of course, incites another kind of crying in folks and film story lines that’s tied to inspiration.”

Read more about On the Verge of Tears or buy the book on Amazon.com.