We would like to formally congratulate WRAC’s very own, John Monberg, for winning the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Award for Innovation and Leadership in Teaching and Learning! Monberg is an Assistant Professor in the WRAC Department who has shown tremendous innovation inside and outside the classroom.
“I’ve worked hard to identify activities that both enrich the educational experiences for students and help to create enduring resources for communities,” Monberg says. “When the complex details of a real community are brought together with the wide variety of skills that students bring in terms of visual design, user experience, video production and writing for specialized audiences, wonderful things happen.”
Jeff Grabill, Chair of the WRAC Department and Professor of Rhetoric and Professional Writing, expresses the challenges of rhetorical education, “How [do we] provide students with compelling ways to learn how to participate as public citizens?” However, Grabill says that Monberg has tackled this question quite well. “He thinks carefully and deeply about the new resources and infrastructures needed for us all to meet the challenges of participating as citizens in a complex, global world.”
Monberg is enthusiastic about the department’s commitment to joining together teaching, technology, and community. “This commitment allows us to understand some of most significant questions our society faces as our world is transformed by changes in technology and culture.”
In regards to Monberg’s leadership in the education world, Grabill says, “I have never seen a colleague engage in such a sustained project of innovative teaching and learning, and it has pleased me a great deal to see the attention his work has received from the larger university community in addition to the accolades from the greater Lansing community.”
“I do know that if I put something like ‘Texting is good for us’ in the title of a talk, I am guaranteed an audience.”
The quote above is Jeff Grabill’s explanation for the title of his recent Ted Talk – and spoiler alert – he doesn’t actually say if texting is good for us. He does, however, offer an insightful look at the power of networks and writing education.
Speaking engagingly and intelligently for almost 12 minutes is a uniquely difficult (and anxiety ridden) task. “[T]he situation was challenging. [...] I had to try to be interesting, engaging, and absolutely on time in a speech situation that was basically live TV … and without my typical memory aids.” explains Grabill.
As a rhetorician, however, Grabill was uniquely prepared:
“To prepare, then, I relied on my rhetorical training (Ta da!). Specifically, I created a memory palace, a very old technique for recalling a speech. It isn’t memorizing the speech, but in a classic memory palace, you imagine rooms of a house/palace and what you will say in each room. During the talk, one simply “walks through the palace.” Another take on the memory palace can be found in this season’s Sherlock.
If you’re looking for the trip of a lifetime, this study abroad is for you. Professors Jeff Grabill and Liza Potts are heading two programs in London and Paris next summer and the study abroad sounds like a truly unforgettable trip.
Explore the streets of London and take a stroll through the museums of Paris. Work with professionals at esteemed companies and produce writing for the public. Express your condolences at the tunnel where Princess Diana died and visit the resting places of James Morrison and Oscar Wilde. Search for the infamous TARDIS from Doctor Who and take your turn at Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross. Attach your love lock to the bridge at Pont de l’Archevêché or check out the Sherlock Holmes museum. Delve into the heart and culture of London and Paris and discover yourself.
Sounds good, right? Now, the programs will overlap for two weeks in London, but don’t panic, students can go on either trip or both without complication.
urban // rhetoric // cosmopolitan // learning
London: Designing Communication Experiences is the program led by Grabill (with one course team-taught with Liza Potts). The program will be a total of 5 weeks starting June 9 and ending July 11 of summer 2014. The focus of this program centers around “designing communication experiences” and it ties in really well with Potts’ program of participation in terms of communication experiences. Students will be asked to think about Professional Writing as “the creation of experiences for people.” To create an experience requires creativity, design thinking, and rhetorical theory and can be applied to writing practices such as computer interfaces, document and book design, and storytelling. Students will be enrolled in WRA 308: Invention in Writing (3 credits) where they will think about creativity, experience, and design. The other course is WRA 330: Writing Research in Communities (3 credits, this is where Potts’ program overlaps), which involves learning how to research how writing works in public spaces.
“I worry students have an overly narrow understanding of what they can do with our degree,” Grabill said. Through this program, he hopes to expand the career possibilities for students and really challenge them academically and personally. The students are going to be doing a lot of identity work, asking the big questions like “Who am I?”, “What can I do?”, “What is my place in this world?”, and “How can this major and this university help me get to where I want to be in the future?” Grabill wants to use this study abroad to help students achieve and experience things that they can’t on MSU’s campus.
Grabill contacted several companies and organizations in London to provide students on this study abroad with various learning and internship opportunities. He mentioned Avanade, “a joint-venture of Accenture and Microsoft”, which provides business technology services, and Tobias & Tobias, a user experience company that design various multimedia software and applications for organizations. Among many other groups, he talked briefly about Guerilla Science, a group that performs pop-up science events all over London with the goal to educate and engage the general public in basic chemistry and physics. Students are encouraged to get involved, as these learning opportunities are an integral part of the study abroad experience as a whole.
Grabill also explained that not only is this study abroad the least expensive London-based Study Abroad offered next year, but it will provide a sneak preview of what faculty are imagining future courses will look like for Professional Writing.
digital // memory // participation // fans
Creativity and Innovation for Participatory Memory Across London and Paris is Potts’ program, a 4-week trip next summer starting in London on June 25 and ending in Paris on July 25. This program will focus primarily on Potts’ research in Participatory Memory: how do people participate in everyday memory making? How do they turn public spaces into memory making stations? How do we help the memories live on even after they’re torn down?
Students will delve into these questions by exploring physical memory spaces such as the previously mentioned tunnel where Princess Diana died, cemeteries where literary and musical icons are buried, and fan favorite spots for the Potterheads, Whovians, and Sherlockians. Since Potts has many strong contacts and connections to museums in London, there will also be evaluations of museum experiences such as how they incorporate participation and communication into a visit. By being in these places, students can discuss methods to save and digitize those moments and participate in memory capture.
Potts will be teaching WRA 330: Writing Research in Communities and Cultures (3 credits) at this point in the study abroad and it will address rhetorical and creativity theory as well as design thinking. The second course will be WRA 499: Participatory Memory Research, which will aim to digitally publicize the participation of memory.
Professional Writing majors possess a broad range of important skill sets that will help them thrive on this study abroad. In this regard, Potts’ said, “Our foundation in rhetoric as writers, we have an understanding of persuasion and audience and appropriateness and delivery. We have sort of this obsession with the context in which you write and create experiences, the content you create and the form that it takes.” This will be especially important on this study abroad with the combination of technology and public writing in the documentation of participatory memory.
It’s never too early to think about your plans for summer 2014!
Writing teachers (like me and perhaps like you) have been caught in a tight spot for some time now. On the one hand, computing technologies have radically transformed the meaning of “writing.” On the other hand, high stakes assessments and their impact on teaching have limited what counts as writing in school.