Powerful Writers

See how first-year students are turning words into action Nov. 30.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 23, 2011) – Students learn best when they’re interested in a topic and tend to work harder when they’re passionate about the subject. Students in USF’s award-winning First Year Composition course have invested their interest and passion in “Rhetorc in Action,” the final project of the course ENC 1102.


According to Joe Moxley, the English department’s director of composition, “this project is designed to help students recognize that writing is a form of power, that writers gain agency by understanding the elements of effective argument and negotiation, by understanding the needs and concerns of their audiences, and by following the conventions for conducting inquiry and citing sources. For their Rhetoric in Action projects students apply rhetorical principles such as ethos, pathos, and logos as they write for a real audience of their choice.”


The USF community is invited to see some of their projects, under the banner “How Do Arguments Become Actions?” – in both visual and digital formats – at tables set up in the Marshall Student Center atrium from 10:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Nov. 30.


Getting better at expressing ideas is the ulterior motive. Students arrive at USF with varying competencies in writing. First-year students are required to take writing courses to sharpen their writing skills unless they place out of ENC 1101 and/or ENC 1102 with advanced placement English credits.


Moxley points out, “Public writing and ceremony are at the heart of student success. While ENC 1101 introduces students to some of the basics of academic writing, such as paraphrasing and citing sources, ENC 1102 – particularly project three – underscores the importance of writing to students’ academic and professional careers. Students learn that by writing well they gain agency, power and authority. This is an important lesson and we are committed to celebrating students’ success at completing this rigorous two-course sequence.”


The program itself is successful as well.


The First-Year Composition program at USF was awarded the prestigious Writing Program Certificate of Excellence Award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). This recognition is given each year to those schools whose writing programs show a commitment to excellence.


The selection committee wrote: “The University of South Florida’s First-Year Writing Program has an innovative My Reviewers tool that allows for faculty and students to see feedback across time. The assignments are well-sequenced across the courses and the structured, common syllabi still allow room for instructor choice. It also includes multimodal composition and a call for social action.”


All the more reason to see what the students have to say about such topics as bullying, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, human sex trafficking, racial profiling, water conservation and homelessness, to name a few.


“Social Action Day gives all of us, as teachers and champions of our students’ work, a chance to highlight the excellent and insightful work that our students do,” said Susan Gail Taylor, a doctoral student and graduate teaching associate who teaches rhetoric and composition and also serves as committee chair of Celebrate Student Success. “Our students invest a lot of time and agency in these projects and we want to celebrate their efforts in a very concrete way on this day. By taking them beyond the classroom walls, their social action projects have even more meaning and relevance.”


Nancy Lewis, an adjunct instructor in the English department added, “What is known as ‘Project 3’ presents composition students with the opportunity to address a controversial social issue with a persuasive message that leads to positive social change. The rhetorical argument generated by the FYC students takes the form of a research-based, thesis-driven academic essay that works in a synergistic relationship with persuasive media to reach a target audience. Students combine their academic and creative energy to craft an original title for their project, which then serves as the unifying theme for their plan of action.”


Original videos, web sites, blogs, posters, flyers, pamphlets, sidewalk chalk and letters to the editor are a few examples of the digital and visual media students create to influence a real audience of their choice.


For more information, contact Moxley at 813-974-9496 or Dianne Donnelly, associate composition director, at 813-974-4025.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.