UTPA starts Writing Across Curriculum Initiative
Posted: 11/11/2003
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The Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Task Force at The University of Texas-Pan American is on a mission to make sure all UTPA students keep up their writing skills in the classroom in all disciplines.

The WAC Initiative, officially launched Sept. 24, is being supported and coordinated by the UTPA Writing Center. Judy Davidson, director of the Writing Center, said this interdisciplinary initiative is designed to encourage student writing, reading and critical thinking skills.

"The purpose of WAC is to raise awareness of the importance of effective writing within university and professional environments; to establish and maintain a variety of university-wide programs that prepare faculty and reward their endeavors to encourage and assist student writing; and to assess the overall effectiveness of these programs," Davidson said.

The WAC Task Force was appointed by Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo, provost/vice president for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, assistant vice president for Undergraduate Studies, in December 2002 in response to the concern on campuses all across the country about student weaknesses in writing, reading and critical thinking abilities.

Davidson said the goals of WAC are to increase faculty involvement and expertise in writing course components; provide support for faculty interested in incorporating writing-to-learn/learning-to-write components into their courses; to address the writing needs of specific disciplinary genres; to facilitate the exchange of effective WAC program activities; and to evaluate WAC strategies.

Dr. Sheila Pozorski, an anthropology professor and a member of the WAC Task Force, said the initiative is important and encouraged all faculty to get involved.

"In order to function realistically in a university setting such as ours, with a strong emphasis on SCH (Student Credit Hour) production, the WAC Task Force and initiative will need to help convince and remind faculty that writing assignments are important, while also offering workshops and consultants to help our faculty implement their writing assignments in a time-effective manner," Pozorski said.

Pozorski said she always tries to implement creative and stimulating writing assignments in her classroom, as does most of the faculty in the Social and Behavioral Sciences department.

In one of her archeology courses - based on a series of archaeological problems that supply students with a set of data to be analyzed using appropriate archaeological methods - the students are allowed to work in groups, but each must submit a final written report describing his/her results and conclusions.

"I critique the report as if it were an article submitted for publication, and the student has the opportunity to address my critical comments," Pozorski said.

Davidson said the Task Force has already come up with strategies for the initiative, including providing introductory and in-depth faculty workshops; facilitating the inclusion of writing components in graduate and undergraduate courses; hiring and training student writing fellows to assist faculty with writing needs for disciplinary genres; and hiring consultants on a periodic basis to assist in meeting the objectives.

Members of the WAC Task Force include: Margaret Allison, College of Business Administration; Dr. Ann Chenoweth and Dr. Mark Noe, College of Arts and Humanities; Davidson, University Writing Center; Dr. Veronica Estrada, College of Education; Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, College of Science and Engineering; Dr. Rose Marie Penzerro, College of Health Sciences and Human Services; and Pozorski, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

WAC offered its first faculty workshop "Time-Effective Grading of Writing Assignments," Nov. 4. The workshop was facilitated by Chenoweth and Dr. Rebecca Jones of the Department of English, and addressed the issue of faculty members who are often concerned about the paper-grading load they carry with the increasing class sizes at UTPA.

"Many faculty members are interested in learning ways to incorporate writing in their courses," Davidson said. "The WAC Task Force believes that as more faculty members become engaged in offering writing in their courses, others will desire to do the same."

The task force will offer its next faculty workshops, Feb.4-5 with two WAC authorities, Dr. Rich Haswell and Dr. Glenn Blalock, both professors at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi. Two more workshops are scheduled for the spring.

For more information on the WAC initiative or workshops call Davidson at 956/316-7974.