What I Learned at the University of Central Florida

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Last week I had an opportunity to visit with colleagues and students at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. It has been some years since I was last there and I was amazed to see how the campus has grown—up to 65,000 students! As a kid growing up in Florida, I had only the U of Florida and Florida State to choose from (and Florida State was just moving to co-ed!), so seeing all the new campuses that have grown up over the decades is impressive indeed.

I was glad to see the Department of Writing and Rhetoric (no longer part of English) thriving and met some grad and undergrad students who told me the Department’s mission resonated with them:

Everyday life in the 21st century involves composing and understanding complex messages in multiple media and in varied contexts. In order to address challenges related to composing, rhetoric, and literacy in school, workplace, civic, and community settings, Department of Writing and Rhetoric (DWR) faculty engage in innovative research and teaching, often collaborating with students as well as community and campus partners to undertake this work. Additionally, as a department, we provide academic and public leadership on writing-related issues.
Students in our undergraduate and graduate programs receive a comprehensive education in writing and rhetoric that enables them to communicate effectively, persuasively, and ethically across a range of civic, professional, and educational contexts.

349516_IMG_0397.jpgThe Department offers a BA in Writing and Rhetoric and an MA in Rhetoric and Composition as well as a Professional Writing Certificate—and oversees the First Year Composition Program and The University Writing Center. I was on campus to address the Department faculty and students, and the person who brought me to campus thoughtfully let me out right at the door to the new building the Department occupies. I was to wait for her to return from parking, but once inside I spotted The Writing Center and made straight for the entry. The young woman at the reception desk welcomed me and introduced me to grad student tutors and gave me a tour of the light and airy—and spacious—Center. Throughout this post are a few photos of the Center.

From the Center, I got to tour the Department offices and take a look at the curriculum. I was particularly impressed with their outcomes statement and with their assignments for both Writing 1101 and 1102, especially when I got to read examples of student work. For the first course, I read essays that had been published in their Stylus: A Journal of First-Year Writing, notably Julie Wan’s “Chinks in My Armor: Reclaiming One’s Voice”; Shravan Yandra’s “Note-Taking Involving Native and Modern Languages: A Detailed Analysis of My Code-Meshing”; and Jaydelle Celestine’s “Did I Create the Process? Or Did the Process Create Me?” These essays engaged me thoroughly—they were well thought-out, well written, and managed to balance traditional research with personal experience offered as (powerful) evidence.

Students I spoke with were enthusiastic about the courses they were taking, which is always refreshing when those courses happen to be required. Writing about the program, one student said 349518_IMG_0400.jpg

The writing program is really a journey into the art and science of communication. I thought I knew what to expect, but I was utterly and pleasantly surprised. This isn’t your mother’s comp program—this is ‘take it to the real world’ stuff.

The day I visited UCF was November 6, mid-term election day. I spoke with students about their writing and how they hoped it could help them get their voices heard. Some had managed to vote on campus, but others who came from out of state had not voted: they promised to look into absentee voting in the future (!). But what an uplifting experience it was to visit yet another outstanding writing program, to know that in the face of so much negativity and division and, yes, even hate, that writing teachers are keeping faith, continuing to engage and inspire writers to write honestly, think critically, and speak their own truths.

Image Credit: Andrea Lunsford

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.