Three described their program experience as humbling yet enlightening, and above all, practical.
The first six students in The University of Findlay’s Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing are expected to defend their theses and graduate in May.
How have these first few years progressed?
“My overall experience has been lovely… I’m kind of sad that I’m leaving,” said expected graduate Brittany Coomes, who singled out the program’s hands-on aspects and digital immersion as assets.
Launched during the fall 2013 semester, the two-year program was tailored to take advantage of several UF professors’ instructional talents in rhetoric and writing, and to fill a gap; there are no other higher learning institutions in northwestern Ohio that offer masters degrees in rhetoric. In fact, UF offers one of 10 such degrees in the state, and is one of only two private schools that provide it, according to Christine Tulley, Ph.D., who directs the program.
Tulley said enrollment illustrates there is a need for this kind of instruction. “We were supposed to only have 12 (students) in the fall of 2013 and we ended up with 16. And then we were only supposed to have 25 this year (fall 2015) but we’re at 33. So we’ve had a lot of interest and really high-quality applicants,” she said.
Soon-to-be graduates admit the reading material and assignments can appear daunting, but that the challenges have enabled them to exceed their learning expectations. They also say that supportive faculty have been integral to their success.
“I’ve done some of the hardest writing and thinking that I’ve ever done in my life, and in a really good way,” said anticipated May graduate Lauren Salisbury.
Coomes, Salisbury and Stephanie Ries also reminisced on camera:
The primary emphasis is on effective communication, but graduates leave the program with experience in multimodality and theoretical learning that can enhance work that ranges from teaching to legal practice.
Along with studying rhetorical tradition basics and learning methods for composition, students create their own websites to publish and promote their primary research and critiques using Adobe’s Dreamweaver; examine ancient Greek and Roman artifacts at the Toledo Museum of Art; produce videos; and practice memoir writing, among other activities.
This semester, Tulley noted that some are also taking part in an online course on Homer’s “The Odyssey,” which is being facilitated by Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies.
Salisbury said she most enjoyed an “ask the expert” assignment that required students to interview someone who teaches writing.
Coomes’s favorite activity was participating in the The Ohio State University’s Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives, which invites people of all ages to share their memories about learning to read and write.
Tulley said that while the program’s intent is to remain small and liberal, organizers deliberately choose students based on their diversity. Some are fresh bachelor’s degree earners while other are seasoned professionals. The population mix enlivens discussions and provides different perspectives.
Some students commute approximately 100 miles one way each week to attend classes, said Tulley.
“The classes are a blast. The students are great. They’re a very close cohort,” Tulley said.
“Come in with an open mind, because you’re going to learn things that are really mind boggling and that you’ll want to maybe challenge, or that challenge your own beliefs or misconceptions,” Reis recommended to new and prospective students in the program.
Salisbury, whose thesis examines the influence of common online teaching and grading tools, such as BlackBoard, on composition instruction, said new students will do well to “absorb everything and not be scared of it. It will make you rethink everything.”
“Read everything” assigned and suggested, Coomes advised for those pursuing this degree.
Judging by their final projects, expected graduates have followed their own advice. Salisbury’s thesis examines the influence of common online teaching and grading tools, such as BlackBoard, on composition instruction; Coomes’s thesis looks closely at how reading courses are taught at the college level; and Reis’s focuses on online writing center pedagogy.
After graduation, Salisbury and Coomes intend to enter Ph.D. programs, and Reis will be teaching at UF this fall.
Tulley said five of the six in this first MARW graduating class either have jobs or advanced studies lined up, which is the program’s aim; the introductory course lays that foundation by bringing in several speakers “with different careers who are doing something that you would need this degree to do,” said Tulley.
“I think the impression is that people are just getting this degree for personal enrichment. But at the end of the day, we want everyone to get a well-paying, full-time job,” or to at least enhance the jobs they have, she said.
To learn more about The University of Findlay’s Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing program, visit http://www.findlay.edu/liberalarts/rhetoric/.