New Course Offerings this Spring

This spring the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric will offer five new courses in writing and speech. Several of the courses will be taught by our new faculty members.

Speech 37, Health Communication

Professor Darlene Drummond will teach a new Speech course this spring entitled Health Communication. The course is designed to provide a broad overview of health communication, a field that studies how communication strategies inform and influence individual decisions that affect health. In particular, the course examines the problem of ineffective communication in a health care context—moments when interactions between health care professionals and patients lead to miscommunication, insensitivity and even dehumanization. These moments of failed communication often result in dire consequences when prescribed medical regimens are not followed. 

Drummond's course will examine this vexing problem through various social science and communication theories which may be used to not only critique faulty communication but also forge positive strategies for effective communication in the clinical context. Drummond hopes that students will find the course empowering as they understand how they may improve their own health care outcomes by improving their communication skills.

Speech 26, How New Media Shape our Lives: Theory and Praxis

Professor Svetlana (Yana) Grushina will teach a new course that uses classical and contemporary rhetorical theory to analyze the radically new forms of expression that have been made possible by the Internet. For example, what does it mean to “speak publicly” in the online virtual worlds created in massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) like Second Life or World of Warcraft? And how do social media platforms like Twitter change what it means to be a citizen? “Understanding how we use and produce such media, why, and with what effects,” Grushina states, “is vital for everyone wishing to be an engaged and responsible citizen of and leader in the digital society.” Grushina hopes that students enrolled in her course will gain a new critical awareness of how these new media texts and technologies “shape and reshape our lives,” and become better communicators through an engagement with this new media.

Writing 9, Composition: Theory and Practice

Professor Sarah Chaney will offer a course examining the theory and practice of composition. Students will explore a number of key questions at the core of scholarly conversations on composition and come away with a rich understanding of the social, cultural and cognitive dimensions of writing. "I subtitled the course 'Learning to Write'," she states, "because that is, at the end of the day, what composition is really all about. We try to understand what writing is, how it is learned, and how it can best be taught. These are questions that matter to all of us, both within the field and outside of it."

As students study the evolution of composition studies as a discipline, Chaney hopes that they will gain greater insight into how deeply theories of writing inform the teaching of writing and how theory and practice mutually inform one another within the writing classroom.

Writing 8, Writing with Media

Technology and social media have changed how we think, write, protest and imagine community. Whether it be Vine, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat, these and other technologies have opened up new spaces of expression that have forever altered how we communicate. Professor Megan McIntyre will teach a new course this spring that examines this new landscape of media communication. 

While the course offers a sophisticated theoretical grounding in scholarly conversations about technology and writing studies, McIntyre states that the course will center on the hands-on work of creating, composing and participating within the new world of social media: "I want students to leave the course feeling more comfortable participating in digital discussions, especially those in public social media spaces like Twitter. I also want students to leave the course having made something. We’ll talk about theory; we’ll examine others’ essays, videos, memes, and posts, but the heart of the course is in making our own, in engaging issues that matter to us using media beyond the traditional essay."

Writing 44, Science and Technology Writing and Presentation

Professor Deanne Harper will teach a new course entitled Science and Technology Writing and Presentation. The course is designed to prepare students for the communication challenges of professional work within the STEM fields. Harper states that while professional communication is a critical component of success in STEM-related occupations, it is often not the focus of these disciplines' content courses. Her course will ensure that students gain familiarity with the various kinds of writing they will be expected to create within STEM occupations and also consider crucial questions about audience and design. These forms of communication include email memos, proposals, reports, specification documents, journal articles, presentation posters and multimedia presentations. Students will have the opportunity to incorporate work they are doing in their other courses, such as a capstone project or senior thesis. Harper explains that students will leave the course with a diverse portfolio of work that demonstrates the professional competencies needed for employment and success in the STEM fields.