New Honors English Course Adds Meaning to College Life

August 5, 2015

By Addy Kryger, Emily Castellanos, and Laura Cardno / School of Strategic Communication

Wendy Williams“Legally Blonde,” “22 Jump Street,” “Pitch Perfect”– all movies that provide incoming college students with fantasies about what the social aspect of college is like. They teach youth that Greek life is everything, that academics mean nothing, and that parties all day and all night are the norm.

However, Dr. Wendy Williams, TCU’s 2014 Honors Professor of the Year, teaches her students that the four-year college experience is made up of so much more. In an honors Intermediate Composition course that focuses on the different aspects of college life, students learn about the importance of identity, academics, diversity, careers, and spirituality.

Williams and her undergraduate teaching assistant, Brandon Newman, worked together to create this new English course for Honors students who have at least sophomore standing. They designed the class to cover visual rhetoric and persuasive writing in the hopes that the work done here will benefit the students’ writing for future courses at TCU. The course is very challenging, yet important, and current students have produced excellent work.

“I feel like the course is a team effort,” said Williams. “Brandon, the students, and I are on a semester-long journey to learn as much as we can about composition and rhetoric.”

Throughout the first half of the class, students read material on college life that covers topics like generational identity, social life, academics and diversity. This material comes from two required textbooks and additional readings that can be found on eCollege. The students then form groups to present arguments in class that focus on a certain college topic. These are called visual rhetoric presentations. The presentations always include an active learning strategy, which allows the rest of the class to experience the material and participate in the argument presented.

In the second half of the course, the students turn to writing arguments rather than presenting arguments. This is when the students learn the basics of persuasive writing, such as writing a thesis statement, introduction, etc., through workshops led by Williams. All of the students’ arguments focus on a topic related to college life. The course has five total writing assignments, which may seem like a lot, but each assignment builds on itself to create the students’ final research paper at the end of the semester. Students will present their research paper to the class.

Each student also composes an Identity ePortfolio, which consists of five entries that focus on various aspects of college life. The entries are written as narratives and can aid students in writing the narrative component of their research paper. The students seem to enjoy this course because it’s different from other English courses offered.

“I like this class because it’s more than just writing papers,” said student Natalie Means.

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