By Sarah Tinker Perrault, WIC Director

This new yearly column will share news about WIC-related research by former and current members of
the WIC team.

Alex Mahmou-Werndli—former WIC Graduate Intern (2019-2020) and Graduate Assistant (2020-2021)—has had a bonanza year. In addition to being accepted to the University of Minnesota’s JD program and having an article accepted by a flagship journal in Rhetoric and Composition (details to be revealed next year!), he presented on another writing research project at the Writing Research Across Borders (WRAB) conference in Norway and will present on it again with other team members at the International Writing Across the Curriculum (IWAC) conference in South Carolina.

The paper Alex presented at WRAB is part of an ongoing project he began in 2019 with other WIC graduate team members, Matthew Fuller and Marisa Yerace, looking at experiences and perspectives of WIC Culture of Writing Award (COWA) winners. With then-WIC Director, Dr. Vicki Tolar Burton, they surveyed COWA winners. Questions covered their current experiences (such as what kinds of writing they do in their work, and what aspects of writing they find most challenging and satisfying) as well as their thoughts about WIC (such as how well it prepared them for their futures).

Marisa and Matt graduated in spring of 2020, but the survey responses were intriguing enough that Alex and Vicki decided to add interviews. When I arrived at OSU that fall they invited me to join them, and the three of us are now working with data from the interviews that Alex conducted with six COWA winners.

Alex’s paper in Norway was the first presentation to come from this research; it was titled “Transfer of Writing Practices from Disciplinary Classes to Professional Writing: Report on an Interview Series with Award-Winning Writers Across the Disciplines” and looked at genre awareness, composing processes/practices, and transfer of the WIC learning outcomes to professional contexts.

The next step, happening just as this newsletter comes out, is that Alex, Vicki, and I will be presenting as a panel at the IWAC conference in Clemson, SC. Here is our panel overview:

Panelists report on the rationale for and results from a survey- and interview-based
study on what practices and cultures of writing might be shaping the lives of alumni at a
large land-grant university. Participants were drawn from past winners of a WAC award
given to one student per year in each major across the university. Researchers asked
survey respondents (n=70) and interviewees (n=6) questions about the current writing
practices, genres, and audiences in order to test assumptions about writing implicit in
the writing outcomes required in every writing intensive course.

Vicki Tolar Burton will talk about the program and awards, about how and why we
celebrate writing, and about what we learn from celebrating writing.

Alexander Mahmou-Werndli will talk about study findings regarding the writing
ecologies that study participants experienced as undergraduates and as professionals
and graduate students within their disciplines.

Sarah Tinker Perrault will focus on a key theme in both the survey and interviews
regarding ability to adapt writing for widely varied audiences and will discuss
pedagogical implications.

I’ll report about the conference, and any further presentations or publications, next year.

In other research news, I had an article published in Technoculture, “Impact, Not Engagement: Deficit Models of Public Engagement in 4,681 NSF-Funded Abstracts for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.” This article might be especially interesting to science faculty who have students write to non-expert audiences, and curious readers can find it here.

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