This Spring, WIC will host three workshops. Read more about and register for each event here!


Dr. Ciara Kidder (Ecampus Instructor, College of Liberal Arts, School of Psychological Science) will be leading our first workshop of the term. Register for the event here. Learn more below:

Talk title: “Using Perusall to engage students with readings”

Date, time, place: Friday, April 12th, at Noon via Zoom

Description: In this lunch conversation, Dr. Ciara Kidder (Psychology) will talk about how she uses the social annotating software Perusall to engage students with readings.  Through Perusall, students annotate readings collectively, with each student commenting on the reading itself and responding to other students’ responses. Dr. Kidder will discuss how she uses Perusall to have students practice summarizing information, making connections to other materials, and explaining themselves and their thinking.


Angelique Pearson of Oregon State’s Ecampus will provide a technical support session for instructors interested in Perusall. Attendance of the previous Perusall workshop is NOT required for this workshop. 

Register for the event here. Learn more below: 

Event title: Persuall Workshop, Part II: Technical Support

Date, time, place: Wednesday, April 17th from 3:00-4:30 via Zoom

Description: Ecampus Course Development and Training Specialist Angelique Pearson will be available to provide technical support for instructors wanting to use Perusall in their classes. Whether you already use Perusall or are looking to implement it in your classroom, this workshop will provide the guidance you’re looking for. 


Georgia Wright and Casey Dawson (WIC Program Graduate Intern and Assistant, School of Writing, Literature, and Film) will be hosting a workshop on how to reduce anxiety around writing in the classroom. 

Register for the workshop here. Learn more below:

Date, time, place: Wednesday May 22nd, from 3:00 – 4:00 PM via Zoom

Description: Research shows that low-stakes writing exercises in the classroom provide many benefits to students, including better course knowledge retention. But negative experiences with academic writing, perfectionist tendencies, or low confidence can make many students feel anxious about writing in any context. In this co-led workshop, Georgia Wright and Casey Dawson will discuss student writing anxieties and share strategies for making your classroom an inviting, judgment-free space for writing. Attendees will gain practical tools to improve their students’ relationship to writing in the classroom and beyond, and to increase student participation in writing activities.

Nominations for the 2024 COWA’s are due at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 30th, 2024!

Read more about the nomination process and access the nomination form below.


Every spring term, the Writing Intensive Curriculum program hosts the WIC Culture of Writing Awards in the Disciplines (COWA). These awards promote an academic culture at OSU that values the teaching, practice, and modeling of writing excellence across the disciplines. WIC’S COWA encourage our undergraduates and broader community to value the unique qualities of excellent writing within the disciplines.

Winners receive a $100 prize, $50 of which comes from the WIC Program, and $50 from the nominating unit. Winners will also be invited to submit their papers to ScholarsArchive@OSU, Oregon State’s thesis and dissertation archive.


Any paper that was written by an OSU student for an undergraduate course (including non-WIC courses) is eligible for COWA nomination. COWA nominees are nominated by participating departments. While the nomination process takes place within each unit, COWA awardees are selected by faculty within each discipline.

To nominate a student paper for our Culture of Writing Awards:

  • Complete the nomination form and submit to Caryn Stoess no later than 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 30th, 2024. (To receive the award certificate in time for your college’s spring awards event, submit this form as early as possible and include the event information/date.)
  • After the award is processed, the $100 prize — $50 from WIC and $50 from the unit index noted on the nomination form — will be deposited in the recipient’s student account. Winners who graduate prior to June 2023 will be mailed a check.


If your unit would like to recognize a collaboratively-written paper, contact WIC Director Sarah Perrault ( for more information.

Dr. Scott Graham’s “AI Has Entered the Chat: Promise, Peril, and the Future of Writing in Higher Ed” Talk (Recording Linked) 

Instructors and students alike are increasingly aware of the ways generative AI technologies are changing writing and higher education. This term, WIC invited Dr. Scott Graham (University of Texas-Austin) to discuss how instructors can navigate uses and misuses of artificial intelligence (AI) in the classroom. In “AI Has Entered the Chat: Promise, Peril, and the Future of Writing in Higher Ed,” Dr. Graham, who uses AI to study health and bioscience communication, reviews the many ways students and instructors alike are using generative AI technologies (including Chat-GPT) in and beyond the classroom. 

In the talk, he highlights potential benefits and drawbacks of AI use, and shares ways that instructors might employ large language models (LLMs) as an electronic pedagogical resource in the writing classroom, as well as tips for designing assessments that facilitate students’ learning about the writing process. He also discusses the many limits and drawbacks of this tech, including the ways that LLMs produce false information and sources through “hallucinations,” as well as the dangerous data collection and storage methods used by major AI tech companies. 

You can watch the recording of Dr. Graham’s talk here

Dr. Scott Graham’s workshop “ChatGPT in the Classroom: Practicalities & Pedagogies” (No Recording Available) 

Following his talk on using generative AI responsibly in the classroom, Dr. Scott Graham hosted a workshop titled “ChatGPT in the Classroom: Practicalities & Pedagogies.” In the workshop, he explained how generative AI technologies like Chat-GPT gather data and create outputs based on that data; he then led attendees through various prompt generation exercises using Chat-GPT, discussing the tool’s limitations and capacities along the way. 

In the first exercise, attendees prompted Chat-GPT to summarize a book or reading they had recently assigned to students, and then shared their observations on the AI’s outputs with one another. Dr. Graham then reviewed the basics of prompt engineering, the practice of developing inputs for the strongest possible outputs from generative AI tools. In the following exercise, attendees tested the limits of Chat-GPT’s ability to localize its outputs by prompting the tool to craft a letter related to issues in Corvallis and the Oregon State community.

This quarter, we were fortunate to have S. Scott Graham on campus for a talk, “AI has Entered the Chat: Promise, Peril, and the Future of Writing in Higher Ed,” as well as a faculty workshop, “ChatGPT in the Classroom: Practicalities & Pedagogies.” Both events were engaging and informative, and you can see the recording of the talk here. You can also read an overview of the talk and workshop here.  

In fall, I mentioned that extra funding is allowing WIC to offer our Faculty Seminar several times this year. This term, 18 faculty from 13 schools across 8 colleges completed the Winter 2024 Faculty Seminar–you can read about them here.  

We will be finishing the ‘23-’24 year with two more Seminar sessions in Spring, and we have a few spots left. If you are interested in Seminar but have not been nominated by your unit head, please direct them to the Faculty Seminar page and ask them to email your name to WIC Director Sarah Perrault ( 

This spring, we will also have our traditional spring workshop series. It will feature a workshop on how to use Perusall, a tech support session for Perusall, and another on creating an inviting and fear-free writing environment in your classes. Dates, times, and registration information for the events can be found here.
Finally, spring will be the time to nominate student papers for the Culture of Writing Awards, so please keep an eye out for exemplary student writing. Winning papers must be in the major, but do not have to have been written for a WIC class.

by Casey Dawson, WIC Graduate Assistant

TOP ROW: Dennis Bennettt (WIC Assistant Director), Casey Dawson (WIC Graduate Assistant), Sarah Perrault (WIC Director), Mike Blundgren, Jay Penry

SECOND ROW: Teresa Ashford, Ciara Kidder, Jenny Hutchings, Randall Palmer, Ingrid Arocho

THIRD ROW: Jenny Jackson, Lauren Seiffert , Mike Pavol, Nadia Jaramillo Cherrez (Ecampus Senior Instructional Design Specialist), Staci Bronson

FOURTH ROW: Stacy Rosenberg, Sam Logan, Sabine Huemer, Kristen Yax, Caiden Marcus-Brist 

BOTTOM ROW: Farid Bouya, Kenton Hokanson

This term, the WIC team hosted the latest round of our Faculty Seminar, a 5-week course for WIC faculty across OSU’s campuses to develop practical skills for teaching writing in their disciplines. Our weekly sessions included lessons on understanding the goals of a writing intensive course, how to evaluate student writing, designing summative writing assignments, and more.

The WIC team congratulates the Winter 2024 Seminar cohort on their completion of the course!

Along with Sarah Tinker Perrault, this year’s WIC team moderators and assistants included WIC Graduate Assistant Casey Dawson, WIC Graduate Intern Georgia Wright, WIC Assistant Director Dennis Bennett, and Ecampus’ Senior Instructional Design Specialist Nadia Jaramillo Cherrez. Nadia worked with our Seminar cohort on how to integrate writing exercises and assignments (including peer review and group discussions) effectively in the online teaching environment.

Across Canvas discussion boards and Zoom breakout groups, our participants engaged each other in conversations on the challenges of teaching writing today while sharing their own strategies for teaching, assigning, and assessing writing in their respective disciplines.

Congrats again to this term’s WIC Faculty Seminar graduates:

  • Farid Bouya (Math)
  • Sabine Huemer (Psychology)
  • Sam Logan (Kinesiology)
  • Randall Palmer (business)
  • Kristen Yax (Psychology)
  • Stacy Rosenberg (Forest Ecosystems and Society)
  • Michael Pavol (Kinesiology)
  • Ingrid Arocho (Civil Construction and Engineering)
  • Ciara Kidder (Psychology) 
  • Kenton Hokanson (Microbiology) 
  • Jenny Hutchings (Atmospheric sciences)
  • Staci Bronson (Integrative bio)
  • Chris Bulgren (Music education)
  • Caiden Marcus-Brist (Business)
  • Lauren Seiffert (Arts, Media, and Technology)
  • Jay Penry (Kinesiology)
  • Jenny Jackson (Nutrition)
  • Teresa Ashford (Human Development and Family Science)


Faculty are nominated to attend Seminar by their unit heads and receive a $500 honorarium for their participation. For the first time, WIC will be hosting Faculty Seminar during all 3 terms of the academic year, including 2 sections (one in-person at the Corvallis campus, and one virtual) this spring! 

Interested in attending spring’s Seminar but haven’t been nominated by your unit head? Direct them to the Faculty Seminar page and ask them to email your name to WIC Director Sarah Perrault ( 

Click this link to learn more about WIC Faculty Seminar.

By Sarah Tinker Perrault, WIC Director

Spring is exciting and bittersweet—exciting because of the spring lunch series and the Culture of Writing Awards, and bittersweet because some members of the WIC team graduate and leave for their next adventures.

This spring we had fewer lunch events than in previous years, balancing out a greater-than-usual number in winter (see especially the recording of a workshop on AI tools such as ChatGPT), but the lack of numbers was more than made up for in quality. We started out with Patti Sakurai leading a conversation about responding to student writing and finished with one led by Sydney Elliot on trauma-informed teaching. In between we had a roundtable of Fall 2022 WIC Seminar graduates talking about how they are applying their learnings from seminar in their WIC classes. You can read overviews of these events here, and find recordings of them on the Workshops & Talks page.

As for the Culture of Writing Awards, this year we are celebrating 28 students in 26 majors; you can read about them here.

I also want to celebrate the excellent work done by the WIC team this year. Thank you to WIC Operations Manager Caryn Stoess; to WIC Graduate Assistant Olivia Rowland; to graduate interns Madeline Hurwitz, Yvette Rosales, Jarrett Steel Webster, and Casey Dawson; and to undergraduate assistants Lucinda Garcia and Elizabeth Nguyen.

Looking ahead, we have some exciting things coming up.

First, thanks to some extra funding from the Office of Academic Affairs, we will be able to run the WIC Faculty Seminar multiple times in the next two years. The seminar is open to all OSU faculty at all campuses; if you are interested, please ask your unit head to nominate you.

In addition, thanks to extraordinary work by the team this year, especially by Olivia, we will soon be rolling out a redesigned WIC website. Related to this, we are in the process of developing a set of research-supported tip sheets on best practices for specific aspects of teaching writing. Each tip sheet will be paired with an annotated bibliography for readers who want to learn more about the research behind the tips. The first three tip sheets and annotated bibliographies on anti-racist pedagogy, inclusive pedagogies/disability studies, and socially just and feminist pedagogies, also by Olivia, will be shared on the new website. Others are in progress and will be added next year.

How to Give Supportive and Effective Feedback on Writing

By Olivia Rowland, WIC GTA

WIC began the spring event series on April 14 with a workshop by Patti Sakurai on effective feedback. Sakurai first shared how she structures and gives feedback in her WIC course, ES 350: Public Discourse and Writings on Race. Sakurai explained the importance of giving students feedback early on in the writing process. In her WIC course, she responds to students’ freewrites about possible paper topics to make sure they align with the assignment prompt and checks in with students frequently during in-class writing sessions. Once students reach the drafting stage, faculty and/or feedback peer is linked to discussions about revision strategies.

Sakurai then discussed in detail her strategies for giving written feedback. She noted that having discussions about writing conventions and strategies in class can reduce the amount of feedback students need later on. Sakurai also explained how faculty can make their feedback more efficient by using abbreviations in comments on drafts and giving students a key to decode those abbreviations. Her feedback emphasizes higher-order concerns like argumentation, analysis, structure, and evidence over lower-order concerns like style and grammar.

The workshop concluded with a list of sample comments Sakurai has given on student papers. Overall, she emphasized the value of assuming that students have something they want to say and using feedback to bring their ideas forward.

Watch the workshop recording here.

Applying WIC Principles: A Cross-Disciplinary Discussion by Faculty New to WIC

By Olivia Rowland, WIC GTA

On Friday, April 21, WIC hosted a roundtable discussion with a group of 2022 Faculty Seminar graduates. Bori Csillag (Business), Phil McFadden (Biochemistry & Biophysics), Kim Rogers (Kinesiology), Vaughn Robison (Fisheries, Wildlife, & Conservation Sciences), and Alex Ulbrich (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science) talked about their experiences as new teachers of WIC courses.

Each panelist began by identifying a teaching practice that has been particularly effective in their course. Multiple participants touched on the importance of flexibility, whether that be in assessment, late work policies, or the use of class time. Rogers and Ulbrich advised making time for students to write and workshop their writing in class, while Csillag has found success by implementing a four- to seven-day grace period for students to turn in assignments.

The discussion then turned to challenges panelists have faced in teaching WIC courses. One theme that emerged from their interactions was a tension between wanting to give students explicit instructions to set them up for success, and wanting to encourage students to challenge themselves to make their own writing decisions. Ulbrich and Csillag discussed the importance of letting students know at the start of the course that they will have to embrace ambiguity in the writing process. McFadden and Robison also suggested normalizing struggle by telling students that they are not alone, and that their peers face similar challenges in writing.

The event concluded with Robison discussing the importance of building students’ confidence in their writing abilities and Rogers explaining the benefits of focusing on progress over the final product in students’ writing.

Watch the workshop recording here.

WandaVision and the Trauma-Informed Classroom

By Casey Dawson, WIC Graduate Intern

For the last event of the term, Sydney Elliott hosted a WIC workshop titled “WandaVision and the Trauma-Informed Classroom,” where she shared how she incorporates superhero stories and narrative-based learning techniques into her writing classes. She discussed how superhero narratives, like those found in Disney’s WandaVision TV series, can be implemented across the curriculum to give students accessible tools to explore their personal traumas and narrative structures, while also cultivating safety, community, and fun within the classroom.

Elliott also used the story of Marvel’s Scarlet Witch character to highlight the complex ways that trauma can manifest in one’s actions and self-image, helping faculty to recognize how trauma can manifest in the classroom and better preparing them to navigate these student relationships with care and empathy. Workshop participants then offered insights on how they incorporate both pop culture references and emotional well-being into their classrooms and assignments. 

Watch the workshop recording here.

By The WIC Team

WIC and participating units strive to foster a commitment to excellence in undergraduate student writing and recognize the value of writing across the disciplines with the annual WIC Culture of Writing Awards.

Participation in the Culture of Writing Awards has thrived since 2006, with 407 students having earned recognition and cash awards for either individual or team writing projects. This year, 28 awards were granted across 6 colleges. WIC would like to thank all participating units for their continued desire to recognize and reward outstanding student writing in the disciplines.

Congratulations to this year’s awardees!

Student Name(s)Paper TitleCollegeNominating MajorNominating Professor
Ryaan AkmalGrant Proposal Prospectus for the Testing of Bacteriophages Against Drug-Resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae in a Mouse ModelScienceBioHealth SciencesKatharine Field
Robert AveryCombinatorial Games on Knot ShadowsScienceMathematicsTevian Dray
Sullivan Bailey-DarlandModel effectiveness in time-resolved spectroscopy: new statistical approaches to uncertainty and model selection for global analysisSciencePhysicsEthan Minot
Mckenzie BartlesBlavatsky, Olcott, and Theosophy: Appropriation or AppreciationLiberal ArtsReligious StudiesStuart Sarbacker
Samuel BassetModern Day Snake Oil: Science-based recommendations for US policy makers regarding stricter regulation of homeopathic products in the modern marketplaceScienceBiochemistry and BiophysicsLauren Dalton
Gabriel BendatA Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Demarcation of Indigenous Territories in BrazilAgricultural SciencesEnvironmental Econ and PolicyChristian Langpap
Samantha CaltabianoRoll for Initiative: Dungeons & Dragons as Contemporary FolkloreLiberal ArtsAnthropologyDrew Gerkey
Taylor CockrellNew Zealand’s Subtropical North Island ClimateCEOASEnvironmental SciencesAndrea Allen
Jordan Denbo, Joshua Spencer, & Renee WaldrenThe Effects Of Laptop’s Distraction On LearningLiberal ArtsPsychologyMei-Ching Lien
Cydney DiazAEC 442 Agricultural Business Management Final ExamAgricultural SciencesAgricultural and Food Business ManagementJames Sterns
Jade EhmigMemories of DescendantsLiberal ArtsHistoryBen Mutschler
Charlotte EppsExploring the Growth Habits of Sweetpotatoes (Ipomoea batatas) in the Willamette Valley of Western OregonAgricultural SciencesBioResource ResearchKatharine Field
Emily GallegosQuality of Life for Farmed FishAgricultural SciencesAnimal SciencesElisa Monaco
Casandra GuileyBethel Obesity Prevention: Centering Culture as a Protective Factor Adaptation of a health education program for Indigenous women in rural AlaskaPublic Health and Human SciencesPublic HealthAshley Vaughn
Adriana GutierrezThe Viewer and the Spectacle: How the “Sensitive Monster” is Born in The MoonstoneLiberal ArtsEnglishMegan Ward
Makeana JohnsonChanging ChildcarePublic Health and Human SciencesHuman Development and Family SciencesLori McGraw
Madelyn KennedyDoes multi-ingredient pre-workout supplementation improve strength training performance when consumed prior to a workout?Public Health and Human SciencesKinesiologyMike Pavol
Taylor LinsdayZeolite 5A: Synthesis and Characterization of Structure, Composition, Purity, and PorosityScienceChemistryKyriakos Stylianou & Christine Pastorek
Zoe MoultonThe French Aristocrat and the Spanish Gypsy: Historiographical Perceptions of Female Guitarists in Nineteenth-century Spain and FranceLiberal ArtsMusicKimary Fick
Ziani PaizSubirrigated Bottomland Ecological Site in the Shortgrass PrairieAgricultural SciencesRangeland SciencesPat Shaver & Claudia Ingham
Rose RobertsCoffee and Climate Change: Predicaments and Possible Solutions for Farmers in Latin AmericaAgricultural SciencesCrop & Soil ScienceDeanna Lloyd
Hunter SapienzaBlood Electrolyte Concentrations for Loons in Rehabilitative Care Housed in Pools of Varying SalinityScienceBiologyMeta Landys
Channon SchuergerWhere the Lost Fantasies Go: The Lasting Effects of College Social ExperiencesLiberal ArtsSociologyAllison Hurst
Zoe ShulevitzMental Health[care]: How Increasing Health Insurance’s Mental Health Coverage Effects Frequency of Mental Health Related Hospital Visits and Suicide RatesLiberal ArtsEconomicsPaul Thompson
Ojas TendolkarDisplay Block Validation PaperEngineeringElectrical and Computer EngineeringRachael Cate
Austin ThorntonEvidence on the Matter of My Parents; Exhibit BLiberal ArtsCreative WritingJennifer Richter

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.

By Olivia Rowland, WIC GTA

Vicki Tolar Burton was the WIC Director until 2019, having directed the program for almost 30 years. In addition to making WIC into a sustainable and flourishing program, Vicki was a faculty member in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film. In the following interview, she discusses the early history of the WIC program, how it has changed over time, and what factors make it successful.

Olivia Rowland (OR): How did you originally get interested in WAC [Writing Across the Curriculum]?

Vicki Tolar Burton (VTB): My interest in Writing Across the Curriculum grew out of the various types of work I did as a student and in my twenties. I became interested in workplace writing and in how students could prepare for being writers in their field of work.

In one job, I was a Labor Law Administration Advisor with the U. S. Department of Labor in Washington, DC. Union members—miners, auto workers, etc.—would write to the Labor Department and describe problems with their unions. I would research similar cases and write back with information about how that problem had been handled under the law. The challenge was to send accurate information that was understandable. Often the lawyer reviewing my letters would change the language to confusing legalese. This is where I became fascinated by the complexity of writing for audiences and the importance of effective writing in the real world.

OR: When you came to OSU, what was the status of the WIC program at that time?

VTB: The WIC requirement was approved by the Faculty Senate as part of the new Baccalaureate Core in 1989-1990. The class of 1994 would be the first class required to have a WIC course. The WIC requirement had been well designed by a faculty group led by Lisa Ede. They secured funding for a half-time director and early training sessions for faculty and brought national experts on teaching writing to campus to work with faculty. Two other internal directors followed Lisa in 1990-92.

In 1993, I was hired in a national search to direct the program. One strength of the young program was that a writing intensive course was required of students in every major, to be taught by faculty in their major. It was my good fortune to guide faculty in discovering the best ways to teach their majors to write in the discipline. When I arrived, many departments had their WIC courses in place, but others did not.

OR: What was your role in establishing the program?

VTB: When I arrived, I learned that there were faculty in multiple colleges committed to teaching their majors to write in the language and genres of their discipline. My role was to help the departments that did not yet have their WIC courses get those courses designed and approved, and then to train as many WIC faculty as possible in the best practices of teaching writing in the disciplines. Every department met the challenge of the spring 1994 deadline.

OR: I imagine that requirement would push people to get things moving!

VTB: That’s right. My first invitation from a department to work with them was Animal Science. They invited me to go to the coast with them for a retreat to revise their WIC writing assignments. All the breeding courses in Animal Science were WIC courses, so there was a poultry WIC, a swine WIC; there was mare and foal WIC, which was one of my favorite ones. It only met in the barn, so all the writing was done in the barn. I went to the coast with them, where they worked hard on their assignments, getting feedback from me and from their peers. For me as the new director, this was an inspiring start with dedicated faculty. I have loved working at a land-grant institution because I relish the real-world-ness of the things our students study, like working with animals.

OR: How did WIC change over your time as director?

VTB: When I came, the university had 13,000 students. So it’s more than doubled in enrollment. And that’s huge, because if we must have WIC seats for every undergraduate student who’s going to graduate from OSU, in every major, it’s a challenge for departments to keep generating more seats. I admire and appreciate the effort that some of the fast-growing majors have made to be nimble and adapt quickly and keep offering their students robust training in writing.

Also, we’ve had many, many new majors added, and each one must offer a WIC course. I found it exciting to work with faculty developing WIC courses in new majors, which are often on the cutting edge of research in their field. I learned so much!

The course approval system has also radically changed. When I came, many professors didn’t have computers. All of the Bacc Core course approval, including WIC, was on paper, and it went from person to person through campus mail. So, you can imagine how long that took for a course to work its way through to approval. Now everything is electronic, and proposals move quickly (most of the time) through review and approval.

Another big change was around 2006 to 2010, with the push for explicit learning outcomes in every course. I worked with WIC faculty volunteers who got together and turned what had been WIC guidelines—sort of a bulleted list of things that you had to have to be a WIC course—into learning outcomes to be met and assessed in each writing intensive course.

Another change, over time, is that we’ve seen, in WIC classes, more collaboration and team projects. WIC has a requirement for 2000 words of revised individual writing, so that can be challenging for course design. Many heated discussions have ensued, but national research and feedback from the workplace suggests that it is important that students not graduate from college never having written and polished a fully developed document in their field.

OR: You mentioned that some of the changes in WIC were in response to the university. I’m curious if there were any changes in WIC that were in response to, or connected to, larger changes in WAC as well?

VTB: I believe that every WAC program is local. So, I tried to stay informed, I went to conferences, I read the articles. I tried to keep WIC updated with current research. But the structure of the program was strong, and we didn’t have to do the kind of complete redo that some places did. Really, it’s remarkable that the program has been so sustainable, and I think it’s because that first group of folks just did a great job with designing it. It doesn’t just rely on the goodwill of faculty in the disciplines to take time from their own research, and take time from their own content, to teach their majors to write. Here, it’s a university-wide effort.

OR: You also mentioned that a lot of the changes in WIC were challenges as well. Were there any other big challenges you faced?

VTB: For the first almost 10 years I was here I did everything by myself on a .5 FTE. I was also tenure-line faculty in English. A WIC challenge was that when the university is growing, there are more and more faculty to train, courses to approve. I was doing everything. I didn’t have help for the seminar; I didn’t have help in reviewing courses or consulting with faculty.

One of the biggest and best WIC changes was getting a GTA and getting that funded. Having a WIC GTA was wonderful, because I wasn’t alone. I had someone to talk with about the program and someone to help with the work, help with the newsletter, help with the course reviews. It quickly became clear that being the WIC GTA was a good experience for the grad students who were doing it, and it gave me an opportunity to mentor folks in writing program administration and writing in the disciplines.

OR: Moving on from challenges, what would you consider to be your biggest accomplishments or successes?

VTB: I think sustaining the program, strengthening a sustainable program. Again, it was the structure, the design, and I came in and just had that. As a result of that strength, I think our program came to be seen in the university as a model for other new programs. I would frequently hear people say, “Well, we just want to follow the WIC model.” What does that mean? It means faculty collaborate to get a structure set up ahead of time. You have financial support; you’re not trying to do it for free. You hire someone with expertise. And the program has a purpose that is vital to the education of students. These are the key things that make it possible for someone to direct the program.

I think it’s an accomplishment that we trained hundreds and hundreds of faculty in research-based approaches to teaching writing in the disciplines. That’s big.

Another big accomplishment would be our collaboration with the Writing Center on the film Writing Across Borders, in which we invited OSU international students to talk about how they learned to write in their own countries and discuss challenges they have faced as writers at OSU. I met with the leadership team of every college at OSU and gave each unit chair or head a copy of the DVD for their faculty. Only one refused to accept it. The film has also had national impact. We gave away copies of the DVD at national conferences, and 10 years later there were still graduate students from other universities coming up to me at conferences saying, “Oh, I saw you in Writing Across Borders!” Writing Across Borders won an international documentary film award, thanks to the brilliant artistry of Writing Center coordinator Wayne Robertson, who wrote and directed the film.

Finally, WIC has been responsible as a program for developing a culture of writing at Oregon State. We work hard to develop strong writing in the disciplines, to celebrate writing, to support writing. And we use the language of a “culture of writing,” for example, in our awards. Every OSU undergraduate has to do the hard work of writing and revising; they are part of a culture of writing.

OR: How did the Culture of Writing Awards get started? Where did the idea come from?

VTB: I just thought of it. “What if we recognized the best writing in each major at OSU?”

One of my firm beliefs, and I think this is one of the reasons the program is successful, is as much as possible, make WIC grassroots: in the departments, in the majors, in the faculty of the colleges. Not something that’s done from above. Not something that’s done to the faculty by the administration or the English department. It’s done with them, in support of them.

Thus, the experts in the majors, the faculty in the majors, identify and recognize their top writers for that year. In lots of ways, it is up to each unit how that happens. I think there’s so much value in empowering the faculty to make those kind of choices and to take pride in recognizing their own students.

OR: Where do you think WIC and/or WAC are headed in the future?

VTB: I don’t have much to say about this one, because I made a decision when I decided to retire that the future belongs to the people doing the work, and that I was not going to try to shape things. I have a few thoughts. But I’m not in the environment. I’m still interested, and I follow things, but I don’t know what’s best for WIC or OSU in the present moment.

The current WIC Director, Sarah Perrault, has done a great job of taking WIC training online. For years, we had only in-person training, which has a kind of immediacy and collegiality that faculty really value. But I think with the way the university is changing, with Covid, and with so many online courses and people teaching online courses who aren’t in Corvallis, there must be opportunities online. That’s a direction that I see WIC going, and I’m glad that Sarah has the expertise to do that.

Another trend that I think could take off, but is administered in a different way than our program, is the idea of a vertical structure of writing in the disciplines. So, every major has not only a WIC course, but they’ve got all of these other writing courses down the line. That takes a level of administration that might be hard at OSU, unless just a few majors did it. It’s very labor-intensive. But it’s interesting, and it’s ideal if some majors would do it voluntarily. Many in the field of WAC believe it’s the next step to getting everybody prepared to be communicators in their major fields.

OR: Do you see any connections between your feminist scholarship and your WIC work?

VTB: Yes. I’m so glad you asked. One quality of feminist scholarship is valuing narratives. I see every WIC course as having its own narrative; the faculty member develops it with a narrative in mind. Because of my feminist work, I think I was open to seeing things as not, “How are you going to fit into this structure?” but “What’s the story of this course?”

My feminist work also sensitized me to issues of equality, diversity, gender, and race—especially in majors where women and other marginalized groups are underrepresented, because writing can make students feel vulnerable.

One thing I did occasionally—not very often, maybe two or three times in the almost 30 years I was director—was to call out inequitable writing assignments. I would not approve them. I would work with the faculty member to revise the assignment so that it was fairer to all students.

In one instance, a faculty member refused to change an assignment that could humiliate women in his class. I wouldn’t say he designed it to humiliate women, but that was a likely outcome. It was an engineering class, with two women and a hundred men, and the two women were international students. His setup was that students would analyze a case study, and then in the next class meeting, the case study would have to be acted out in class. This case study required two women to act out “a cat fight” in the workplace in front of the class, using cursing and distasteful labeling. The professor justified the assignment by saying that such things really happen in industry. And besides, he reported, “The class loved it.” Which is to say the male students loved it. I reported his refusal to change the abusive assignment to Affirmative Action.

It was also important not to allow myself, other women, or any WIC faculty to be bullied. My feminist approach to teaching and to the workplace gave me a sense and an ability to recognize bullying and to resist it on my own behalf and on behalf of others.

The good news is that there are champions of diversity and equity, as well as champions of writing, across the OSU campus, and I met many of them among the hundreds of WIC faculty I worked with over the years. The exceptions may be memorable because they were few and difficult, but the generosity and goodwill of the WIC faculty forms my main memory.