Showcase of Student Writing pushes ‘engaged learning’

By Ian Gough

Michael Day, director of the first year composition program, peered across a sea of posterboard displays as eager students huddle in front of him and hope to hear their names called.

It was Day’s fifth year hosting the Showcase of Student Writing. The showcase took place at 3 p.m. on April 11 in the Duke Ellington Ballroom in the Holmes Student Center.

The showcase, according to it webpage, is for students from various first-year English courses to create, in teams or alone, a display that explains their research topic in a “visual/textual manner.”

Day said the goal was for students to present a visual argument and then develop ideas and contending opinions by interacting with the broader public, which they can later use to craft a final, polished research paper for their respective English courses.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences funded the event in an effort to push “engaged learning,” Day said. Day was thankful for the support.

“We’re mixing students with teachers outside of the walls of their classrooms,” Day said. “Different environments cause people to learn in different ways.”

Alison Lukowski, chair of the first year composition program and this year’s coordinator, said each composition course had about seven groups and the winners from the class would continue on to the showcase.

“It gives them the sense of being in a larger community than a classroom,” Lukowski said. “They get a new perspective on how many students share similar interests.”

Lukowski was responsible for arranging the event and was happy with the turnout. This year, there were 20 instructors involved, as well as nine judges, Lukowski said.

“The most important factor is a student’s passion for their topic,” said Katy McCord, first year composition instructor and a judge at the event. Last year, McCord’s students won first place, third place, and audience favorite. “The attitude of the students is just as important as their displays are. When you’re teaching about visual rhetoric, the look of it is just as important as the topic.”

The winning team in this year’s showcase consisted of Matea Pejic, freshman political science and history major, Ruth Motyl, freshman biological sciences major, freshman accounting major Allison Mckenzie and Micah Haji-Sheikh, freshman music education and illustration major.

Their project was titled “Libraries in the Community,” and their display was a shelf full of books. Some books opened to reveal facts about libraries and the funding for their expansions and were given titles like, “The Community with the Library Tattoo,” which played off of Stieg Larsson’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

They credit their victory to their original topic, which was something that not many people knew about.

“If you are going to use a common topic, approach it in new way,” Lukowski said.

Lukowski and McCord agreed that the best projects were often the ones which were thoughtful, or relevant and meaningful to the creators.

“We thought it would fall apart and were really stressed the whole time,” Haji-Micah said.

The winners and runners up will be receiving cash prizes at the First Year Composition Awards ceremony, which will take place on April 29.