Restructured first-year writing class crafted to be ‘cutting-edge’

Blugold Seminar receives national recognition


HITTING THE BOOKS: Kidist Wessel brainstorms ideas for an upcoming research project. © 2014 Jessie Tremmel

Story by Jessie Tremmel, Staff Writer

Shevaun Watson can greet each of her 15  freshman writing students by name.
That’s thanks in part to a newly restructured first-year composition class at UW-Eau Claire.

Watson is an English professor and the director of composition. She said she saw the hard work she has put in the last five years pay off this academic year.  She worked with the English department chair and Blugold Commitment to create the new Blugold Seminar in Critical Reading and Writing to replace an outdated course model.

“We have a cutting-edge writing program that is completely updated, is intellectually more robust and rigorous and now it’s standardized,” Watson said. “Everyone was rowing a boat in a different direction, which doesn’t mean that what individual faculty members were doing in those courses wasn’t good, it’s that it wasn’t collectively adding up to something that was really recognizable and accessible.”

The Blugold Seminar in Reading and Writing won the Writing Program Certificate of Excellence from the national Conference on College Composition and Communication organization. Their March meeting will honor the new course.

Students coming in with no prior college-level English credit will take either WRIT 114 or WRIT 116, equivalent to ENGL 110 or ENGL 112, under the new course array. The course array requires students who have Advanced Placement exam credits to take WRIT 118. Transfer students coming in with fewer than four college-level English credits take WRIT 120.

Students can submit a portfolio if they think they have skills that better match a higher-level course.

While the course names are different, the content is the same in WRIT 114, WRIT 116, WRIT 118 and WRIT 120, Watson said. WRIT 114 and WRIT 116 are five-credit courses so classes can spend more time on coursework. The other two courses are fast-paced two credit classes.

Each section has a different theme, which reflects what the students will read and write about in the course, Watson said.

Sophomore Karissa Mueller took ENGL 110 last spring with Watson. The program was in its pilot phase, so the university listed the class as ENGL 110, but taught it as Blugold Seminar.

“I think it’s a great idea for there to be a set English writing class for incoming students to take,” Mueller said. “I know it is often stressed in high school, but not everybody comes from the same rigorous high school setting.”

Mueller said, as a broad field social studies education major she plans to use the skills she learned in the Blugold Seminar— such as using citations of sources to find more sources and writing for your audience — in her other classes. Her history capstone requires Mueller to write an annotated bibliography, a skill she learned in the Blugold Seminar.

“With my major it definitely applied a lot,” Mueller said. “Because I do a lot of writing through my classes, or later on, being a teacher I will have to write lesson plans and other things like that.”

Mueller said the Blugold Seminar introduces students to new skills and makes them evaluate learned skills.
Freshman actuarial science major Kateland Northcott is currently enrolled in Watson’s WRIT 114.

“I relearned how to read,” Northcott said. “I learned how to take notes and certain things will stick out now, which is so helpful.”

Northcott said the Blugold Seminar has introduced her to a new way of writing, one that isn’t as rigid as what she learned in high school.