Maroon Institute for Writing Excellence honors faculty graduates at MSU

Contact: Allison Matthews

More than a dozen MSU faculty members are new graduates of a summer program designed to help them better incorporate writing strategies into class assignments. They include (front, l-r) Joanne Beriswill, Brian Counterman, Martha Barton, Kenya McKinley, Kim Smith and Gail Kopetz; (back, l-r) LaShan Simpson, Lesley Strawderman, Christine Cord, Jeffrey Haupt, Robert Green and Byron Williams. Not pictured is Holli Seitz. (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—More than a dozen Mississippi State faculty members are new graduates of the university’s Maroon Institute for Writing Excellence program.

Now in its fifth year, the three-week intensive institute trains teachers from a variety of university departments to modify course syllabi to incorporate more writing-to-learn strategies into class assignments.

The professional development program is part of “Maroon & Write,” the university’s quality enhancement plan—QEP, for short—to improve undergraduate writing and learning skills across all colleges, curricula and class levels. The QEP is required to maintain accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

As part of the 30-plus hour workshop held this month, participants read a variety of theory-related literature selections and took part in activities such as journaling, free-writing, peer-evaluation and reflective essay development. They will incorporate many of the activities they learned into the respective courses they teach throughout the academic year.

In addition to teaching one course that incorporates writing-to-learn techniques and a formal writing component, MIWE graduates will continue interacting with the QEP staff throughout the school year for ongoing support.

“We ask a lot of our faculty participants. They learn new strategies for incorporating writing in their classes and they challenge their pre-existing ideas about how writing assignments and student engagement can and should work in their classes,” said Deborah Lee, who co-directs the Maroon & Write QEP with English Instructor Ann Spurlock. “The faculty who are chosen for participation in the MIWE are committed to enhancing their skills as a teacher and care passionately about their students’ success.”

“Working with such dedicated faculty is truly an honor,” Lee added.

LaShan Simpson, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering, will apply enhanced writing-to-learn concepts this fall in her biomedical materials course for upperclassmen.

“A lot of classes already have writing components, such as the term paper, but I’ve learned to incorporate writing in small instances earlier in the semester,” Simpson said.

She explained that the concept of “scaffolding writing” allows students to start out with smaller writing assignments and build up to larger papers, gaining feedback for drafts along the way.

“This program has put me back in the role of student, and I’ve been able to test out the free writing and informal writing myself before having my students do it this fall,” she said.

Robert Green, undergraduate coordinator for the Bagley College of Engineering, said he has always given writing assignments as part of his engineering administration course, but he has been interested in making assignments more effective.

“This year my students will be working on a white paper, similar to what professionals would prepare for their bosses,” he said.

In recognition of their participation, graduates received a commemorative framed certificate, T-shirt and portfolio embossed with the Maroon and Write program’s logo.

In addition to Simpson and Green, this year’s MIWE summer graduates and the writing-to-learn courses they’ll be teaching during the upcoming academic year include (alphabetically):

—Martha Barton, instructor of biological sciences teaching special topics in biological sciences.

—Joanne Beriswill, assistant professor of instructional systems and workforce development teaching graphics and web design.

—Christine Cord, postdoctoral associate in food science, nutrition and health promotion teaching food law.

—Brian Counterman, associate professor of biological sciences teaching population genetics.

—Jeffrey Haupt, professor of art teaching painting survey.

—Gail Kopetz, instructor of music teaching foundations of music education.

—Kenya McKinley, assistant professor of sociology teaching social work with communities and organizations.

—Holli Seitz, assistant professor of communication teaching elements of persuasion.

—Kim Smith, instructor of curriculum, instruction and special education teaching middle level literacy.

—Lesley Strawderman, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering teaching industrial ergonomics.

—Byron Williams, assistant professor of computer science and engineering teaching software architecture and design paradigms.

Learn more about MIWE and Maroon and Write QEP at, and

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Friday, May 26, 2017 - 10:34 am