Maroon Institute for Writing Excellence faculty encourage the value of writing

Fourteen Mississippi State faculty members recently completed the university’s Maroon Institute for Writing Excellence program aimed at improving undergraduate writing skills. The new graduates include (standing, left to right) Hui Wan, Iva Ballard, Andrew Tripp, Patty Ann Bogue, Lindsey Peterson, Michael Seymour, Gregg Twietmeyer, Matthew Zimmerman; (seated, left to right) Gay Williamson, Ling Li, Richard Human, Amelia Fox, Varun Paul and Margaret Ralston. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Fourteen Mississippi State faculty members from nearly a dozen university departments are leaving a three-week intensive summer program with inspiration and insight to improve undergraduate writing skills.

As part of the recent sixth annual Maroon Institute for Writing Excellence workshop, educators from a variety of academic disciplines received training on ways to incorporate written communication into their class assignments for improved student engagement, learning and assessment.

Along with reading theory-related literature selections, participants engaged with one another on a daily basis during journaling, free-writing, peer evaluation and reflective essay development activities. They also received support from writing coordinators with the university’s Maroon and Write Quality Enhancement Plan Office.

Designed 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.

Ann Spurlock, director of composition and an instructor in MSU’s Department of English, leads the QEP office.

“We are really excited to celebrate the hard work and commitment of these 14 faculty members who have chosen to join the MIWE family and utilize writing strategies they’ve learned as part of their ongoing teaching philosophies,” Spurlock said. “This year’s group members have been all over the map in terms of the departments they represent. MIWE launched in June 2013, and we have worked with a total of 73 faculty members representing every college at MSU.”

Spurlock said MIWE graduates will teach one QEP course that incorporates writing-to-learn techniques and a formal writing component throughout the school year. Along the way, they will receive support with planning, teaching and grading from the Maroon and Write QEP Office.

Amelia A.A. Fox, an instructor in MSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, is among this year’s MIWE faculty graduates. This fall, she plans to incorporate writing assignments into her Computer Applications in Agriculture course, where students will learn how to “troubleshoot live” by disassembling parts of donated computers.

“My goal is to help my students feel powerful with technology. I want to give them a safe environment where they can get comfortable breaking things, so they will know how to fix things,” Fox said. “I also want them to build ethos about technology and decision-making, so we will be talking about human factors of technology and privacy issues.”

Fox said the MIWE writing component of her course will challenge students to write a personal philosophy or belief statement on the current and anticipated role of computer technology and agriculture in their lives.

Through a partnership organized by MSU’s Center for Community-Engaged Learning, Fox’s students also will participate in a weekly teleconference to share resources and troubleshoot with students at Hinds Community College. Fox said her students will develop critical thinking and reflective learning skills by producing a technical report on the collaborative experience.

“Good writers compartmentalize problems well,” she said. “We learn by doing, sharing and teaching, and this course will help students see that through writing.”

In addition to Fox, MIWE graduates and the writing-to-learn courses they will be teaching during the 2018-19 academic year include (alphabetically):

—Iva Ballard, Department of Marketing, Quantitative Analysis and Business Law, Business Statistical Methods II.

—Patty Ann Bogue, Department of Management and Information Systems, Organizational Communications.

—Richard Human, Department of Music, Music Theory I.

—Ling Li, Department of Biological Sciences, Plant Data Resources and Tools.

—Varun Paul, Department of Geosciences, Water Resources.

—Lindsey Peterson, Department of Sociology, Social Research Practice.

—Margaret Ralston, Department of Sociology, Social Research Practice.

—Michael Seymour, Department of Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning.

—Andrew Tripp, School of Architecture, Architecture Design I-A.

—Gregg Twietmeyer, Department of Kinesiology, Ancient and Medieval Sport History.

—Hui Wan, Department of Sustainable Bioproducts, Biocomposite Application and Manufacturing.

—Gay Williamson, Department of Biological Sciences, Animal Biology.

—Matthew Zimmerman, Department of Kinesiology, Communication Management in Sport.

For more about the Maroon and Write Quality Enhancement Plan and the Maroon and Write Institute for Writing Excellence, visit

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