The Celebration of Student Writing gives beginning English students a chance to express themselves visually, as well as through their writing.
The event encourages participants to use skills acquired beyond the classroom by giving them the option to write through art, music, video and interactive art installations, said Genesea Carter, a graduate student in the English department. Carter said she started the first event at UNM in 2009, and this year’s project includes work from nearly 900 students.
Audience members can participate at the event by interacting with the students or simply by leaving commentary on note cards offered at each exhibit, said Anna Knutson, event volunteer and teaching assistant for English 101.
“It is an intellectual exercise in the ways we can encourage and empower our students,” Knutson said.
In Marie Landau’s English 101 class, students prepare their projects by working in sub-groups to bring new ideas to the whole class. One of Landau’s assignments during the semester was for each student to write a short memoir, so for their Celebration of Student Writing project her students decided each of them would create his or her own aphorisms based on their memoirs, which they will present in an interactive piece on Monday. Audience members must try to match the individual aphorisms, which are printed on separate note cards, to the memoirs that they describe.
As for the visual part of the project, the students decided to focus on one particular aphorism taken from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “You can never step into the same river twice.”
Ari Gomez, a freshman in Landau’s class, said she is enthusiastic about the event.
“It’s a cool experience to see writing in a different way rather than just writing an essay, and to have this experience at a young age is really positive,” she said.
At first each group was relatively quiet, but it didn’t take long for them to start coming up with a variety of ideas to visually represent the words of Heraclitus. Some students decided to have the words of the philosopher written along the edges of the river, while others wanted to stick with the Halloween theme and incorporate a skeleton walking near a tombstone that displays the definition of the aphorism.
Eventually the students agreed on an image and decided who among them would take on responsibility in order to complete the project. Gomez said the decision-making process was new to many of the students.
“At first we were skeptical. We’re used to the structure of the class, and we always go into groups to be creative and get feedback,” she said. “But with this project we had to create our own structure, which at first was weird for us, but I really liked it and think the others did, too.”
Carter said in past years students have transformed their writing into a variety of mediums such as graffiti art, six-word memoirs, and a 6-foot paper mâché tree. Knutson said she has been working all semester with her students on projects to display at the event.
Although it takes many hands to coordinate such a large event, Knutson said the Celebration of Student Writings is essentially student-run.
“The goal is for the TAs to give their students room to come up with ideas and implement them into the greater structure of Celebration of Student Writing, and it is also about empowering them and giving them a chance to have their voices heard,” she said.
Celebration of Student Writing kicks off Freshmen Week, and it couldn’t be more appropriate because it is atypical for students to display their work so early in their academic careers, Knutson said.
Celebration of Student Writing incorporates this event into the curriculum as a way to encourage students to participate and become part of a community.
In this respect, Knutson said it becomes a bridge between freshmen and the larger learning community at UNM. Carter said she recognizes the importance of building a community for undergraduate students to display their work and hopes to expand the project.
“We really want to move this project outside the English department and invite teachers from other disciplines,” Carter said. “I also wanted to bring it here (to UNM) for retention rates, but students say, because of CSW, they feel that they have agency.”
Celebration of Student Writing
Monday, Oct. 31
11 a.m.- 2 p.m.
SUB Ballrooms A-C