The 2017 Composition Common Read–Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work

The Composition Common Read committee has selected Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work as our 2016-2017 text.

Callings is a compilation of 53 interviews with people who tell stories about how they came to do the work they do and how it brings meaning to their lives. The interviews were recorded as part of StoryCorps founder and author Dave Isay’s national oral history project.

About The Book

The book’s five sections–Dreamers, Generations, Healers, Philosophers and Groundbreakers– introduce readers to people of all ages in all walks of life who found their purpose in a career.

Some talk of their journey to find work in traditional professions as first-responders, nurses, doctors, teachers, clergy, factory workers, contractors and entrepreneurs.

Others–a sculptor, a blues singer, an artist, and an actor–discuss rewarding work in the humanities.

Still others share interesting, slice-of-life  stories about choosing less-common jobs: the street-corner astronomer, the salmon slicer, the beekeeper, the ink-removal specialist, the video-game inventor, and the bridgetender.

Though their earnings and workload vary, the people profiled in Callings share a common feeling of gratitude and happiness at finding, and sometimes falling into, a job where they make a difference.

Callings and the First-Year Student

Callings has much to offer our Composition students, who are more often than not, still deciding what they want to pursue as a major and career.

As these students discover themselves, graduate and find jobs, they will, like many of the people featured in the book, need to find meaning in whatever work that they do.

Even those who have declared a major may change it. According to the National Center for Education Statistics,  80%  percent of American college students change their major at least once. Data shows that on average, college students change their major at least three times (1).

Many of our young students have felt pressured  to declare a major, and may have made that decision in haste. They may struggle with feelings of failure when they realize that they aren’t interested in their chosen field.

For all of these students and those who come into UT undecided and more likely to dropout of the university or transfer (2), Callings may serve as a reassuring reminder that we don’t have to know what our “calling” is in order to find it. While some of the people profiled in the book knew what they wanted to do early in life, and found great satisfaction in a job, others pursued other careers and transitioned into the work they now do.

Callings in the Classroom

The Composition Common Read committee has a lot of ideas for using this text in our classrooms this fall. Visit our Common Read Blackboard page for assignment ideas, supplementary content, and more.   We also invite instructors to share their own ideas with us at the Blackboard site.

Desk copies are on order. Instructors interested in participating in the Composition Common Read should contact a committee member by university email.

(1)--NCES First-Time, Post Secondary Student Data, 2013.
(2)--Gordon, Virginia. The Undecided College Student: An Academic And Career Advising

Reminder! Shapiro Writing Competition

Faculty: Don’t Forget!

Remember to tell your students about the Shapiro Essay Contest and to encourage them to submit their best work.

Any piece written for an English course from January 2016 to the contest deadline of March 15, 2017  is eligible for cash awards.

Students may enter papers and projects on topics inspired by our Common Read text in two categories: Common Read Research and Common Read Non-Research. The Non-Research category includes multi-media and digital pieces.

Early Birds Can Submit Now

Students in Fall semester may wish to submit now through March 17, 2017 at 5 pm.

Submission Guidelines

Students should submit hard copies to the submission baskets already set up in the English Department office, FH 1500. No electronic submissions are accepted (except in New Media categories).

Electronic entries in the Common Read New Media category must be submitted by the instructor to the SHAPIRO 2017 DROP BOX in the Common Read Blackboard course. Hard copy submissions of both Common Read Research and Non-Research Writing should be submitted in the appropriate basket in FH 1500.

Please remind students to fill out the cover sheet completely when submitting their writing.  A copy of the cover sheet is attached to this email, and copies are also available on the contest submission tables in the department office. Information provided on the cover sheet is important for accurate judging and for notification of prizes!

Questions? Contact Suzanne Smith at suzanne.smith3@utoledo.edu

Danielle Allen Visits UT

Author Danielle Allen visited UT last week to discuss the importance of the Declaration of Independence with an audience of composition and political science students, faculty and administrators.

Danielle Allen addressed UT students on October 7, 2016.
Danielle Allen addressed UT students, faculty and administrators at the Driscoll Center Auditorium on October 7, 2016.

Allen’s book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, is the 2016 Composition Common Read text.

Students in 21 sections of Composition and in some literature courses are using the book in their coursework this semester.  Incoming freshmen in UT’s  students in UT’s Summer Bridge Program read the book earlier this year.

 

 

 

Join Us!

The author of our 2016 Composition Common Read is visiting our campus:

allen
Danielle Allen is a renowned political philosopher and MacArthur Genius with the powerful ability to connect us to complex ideas about democracy, citizenship, and justice. Whether speaking on American educational policy, equality and ethics in the digital age, or the nation’s founding documents, Allen is a bold, incisive scholar who challenges us to look beyond what we think we know.

Friday, October 7, 2016

4 P.M., Driscoll Auditorium

Free Admission by Ticket only

Email Deirdre.perlini@utoledo.edu for information and tickets

 

 

 

Presenting the 2016 Common Read: Our Declaration

The Composition Common Read committee has selected Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence by Danielle Allen as our 2016-2017 text.

Our Declaration chronicles Allen’s experiences teaching a close reading the 1,337 words of our nation’s founding document with her non-traditional students at the University of Chicago.

It was the first time Allen, now director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard OurdeclaraitionUniversity,  had read the Declaration so carefully and closely. Through the process of analyzing the short text with her students,  she came to understand it as a sturdy, persuasive document which uses rhetorical techniques to stake a claim of separation from mighty England.

More importantly, she and her students drew important conclusions about the main tenets of the Declaration which are often at odds– freedom and equality.  They are, Allen and her students found,  necessary to one another.

Through her analysis, Allen shows us how the Declaration’s language was perverted and distorted over time (especially after the Civil War), as key phrases like “separate and equal,” became “separate but equal.”

Reading and analyzing the Declaration of Independence closely , Allen tells us, is the means by which we can “bring back to life our national commitment to equality.”

Our Declaration can be used in many ways in our Composition I and Composition II courses.

First and foremost, the book is about writing and drafting an argument that creates a change. How did this group of writers led by Thomas Jefferson lay out their case against King George? How did they argue their case for equality? Allen shows us her analysis.

The November presidential election is also ripe for discussions of American ideals of equality, rights, and political empowerment.

Declaraion of

The book allows for

  • discussions of audience, genre and purpose when drafting an argument. Allen covers these briefly when making her argument that the Declaration is a memo addressed to multiple audiences (those in England and those in the colonies who would sign it).
  • lessons in rhetorical devices and choices. Allen points out that the Declaration is underscored by the narrative of King George’s wrongs and the colonist’s futile attempts to right them. The writers of the document made careful word and organization choices in order to make their logical case.
  • lessons in the revision process. Allen extensively covers multiple revisions of the text and includes images of various drafts with words and passages crossed out.
  • the study of group writing, an act of equality in the “relationships of the participants.” Allen focuses on the founders’ collaborative writing process,  which she terms “the art of democratic writing.”
  • an examination of the power of language and the power of “words as actions.” For instance, Allen devotes several pages to defining the words  “tyranny” and “tyrannt”–an exercise in word-precision. The founders used language to define the King as such, and thus, seal their argument.
  • lessons in close reading and analysis that will serve our students through their academic careers and into their roles as citizens.

Desk copies are on order. Instructors interested in participating in the Composition Common Read should contact a committee member by university email.

Faculty: Think Spring!

As we are wrapping up Fall semester, the Shapiro Committee wants to remind English Department Faculty to “think spring!”

Please remember to tell your students about the Shapiro Essay Contest and to encourage them to submit their best work from this semester.

Any piece written for an English course from January 12, 2015 to the contest deadline of March 18, 2016 is eligible.

Image courtesy of The Creative Commons.
Image courtesy of The Creative Commons.

Students may enter papers and projects on topics inspired by our Common Read text in two categories: Common Read Research and Common Read Non-Research. The Non-Research category includes multi-media and digital pieces.

Early Birds Can Submit Now

Students in Fall semester may wish to submit now through December 18 (last day of Fall semester); however, submissions are also accepted until March 18.

Submission Guidelines

Students should submit hard copies to the submission baskets already set up in the English Department office, FH 1500. No electronic submissions are accepted (except in New Media categories).

Electronic entries in the Common Read New Media category must be submitted by the instructor to the SHAPIRO 2016 DROP BOX in the Common Read Blackboard course. Hard copy submissions of both Common Read Research and Non-Research Writing should be submitted in the appropriate basket in FH 1500.

Please remind students to fill out the cover sheet completely when submitting their writing.  A copy of the cover sheet is attached to this email, and copies are also available on the contest submission tables in the department office. Information provided on the cover sheet is important for accurate judging and for notification of prizes!

Questions? Contact Suzanne Smith at suzanne.smith3@utoledo.edu

“Don’t Trash Your Trash” Event

cardboard owl
An owl re purposed from cardboard.

Composition Lecturers Sheri Benton, Carol Parsil, and Deidre Perlini organized and hosted the “Don’t Trash Your Trash” event on Friday, October 30, 2016.

Students reading the Composition Common Read text Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash  were invited to “FindART in TRAsh and Transform It.”

 

Prizes were awarded in three categories:

  • Best Halloween Costume Created with Recycled Materials
  • Best Work of Art Created from Trash
  • Best Poster Presentation on an Issue covered in Garbology.
garbol
A collage inspired by Edward Humes book, Garbology
common read garbage man
Composition Lecturer Deirdre Perlini and Kevin Upham pose with “Garbage Man,” his prize-winning sculpture. Upham created  “Garbage man” with plastic water bottles, old newspapers, an aluminum-can flower, and a pizza box.
iPhonecostumemade from garbage
Perlini and Michalea Brahaney,  who fashioned her iPhone Halloween costume entirely of trashed items. Brahaney took first prize in the costume competition.

 

Garbologycompetition
Emily Garrett and Sara Wawrzyniak with their prize-winning piece, “Stiletto Hanging Rack.” 

 

No Impact Man \ 2015 Shapiro Contest Winners

Congratulations to our Common Read winners for the Shapiro 2014-2015 Essay contest:

Common Read RESEARCH Writing:

  • Yasmina Ahmad
  • Cassidy Boyden

Common Read NON-RESEARCH Writing:

  • Yasmina Ahmad
  • Brittany Purie
  • Emily Davis
  • Emily Davis, Alexis Reihing, Megan Sheldon (group project Poster Session)

As the two top prize winners in the Common Read category, Yasmina and Cassidy will be invited to the Shapiro Writing Festival’s Gala Celebration & Award Ceremony to be held on May 1 in Libbey Hall. Congratulations to these students and to their instructors. Thanks to all of you for participating this year and for encouraging your students in their writing projects based on No Impact Man.

We hope you will join us again in the Fall for reading and writing about Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash

Using No Impact Man in Class.

2011 08 23_2775Here are some ways faculty can use No Impact Man in their writing courses.

For more curriculum ideas, visit the Composition Common Read Blackboard website.

 

Personal Writing  Ideas

  • At outset of book Beavan traces his growing awareness of how serious climate and other environmental problems are, and periodically, he walks readers through his own education on various issues, demonstrating a growing ecoliteracy—an understanding of the principles of organization of ecological communities and using those to build sustainable human communities. Students might write personal ecoliteracy narratives. what has brought them whatever level of environmental understanding they have?
  • At many points in the book, especially Ch. 9, Beavan notes the complacency, indifference, or sense of helplessness people often feel about environmental problems, along with how inured we become to environmentalist appeals.  Classes might be prompted to reflect on their own perceptions of environmentalism and its discourse, even the term “environmentalist.”  What has shaped those?  If there are negative or skeptical perceptions, what could be done by environmental advocates to counter these?
  • In Ch. 7, Beavan presents stories of certain objects that have imbued them with meaning, leading him to treat them with some reverence.For one assignment, students might write narratives presenting the history of some possession especially meaningful to them.
  • A waste diary—students could record their waste for one week, then possibly write essays  outlining a plan for reducing it. That project could potentially be enhanced by research.
  • Chapter 6 describes Beavan’s efforts at low-impact eating.  Students might investigate low-impact recipes and compile a cookbook aimed at environmentally concerned peers. Those so inclined might try cooking a few and reporting the results in essays, placing these in the context of Beavan’s book.

Research Projects

  • Compare web sites or other publications promoting awareness of climate change-which are most appealing and what makes them that way? This could lead to writing proposals for creating/revising a site to reach peers.
  • Identify environmental impacts of class work (including the “underlife” of  classes that exists in the midst of academic work)—then write proposals for a no-impact composition course, including possibly reflections on how such a scheme would affect learning.
  • Investigate locally produced food options, then devise a 250 mile meal plan for Toledo. This is a project that might be updated over the course of a semester—the menu in December would look very different than that of August.
  • In conjunction with discussion of water pollution in Ch. 9, invite a speaker from Partners for Clean Streams or Western Lake Erie Waterkeepers to discuss local problems with waterways and wildlife; further research to issues presented, produce informational documents on these.
  • Investigate university disposal procedures (perhaps especially of e-waste).

2014 Shapiro Contest : Common Read Category Winners

Our first Common Common Read essay competition was a success!

Students entered writing projects inspired by this year’s Common Read text, Ten Letters: Stories Americans Tell their President.

Judges selected four prize-winning pieces.

Congratulations to James Bowser and Mary Schwab, who took prizes in both categories.

Composition I Common Read Research Category

  • Mary Schwab “Don’t Forget about the Animals.” $300
  • James Bowser “The Sole Way of Ending Poverty in America.” $300

Composition I Common Read Non-Research Category

 

  • Mary Schwab “Rhetorical Analysis of ‘I Was Bullied in High School and Seriously Contemplated Suicide.” $100
  • James Bowser “Letter to UT President Lloyd Jacobs.” $100