Strenuous College Writing course a favorite

Ben Wolford

Denise Harrison will be the first to admit it: Her students think she’s an ogre — at first.

She teaches College Writing, but she doesn’t take the orthodox approach, which typically includes some reading and some writing.

Her students made a blog. And a website. And sponsored a food drive (and then two more). And did 15 hours of community service. And awarded $4,500 in grants.

“The first day we got into class,” said Amber Hunter, sophomore nursing major, “she told us we were doing something different.”

Just a little.

Not surprisingly, some students dropped.

“I always get this big revolving door the first week,” Harrison said. But after a couple weeks, she said, the students begin to appreciate the work they were doing.

Margaret Shaw, the coordinator of the English Department’s writing program, said things like multimedia assignments aren’t uncommon in College Writing courses, and service work isn’t unheard of.

“We encourage individualism in our teachers,” she said.

Harrison was awarded a grant through the Office of Experiential Education & Civic Engagement for $4,500, which she split three ways and awarded to three Akron-area churches at an award banquet Tuesday.

Her students developed the criteria for awarding each of the $1,500 grants, which will go toward helping alleviate hunger in Akron.

Hunger was the focus of the classes and their service activities this semester.

“I’ve always been an activist, and they have to write anyway,” Harrison said. “They might as well write about something that engages them, something that helps other people.”

Hunter said she never thought about food the way she does now. After watching the documentaries and reading the books and handing out food to the homeless, she knows more about hunger. She understands more.

“More people need to help. More people can help,” Hunter said.

And she’s let that idea shape her career goals.

“I want to be a traveling nurse,” she said, “go to Third World countries and help out.”

Contact Ben Wolford at [email protected].