C.18: The Best of Three Worlds: Integrating Writing, Civic Engagement, and First-Year Experience Programs

Reviewed by Glen Southergill, Montana Tech of the University of Montana (gsouthergill@mtech.edu)

Chair: Patricia Bizzell, College of Holy Cross
Speakers: Morgan Reitmeyer, Regis University, “Contemplations in Action: Creating the First-Year Experience before the First Day of Class”
June Johnson Bube, Seattle University, “Framing the Themed Academic Writing Course as Civic Engagement”
Allen Brizee, Loyola University Maryland, “Civic Writing and #BaltimoreUprising: Health Equality, the Digital Divide, and Assessment in a First-Year Experience Program”
Respondent: Jenn Fishman, Marquette University

As any teacher would agree, technological issues are a difficult way to begin presentations. However, as a testament to the audience’s enthusiasm for the scholarship presented in session C.18, not a complaint about delays was heard. In sharp contrast, it is decidedly possible that voices of protest would have spoken had the powers-that-be tried to clear the room at the scheduled time of conclusion. Fortunately, no subsequent session appeared in the conference program to claim occupancy of our space.

Chaired expertly by Patricia Bizzell and contextualized insightfully by respondent Jenn Fishman, speakers Morgan Reitmeyer, June Johnson Bube, and Allen Brizee sought to answer the question, "how do we ensure high-impact outcomes when integrating writing, civic engagement, and FYE programs?”

Reitmeyer began by discussing the Regis Cohort Model. Taught by faculty from across the curriculum in a manifestation of Ignatian Reflection, Regis empowers student writing in its first-year program by way of an experience-reflection-action model. It asks students to undergo an event aligned with faculty interests, interrogate its meaning, and then engage with(in) the publics based on lessons learned. One poignant example surrounded rock climbing, which also provided fodder for students to consider their imprints on (and relationships with) ecologies less impacted by human development. Reitmeyer observed that the model was in some ways challenged by sizable logistical hurdles (rock climbing was now, by Student Life decree, no longer to be offered). Then again, those were not the only challenges (or revolts). Faculty have faced significant demands to maintain engagement for substantial periods of time. The intensive nature of the experience made finding simple reflection time for students difficult. But, for offsetting benefits, Reitmeyer observed that the diversity of experience and triangulation of several student perspectives contribute greatly to the formation of lasting student communities.

Next, June Johnson Bube explored a first-year service-learning experience program that endeavors to forge citizen stakeholders. In the formulation discussed by Bube, such citizen stakeholders can emerge from applying a Jesuit tradition of situating knowledge within a unifying framework—as understood by Loyal University Maryland (n.d.), for example, to include “cura personalis—the education of the whole person” and an emphasis on liberal arts—to first-year experience program design philosophies. Bube noted in a brief contextual comment that such an intersection between Jesuit values and rhetoric can be aligned with investigations of assent by Wayne Booth (1974). Bube further suggested the resulting application of Jesuit tradition and rhetoric often employs commonly accepted practices, such as nudging students to better analyze and apply audience and situational knowledges via scaffolded assignments. Students under this approach were challenged by design to thoroughly investigate questions, take informed and defensible positions, and reach out to varied audiences and stakeholders. Yet, in a humility also reminiscent of the Jesuit tradition, Bube refrained from offering a silver bullet. Instead, she noted, some improvements in additional writing instruction time, assessment tools, and integration of the various elements of the program could be made in future iterations.

Finally, in a shrewd demonstration that the unexpected turn of events that may occur within empirical studies can still yield impressive productivity, Allen Brizee discussed findings emerging from a study scuttled due to “forces far beyond our control.” Brizee’s revised work employed qualitative and quantitative approaches in an Institutional Review Board (IRB) sanctioned analysis (which could be expanded to read “chi-squared crosstabs analysis completed by SPSS” for the statistically inclined readers) of twelve service-learning outcomes: Active Citizenship, Social Responsibility, Jesuit Values, Career Skills, Refect(ions on) Faith/Spirituality, Consider(ing) Different Points of View, Think(ing) Reflectively, Communication Skills, Problem-Solving, Critical Thinking, Awareness of Cultures Off-Campus, and Think(ing) About Life Goals Differently. The study, Brizee observed, was in very early stages with “much work to do” included a promising “statistically significant” finding in which a population of service learning students demonstrated some higher rates of holistic (Jesuit) formation despite a context in which the FYE program to service-learning courses made “no statistically significant difference in the twelve learning outcomes from students who participated.

Consistently with Jenn Fishman’s invitations to continue to question and interrogate the exigencies and implications inherent to the panel, the conversation remains accessible to additional voices. The presentations demonstrated that high-impact paradigms include a strong sense of reciprocity otherwise easily overlooked. After all, interventions within the communities that bisect or extend the represented institutions can, in theoretically agreeable ways, co-transform authors, programs, and publics alike. In practice, as these scholars note, much work remains. And contrary to often-seen conflicts between epistemological slants, a variety of cultural, rhetorical, and empirical frames can co-exist in this important work facing the field. Especially with the addition of increasingly diverse voices, the best of worlds can grow to include fourth, fifth, sixth, and more points of view.

Technological delays did not deter the audience. Listeners in the room stayed. We should as a field remain.


Booth, Wayne C. (1974). Modern dogma and the rhetoric of assent. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Loyola University Maryland. (n.d.). History and mission. Retrieved December 12, 2016 from http://www.loyola.edu/about/history-mission(external link)

Created by KazukiN. Last Modification: Tuesday 03 of January, 2017 22:38:46 UTC by ccccreviews.