7 February 2022

Hi everyone,

I simply don’t know where to begin. Cahners? Late adds? Ice? Snow? Missing students?

I’ll start with some good news:

  • NU now has the contacts for student mental health services on the Canvas landing page, so there’s that. (And if you want to turn your students on to headspace for some mindfulness, they get it for free here.)
  • our coffee hours are up and running – some on Zoom and an upcoming tent-ed adventure. Watch for these!
  • WP post-doc, Tabby Espina won the CCCC Scholars for the Dream Travel Award
  • 6 of our post-docs are going to give talks for the program this semester (more info soon)
  • We’ll be making a call for fall innovation classes (ENGW1113!) soon.
  • Aja Martinez is doing a workshop for WP/English instructors this week. Register here.

Some neutral news:

  • The summer scheduling preference form is forthcoming
  • Calls are out for the spring CATLR conference, and proposals are due tomorrow (I know, it’s a quick turnaround, but a fairly painless process).

And the less neutral:

We were all spammed by a handful of students who forgot to register and wanted to get into our classes in week 3. I appreciate all of you sending these folks to our magician, Jennifer (and not letting them sit in your class).

Cahners is getting mixed reviews. Yes, some folks like it (I insist that these people are in the even-numbered classes), and some are tolerating it on a good day. What I like about it is seeing so many WP instructors over there. . .even if we have been voted off the island. Aaron Block opened up this discussion in our most recent WPC meeting (notes on the meeting here). WP classes are historically in barely-working classrooms, so we’ve started a Google Doc, and we’re hoping to get your specific documentation  on specific classes. Word has it that we might make a case for ourselves . . . if you’ll take the time to enter your building and class # and how it does not meet your pedagogical needs, we’ll collect them and make something pretty to hand off to one of our Fac Senators . . .

WorkDay. It’s a nightmare – and while we might each be battling with it in some way, Sarah Green is wrestling with that bear daily, so show her some love next time you see her.

It’s merit season for TPs. If you see a TP, know that they, too are wrestling with a bear of their own.

While I always encourage my students toward narrative and away from bullet points, I now see their appeal – especially when thoughts seem disjointed, and making connections between things is hard. Thanks for reading anyway.

I hope you and yours are well.


22 November 2021

Hi everyone,


Wow, here we are. The beginning of the end. And if you read no further, here’s wishing you a hard-won Thanksgiving break, knowing full well we are all neck-deep in grading.


But if you do choose to read on, there is some info ahead. I’ll start with a general headache and move on to more uplifting news.


Students have just wrapped up registration, and to continue with the strangest-year-ever-theme, the numbers were unexpected. Well, in all honesty, we really didn’t know what to expect. Many first-year students are finagling new and creative ways to get credit for FYW. AWD for Humanities is FULL (first time since the current iteration of AWD), and there are plenty of spots in the Business AWD. Go figure.


Is this a long, cheeky way to say we can’t yet complete spring scheduling? Yes, yes, it is.  We’ll have a better sense of the numbers over the next few days and will head back to the drawing board next week.


In more certain news, thanks to everyone who has participated in and attended the AWD Speaks series, as well as our informal coffee hours. The coffee hours will resume after Thanksgiving – one on Zoom, one in person (fire pits!). Plus, thanks to Aaron Block for securing the WP a tent on the last day of classes. We’ll have an informal social celebration on Wednesday, December 8 from 4-7. Pencil it in – I’m thinking pizza and conversation. Watch for an email with more specifics.


Our official end-of-term meeting, full of updates, grade resolutions, and a professional development workshop with Dr. Jamila Lyiscott (aka, Dr. J), is happening on December 13 from 10-1. On Zoom (if you didn’t receive your Zoom invite from Rachel last week, let her know, please: molko.r@northeastern.edu)


I’ll end by offering a big congratulations to Qianqian Zhang-Wu on the publication of her book: Language Myths and Realities: Journeys of Chinese International Students (published by Multilingual Matters)! Please save the date for a book-launch party (co-sponsored by The English Department, The Asian Studies Program, and The Writing Program). The launch party will happen on Zoom on December 15 from 1:30-3.


Looking forward to seeing you all virtually and in person over these final weeks of the semester and offering many, many thanks to you and yours this week.




18 October 2021

Hi everyone,

Welcome to mid-October and that mid-October feeling. As many of you have noticed, for our first-year students especially, the bloom is off the rose. They’re tired, overwhelmed, struggling to stay awake (in my class, anyway). And we’re tired too – our pandemic-vigilance and teaching attentions make my caffeine addiction more important than ever.

But, we’re also moving forward and doing amazing work. Many of us have welcomed / are welcoming graduate students from ENGL7392 in to our classes for observations and conversation, we’ve begun scheduling our own fall peer-observation routine, and our working groups and committees are up and running. Regarding our initiatives, we received amazing, thoughtful, and challenging proposals for our first year innovation courses (2 piloting in spring) – these should be announced soon.  The AWD Speaks series has begun  – Tom Akbari and Bret Keeling shared engaging insights and resources, and many thanks for their generosity. The next AWD Speaks is scheduled for October 21st. Join us – grab your lunch (I did that annoying on/off with my camera while I was chewing . . . ), ask questions, up your AWD game. The racial literacy reading group continues to meet every other week, and I can report that Mel Pearson is threading the needle through two remarkable books and challenging us to think about our personal actions and pedagogies.

Regarding your professional connEXion pods (far be it for the WP to be left out of the clever-naming game), they are yours to organize in person, online, whatever works – each group will have a $50 food/coffee budget, so let us know if you’d like a gift cards to Tatte or Panera or DD. The focus of these pods is yours, but if your group has concerns or questions or ideas that anyone on the directors committee can help with, feel free to invite one of us to a gathering.

A few resources and announcements to add to our overloaded brains:

  • Progress Reports (instructions: https://service.northeastern.edu/tech?id=kb_article&sys_id=177b24361b6ab09420bb8661604bcbec)  are due; please take a moment to complete them.
  • Spectrum, NU’s student-run literary magazine, is welcoming submissions from students (feel free to share with your classes), faculty, and alumni.
  • Part 3 of GSWAG’s Communication Workshop ( Creative Community Building in the Classroom) is today, October 18th from 3:30-4:30. These are fantastic – and each is free-standing, so no need to have attended parts 1 and 2. The zoom link: https://northeastern.zoom.us/j/95427661836 
  • Did you know that there is a Supporting Student Mental Health guide for faculty? Yup, I’m attaching it below. Instead of clicking through various web sites and tracking down info, it’s gathered here together – and I am keeping a copy on my desktop.  
  • We are expecting strong WP class enrollments again this spring; you can expect an updated (streamlined?) Course Preferences form in your inboxes soon.


Many thanks for bringing it day after day. And thanks for reading,



24 September 2021

Hi everyone,

I’ve been having some masked adventures in Holmes Hall during these early days of the semester. Two adventures, in particular, spring to mind. One was delightful: I ran into a Jonathan Osborne . . . former PhD student and WP instructor currently teaching in Louisiana. He was visiting for his hooding ceremony, and it was so great to talk to him and see that NU was circling back to acknowledge the importance of some in-person rites and rituals.

On a more embarrassing note, I tried to help KJ Rawson find his own office. Yup, Professor Rawson was strolling down our halls and I thought he must be a lost student! He was very gracious, and I can only assume that I’ll have many encounters like this over the coming semester. Some of us will recognize each other, and some of us won’t. And what about our students? I stare at their faces on the Photo Roster and try to match them up to those masked beings in my classroom. My neurons are clearly confused.

Among other confusing issues is enrollment. We can all sense from our own campus movements that campus is dense, and I spent some time wondering if this was me – did it simply seem dense because it was so underpopulated last year? Nope. It’s really dense – in the freshman class alone (and including NUin Boston), we’re looking at an extra 1700+ first-year students! And if about 40% of these students place out of FYW, and 0% of students place out of AWD, what do our class enrollment numbers look like in a few years?

So AWD is about to explode, and I’ll use this occasion to make a pitch: check out the AWD Speaks series, which is beginning in October. Your attendance can strengthen your AWD chops, support your colleagues, be a springboard to think about teaching new “flavors,” or even begin your AWD training. In addition to the always-in-demand 3302 (Writing in the Tech Professions) and 3304 (Writing for Business Admin), we’re seeing a surge in 3307 (Writing in the Sciences). We’re also interested in hearing from folks who might be interested in 3311 (Writing for Pre-law).

Need more ways to get your AWD-groove on? Consider joining our Working Groups on 3307 or combined-majors, throw your name in the ring for teaching a location-specific, interdisciplinary AWD (Seattle and Portland, ME) or take one of our AWD experts out for coffee.

As we mentioned in our Beginning of Term meeting, we are full up on initiatives this fall, and you’ll be receiving some news and reminders over the next week via email: soliciting syllabi, NUInnovation Proposals, and working group calls. You’ll also hear more about our inaugural Professional Development Pods.

For those of us with email fatigue, we post all of this information on our NU Commons site. If you haven’t already registered there, you can go to northeasterncommons.org, click “sign in” in the top right corner, and log in with your NEU credentials.

You’ll find various resources, descriptions, and information about service and professional Development opportunities (go to the Documents tab of our Writing Program group). 

And if you’re not sure where to find something, drop our amazing AD, Rachel Molko, a note: molko.r@northeastern.edu

More soon,


Post 1, September 8, 2021

What’s Keeping Me Awake–(or to poach Sloane Crosley’s brilliant title: “I was told there’d be cake”)

Classes and Staffing

I am writing this at the end of August, and here’s what is keeping me up at night. Yes, the Delta variant, yes, the ways NU seems to be saying NUFlex without saying NUFlex, yes, my coffee intake.

As of last week, we had 20 unstaffed writing classes (and there is demand for more). Our enrollment is up (think deferrals), our faculty pool has changed (last year, we had international opportunities for hiring because of remote learning), and both of these are also true at every local university. The good news is that NU pays more than most ($7400 a course). The bad news is that we teach on weird schedules. While much of university-world functions on the T/TH, M/W/F schedules, NU does not. This makes it hard to find folks who are teaching at a variety of places.

I am keenly aware of our amazing teachers and how lucky we are to have each of you. Outside of the Teaching Professor and Post-Doc searches, I’d estimate that I’ve spent 4 full days on Zoom interviewing people. Another few collecting CVs and tracking down recommendations, and working with NU’s wacky schedules. (Update on Sept 6: we are fully staffed).

Transfer credit

Every Friday, I get an email from a very nice man named Tom Morgan – and he shares a pile of transfer syllabi. Between when that email arrives and early the next week, I evaluate syllabi for FYW transfer credit. Every week, 10-40 syllabi come my way, and again, I am so grateful for our program – there are some god-awful FYW classes out there.

Great ideas

In addition our brilliant teachers and goals and curriculum, I am also amazed and excited by the ideas that you all generate. From the Racial Literacy Reading Group and the Communities of Practice, to the AWD working groups (3302 and 3304), an emerging post-doc program, and an inaugural role in NU’s Summer Bridge, we are remarkable. But I also know we are tired.

How can we keep this momentum and innovation up? By saying thanks for starters, I think. So thanks to Melissa Pearson, Julia Garrett, Christen Enos, Ted Moss, Rachel Molko, and everyone who participates/participated in these initiatives. We’re planning to post reports of and opportunities for these groups here in the Commons. And this fall, we’re planning Professional Connection Pods, a 3307 Working group, a 3308 combined-major working group, and yes, it’s time to update the FYW Sourcebook. You are all welcome to be part of these adventures.


I had the opportunity to speak with many of you this summer in a variety of virtual venues: one-on-one Zoom chats, phone calls, coffee hours, and various committee meetings. And I noted a shared sense of exhaustion. I hear you. And each of you had great suggestions for how we might mitigate this: yup, the buzzword for the 2021-22 academic year is transparency. In many ways, NU Commons will facilitate this. The WPD team will be keeping this site updated (thanks, again Rachel Molko for the heavy lift) so please let us know what you’d like to see more or less of. I’d also welcome you to reach out directly with concerns or questions – y’all have my email address, but feel free to call or text me at 978.578.1218.

And thanks to Sebastian Stockman – the master of newsletters – who encouraged me to share some of my Writing-Program-Director surprises. These regular postings won’t be as entertaining (or as well-written) as his, but I am studying his archive for tips.

In the meantime, welcome to NU Commons, everyone. Take a minute to meet and welcome our new folks, and please, be in touch.