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.