Writing Across Communities

Group of 5 students posing for photo

Mission

Writing Across Communities at St. John’s University encourages and supports faculty and students who strive to use writing to sustain diverse academic, cultural, civic, and professional communities across and beyond the university.

As a program we are committed to these Writing Across Communities principles:

"First, the WACommunities approach regards language and literacy as human processes integral to building and maintaining human communities (cultural rhetorical ecologies). Second, it recognizes language diversity as a reflection of rich cultural connections locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. Third, it adopts the notion that the acquisition of academic literacy (and of standardized edited American English) should enhance students’ communicative resources, not erase them. Finally, it advocates culturally responsive approaches to literacy education across and beyond the curriculum" (Kells 2018).

As the program develops over the 2018-2019 academic year, watch this space and our Twitter for more ways to be involved.

Contact Us

Email Writing Across Communities at [email protected]

Undergraduate Writing Coordinators
Jade Colon
Maya Gwynn
Justin Melendez
Amber Reese
Cheyenne Ross

Doctoral Fellow
Sarah Glessner

Assistant Director
Sonia D. Singh

Assistant Director
Tina M. Iemma

Professor, English and Director, Writing Across Communities
Anne Ellen Geller
[email protected]

About Us

Jade Colon

Undergraduate Writing Coordinator

It took me some time to recognize my deepest passion. Prior to attending St. John’s, I faced many struggles that I would not wish upon anyone else. I constantly acted as a voice, advocating for both myself and others amid what I consider injustices. It was not easy having the unpopular opinion, I must say.  

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This was the question I was asked often and disliked so vehemently. Years ago, I truly did not know. “Well, follow your passion.” I knew that both writing and expressing my inner voice were my strong points, but how can this possibly turn into a career? I can recall one night, when I was deep in my thoughts (as most juniors in high school are, right?) and I basically had an epiphany. I realized that I can remain the voice for the voiceless, orally and through my writing, as an attorney! The branch of law that I prefer to focus on shifts on occasion, but I know that is where my passion resides.

St. John’s College of Professional Studies, Major: Legal Studies

Maya Gwynn

Undergraduate Writing Coordinator

With an affinity for short narratives and poems, my writing journey has completely shifted the way I approach a persisting challenge or a seemingly impossible decision. Introspection is a concept that I pretended to understand throughout my young adult life, that is until I put pen to paper in order to make sense of the overwhelming loneliness that comes with discovering yourself as an individual---not as a mother, daughter, friend, or sister.

Hiking, meditation, and music are the three primary channels through which I’ve been able to unravel myself and the abundance of questions that pop into my head on a daily basis---Why is there a girl, just like me, with the same level of skills and abilities, in a different country, that will never have access to the same educational opportunities that I do? Why is my close friend in danger of being sent back to his home country within the next two weeks? It is my sincere hope that my collaborations with WAC will provide a healthy and supportive environment for my co-coordinators and I to share creations and collaborate with a uniform goal of becoming more socially conscious and progressive as writers, artists, students, and so much more.  

St. John’s College of Professional Studies, Major: Human Relations

Justin Melendez

Undergraduate Writing Coordinator

I’m in my 5th year at SJU, now as an English major. I spent my first 3 years as a Chemistry major and the switch has been both exciting and tough. Prior to my switch, my writing was mostly consumed by schoolwork (which I rarely enjoyed), with a few moments of personal creative writing. While the driving forces behind my writing haven’t changed much, I’ve been enjoying my experiences with writing in academia now more than ever and using my time to learn about what I wish to pursue with my career. So far I’m really interested in Critical Race Theory, Counter-Narratives and Performance Studies and how these tools help me better define my own identity. I’ve also discovered a relatively new field called Heavy Metal Music Studies, which is really exciting! Besides that, I am big fan of the pop-punk/metalcore music scene, e-sports, and adventuring with food.

St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Major: English

Amber K. Reese

Undergraduate Writing Coordinator

If I had to choose one word to describe myself, it would be passionate. I’ve always been a person full of passion for whatever I do. One of my passions is writing and another one of my passions is learning. I’m excited to see how Writing Across Communities will enable me to exercise the two simultaneously.

During my time here at St. John’s I’ve learned and grown exponentially, both in and outside of the classroom. Classes such as Race and Ethnicity and Social Psychology force me to confront questions I’ve never asked and give me the platform to discuss things that I am the most passionate about. Affiliation with organizations such as Spectrum, NAACP, and Feminists Unite have helped me learn that I identify as a queer Black womxn and that even though on paper it may seem I face inherent marginalization, other privileges such as access to academia and being fairer skinned have shielded me from the oppression that I wish to help uplift others from through mental health, activism, and advocacy.

St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Major: Psychology Minor: Sociology

Cheyenne Ross

Undergraduate Writing Coordinator

My passion for writing didn’t develop until my freshman year of college when I discovered that writing could be used as a mechanism to learn more about myself within my different communities: Christian, African-American, woman, college student, young adult. Now that I have made this transformative discovery, I am currently working on combining my two passions: Reading/Writing and Education. How do I share my innermost “parts” with others and incite within them the same fire that I find within myself? How do I help them find the spark that is deep within and turn it into a forest fire? More importantly, how can I help those who feel like their fire has been extinguished because they are part of a certain community. I am interested in using writing as a means of helping all people find their voice and develop a sense of agency.

St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Major: English

Sarah Glessner

Doctoral Fellow, Writing Across Communities

Growing up in New York, having lived in four out of five of the City's boroughs (Queens, I'll get to you one day!), and beginning my higher education career in a diverse array of the City's universities have all shaped my identity and my professional practice in telling ways. I've worked with students in big public universities as well as small private colleges and, in each of these settings, have witnessed the power of writing in guiding students to discover, embrace and shape their identities and to engage in thoughtful dialogue with each other and the world around them. We are lucky to be living, working, and writing in a city as diverse, complex, and intense as New York.

At the heart of the work I have done -- both as a higher education administrator and instructor -- is a focus on the individual student's experiences. I believe that getting to know students, guiding them to an understanding of and ability to nurture their own strengths, and using writing to carve out an individual space in a seemingly oversaturated place and time is of great importance to educators and to the mission of Writing Across Communities.

Writing can happen anywhere -- in a classroom in midtown, on a southbound 1 train, on a park bench, beneath a desk lamp at 2:00am -- and any number of these writing practices are valuable and can contribute to a widening network of writers, learners, and citizens both in the academy and community.

St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Ph.D. candidate, English

Sonia D. Singh

Assistant Director, Writing Across Communities

As a sociologist, I continuously strive to understand individuals and the way in which the world works through my own research, writing, and every day experiences. I am a firm believer in writing as a gift because by stringing together words it creates a pattern of ideas that perhaps no one else has thought of before. It creates a dimension of endless thoughts and emotions. It is our words that provide an affirmation of our innermost thoughts. They are a confirmation to the world of how we view our lives, others, and ourselves.

We are all writers whether or not we necessarily think of ourselves as one. Writing is in large part what makes us humans; we strive to communicate and paint pictures with our words. I view writing as a transformative experience where collaboration exists to engage others in a conversation. I strive to encourage learners and writers to let their writing serve as a platform to emphasize and craft their individuality. I also aspire to create an environment where our words enable our thoughts to manifest into a reality.

My passion for learning has ultimately led to my passion for writing. I am most passionate about activism, specifically combatting social injustice and strutural inequalities, which I often exude through my own writing. When I can muster up the courage to leave my laptop, I am an avid reader, baker, and Netflix aficionado. I also enjoy long, luxurious walks to my fridge.

St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: B.S., M.A. Candidate

Tina M. Iemma

Assistant Director, Writing Across Communities

As someone who has always loved and honored words, I often find myself wanting to know the paths and stories of writers: What is happening in this writer’s life to lead them to use language in this way? How is the journey being experienced? What is helping and hindering their production of meaning? How are these conditions invoking action, reaction, response, passion, commitment, hope? Within my teaching of writing, I emphasize the very conscious, deliberate act involved in wholeheartedly engaging one another in a way that acknowledges the full person, the person whose literacies are informed by all aspects of their lives. Collaboration amongst learners seems most exciting when it promotes a sense of humility, a desire to listen, and an eagerness to guide. By creating space for multiple opinions and exchanges, we can encourage the expression of students’ voices in conjunction with those most dominant in institutions. Laboring together and approaching one another with sincerity, with shared ambition and with a common goal can create and support a community of engaged citizens. Doing such creates a place where rhetoric can be combined with ethics, where identification and civic responsibility become entwined—and this is where the true transformative and exciting powers of higher education in action/in its presence in the real world exist for me.

St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Ph.D. candidate, English and Adjunct Instructor, First-Year Writing

Anne Ellen Geller

Director, Writing Across Communities

As a scholar, my research considers what students and faculty write, how they write, and sometimes even turns attention to where they write and with whom. But at the heart of all of my research -- and all of my teaching -- is my desire to affect the institutionalized forces that can support students and faculty as they write or can keep them from writing.

I strive to meet learners and writers -- whether they are faculty or students -- where they are and hope most of all to develop and support communities of learning. I believe learners must actively do work together to build trust and confidence in one another so the classes I teach and workshops I lead are active, engaged spaces that use talk and writing toward relationship building, exchange of ideas, and development of knowledge and expertise. I do most of the thinking for my own writing when I’m away from the keyboard -- cooking or walking my dog or running -- and I think for a long time before any words are ever on the page. Beyond St. John’s I mentor writers through Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital’s Visible Ink program.

St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Professor, English

Writing Across Communities began in 2007 as Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) and was housed within St. John's Institute for Writing Studies. For eleven years, WAC has supported St. John's faculty from across the disciplines using writing for learning and teaching. 

Summer Faculty Writing Institutes

In addition to ongoing workshops and consultations with faculty and departments, WAC facilitated three week-long WAC Summer Faculty Writing Institutes (SFWI). The SFWIs were a combination of faculty writing retreat and writing across the curriculum teaching workshop, and were held at the St. John’s Rome (2007 and 2008) and Paris (2011) campuses. For the first SFWI, the Director of the Institute for Writing Studies invited a group of faculty. For 2008 and 2011, faculty applied to the SFWI and were selected by a committee that included former SFWI participants. The 2008 and 2011 SFWIs each had 20 participating faculty. “When in Rome” (Geller) describes the 2008 SFWI. 

Many St. John’s faculty from these Summer Faculty Writing Institutes presented on and published research related to their inquiries into learning and teaching with writing. For example, Dr. Jeff Nevid (SFWI, 2008), Amy Pastva, and Nate McClelland published “Writing-to-Learn Assignments in Introductory Psychology: Is There a Learning Benefit?” in Teaching of Psychology, Dr. Natalie Byfield (SFWI, 2011) was awarded a 2011 American Sociological Association, Carla Howery Teaching Enhancement Grant to study the impact of using memoir-writing as a tool for developing students’ sociological lenses. Dr. Frank Cantelmo (SFWI, 2007) and Dr. Anne Geller published “Workshopping to Practice Scientific Terms” in Teaching with Student Texts. 

Faculty Fellows and Writing Fellows            

In 2009, WAC founded the Faculty Fellows and Writing Fellows program in partnership with the University Writing Center. For six years faculty from across colleges and disciplines were paired with experienced undergraduate writing center consultants. In these collaborative partnerships, the Faculty Fellow and the Writing Fellow worked together on a course of the faculty member’s choosing and developed the syllabus to integrate more writing into the course and thus more ways for students in the course to learn through writing. Each cohort of faculty fellows also met as a group, read and discussed research on the teaching of writing (including literature from their disciplines) and reflected on their pedagogy in order to develop ways to utilize writing for learning and engagement in their courses. In the cohort, they shared resources and reflected on their identities as writers/scholars to further enhance their writing pedagogy.

A number of the undergraduate Writing Fellows presented at regional and national conferences and some Writing Fellows presented on campus and at conferences with their Faculty Fellows. To learn about one of these partnerships, read Alejandro Quintana and Morgan Zajkowski’s published article: “Students as Teachers Transforming a History Course

Faculty Writing Initiative

Since 2009, WAC has collaborated with the Center for Teaching and Learning to lead the Faculty Writing Initiative (FWI). The FWI hosts six Faculty Writing Retreats each year and organizes ongoing to support writing community and help faculty, staff and graduate students meet their own writing and publishing goals. All Faculty Writing Initiative events are open to all St. John’s full and part-time faculty, staff and graduate students.

CCCC Writing Program Certificate of Excellence

The St. John’s WAC program was awarded a 2013-2014 CCCC Writing Program Certificate of Excellence.

Recent WAC Initiatives

During the 2017-2018 academic year, WAC collaborated with the St. John’s College Dean’s Office to facilitate two semester-long faculty learning communities. Through Improving Mid-Career Undergraduate Writing, ten faculty members from across the St. John’s College disciplines were able to read, think together and consider learning and assessment through writing in upper-level courses from across the disciplines.

On July 1, 2018, WAC changed its name to Writing Across Communities. Faculty who have been involved with WAC over the past eleven years have been integral to imagining the future of the program. WAC at St. John’s has long been involved with Writing Across Communities initiatives through a national consortium and by working with these principles through our many faculty development programs. In the summer of 2012, Nancy Alvarez, an Institute for Writing Studies Fellow, attended the National Consortium of Writing Across Communities to represent St. John’s. In fall 2016, we had one of the foremost Writing Across Communities scholars, Dr. Juan Guerra, on campus for two days.