This past year, Kate Harlin, a PhD student and graduate instructor, won the Gus Reid Award from the English Department. Gus Reid, having taught composition within this program, donated funds to support an award for graduate students and other instructors who teach exploratory/persuasive writing. The award stipulates that each recipient “should not only be a good writer but an even better critic—one who views the job and self with both discipline and light-heartedness.” Kate applied with materials created from her international composition course, a course that greatly benefited from Kelli Hansen‘s Special Collections assistance.
Kate and Kelli collaborated on an assignment designed so students could choose an object in Special Collections that they wanted to learn more about, generate questions and use as an object to springboard into an exploratory essay. From the get go, this open ended assignment was ambitious, but Kate says, “Kelli was so open and flexible with us that she was able to pull items that got every student in the class excited.”
Kelli pulled a Physics textbook from the 1920s written in Arabic, which one of Kate’s students from Saudi Arabia was able to identify as a translation written by Mizzou professor Oscar Stewart. She also found a poetry manuscript, by Li He of the Tang Dynasty, written in Chinese that many of the Chinese speaking students were thrilled to look through. One of the students even won the Mahan freshman writing award on the manuscript.
“The best thing about these two examples is that it helped the international students to see themselves as experts and knowledge-producers, which can be hard for any first year college student, but is even more difficult when in a class that is all about a writing in a language that you’re still learning to master,” Kate says.
Special Collections was able to provide examples that truly inspired Kate’s students and is one of the many reasons why she will continue to collaborate with Kelli for future classes. ”
If you can figure out a way to incorporate Special Collections into your syllabus, you should do it! If you can’t figure out how, reach out to the librarians! Every semester that I have brought students to Special Collections, I have received feedback that it was a major highlight of the semester! I value inquiry and discovery in the classroom, and there is no better venue for it than Special Collections.”
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