Catherine Black

WAC Fellow, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences and School of Interdisciplinary Studies

Photograph of Catherine Black

I am an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences and School of Interdisciplinary Studies where I teach critical and creative writing. As a writer and poet, I see the value in writing as a means of empowerment, a form of translation of one’s unique experience and perspective. It’s a method of protest or praise, a path to self-knowledge, a critical reflection tool, a means of imaginative exploration, and a path to connection. That may sound lofty, but I believe in the power of writing. As a writing instructor I have seen students find their voices as writers and emerge as more critical thinkers, more engaged artists, more active participants in the classroom. They come alive. Feel empowered. But learning how to write is no easy journey. There are many moments of feeling stymied by apprehension, self-doubt, there are oftentimes failures and false starts. Writing skills do not come all at once. Writing skills, like language skills, come slowly and are best acquired in real-life, content-based learning. The Writing in the Disciplines (WID) philosophy lands well with me because it means that students become proficient writers over time, in the contexts that matter most to them, and the benefits they reap in terms of mastery of material and personal empowerment are profound. Though writing is what I teach, I have found many WID strategies to be effective in my courses. I have reconsidered the structure of my assignment break down to incorporate many more low stakes assignments and scaffolded assignments that offer multiple opportunities for feedback. I’ve also begun to use no-stakes writing in my large first year lecture to ask students to first engage with a visual or verbal text in writing, before sharing their critical reflections with either a small group or the larger class. I continue to grow and learn as a member of the Writing Across the Curriculum team, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with my other Fellows on this initiative.