“The Shame of Rikers”

The Shame of Rikers

Last month, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio put forward a $30 million, 10-year plan to close down the city’s infamous prison facility at Rikers Island, a decision motivated in part by the tragic story of young Kalief Browder. Browder was 16 years old when he was pulled off the street and arrested on a charge of stealing a backpack. He was never tried or convicted on any charge, but he spent three years at Rikers because he couldn’t afford to post bond and his court appearances were repeatedly delayed. The experience was profoundly brutalizing, and two years after his release, Browder took his own life. Browder’s story is a national shame that should hasten Rikers’ demise, but it is also emblematic of the institution’s past even before it was a prison. [Read more]



CWP Summer Institute

UConn Today: Improving the Teaching of WritingKenneth Best – UConn Communications

Connecticut Writing Project participants at a National Writing Project Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C. From left: Danielle Pieratti, English teacher at South Windsor High School and Writing Program Leader for the CWP; Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, professor of English Education and director of the Boise State Writing Project; and Elizabeth Simison, English teacher at Bacon Academy in Colchester and adjunct in English at UConn.Connecticut Writing Project participants at a National Writing Project Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C. From left: Danielle Pieratti, English teacher at South Windsor High School and Writing Program Leader for the CWP; Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, professor of English Education and director of the Boise State Writing Project; and Elizabeth Simison, English teacher at Bacon Academy in Colchester and adjunct in English at UConn. More than 525 Connecticut teachers have attended a Connecticut Writing Project Summer Institute since it began 35 years ago.

For many years Danielle Pieratti, an English teacher at South Windsor High School, dreamed of publishing a book of her original poetry. But like most elementary and high school teachers, she spent much of her time grading student papers and preparing for classroom lessons. Participating in the Connecticut Writing Project at UConn three years ago helped her realize her dream, with the publication of Fugitives (Lost Horse Press, 2015), winner of the Idaho Prize for Poetry in 2105.

“A lot of teachers love to write but don’t have time to do it. The Writing Project validates your writing practice as a teacher,” says Pieratti. “I became part of a writing group, which helped me to set some goals for myself, set deadlines, and finally get my book polished up and published. It was a vital part of that whole process for me.”

The Connecticut Writing Project is one of the oldest of the nearly 200 university-based sites in the National Writing Project, which has as its mission to improve student achievement by improving the teaching of writing and improving learning in the nation’s schools. More than 525 Connecticut teachers have attended a Connecticut Writing Project Summer Institute since it began 35 years ago.

Providing encouragement and time for teachers to do their own writing helps them improve their teaching of writing, says Jason Courtmanche ’91 (CLAS), ’06 Ph.D., director of the Connecticut Writing Project and a lecturer in the Department of English.

“When they get in front of their students and give them instruction on how to write, they’re not making it up or basing it on their memory of doing something 20 years ago as an undergraduate,” Courtmanche says of the Connecticut Writing Project experience. “They can say, I’m in this writing group, or I just submitted something, or just published in this journal with the Writing Project.”

The Summer Institute is an intense four-week session. Teachers are required to arrive having completed reading and writing assignments, as well as pre-research assignments. During the session, participants write and then read aloud and discuss their work. They also present their research findings.

The writing teachers take the annual Summer Institute to work on both personal creative writing and collaborative academic research. The Connecticut Writing Project publishes the “Teacher-Writer” journal annually, and the “Teacher-Researcher” journal when grant funding is available; otherwise, several research papers are posted on its website and distributed through its network of teachers. Teachers must apply for acceptance into the Summer Institute, and earn six graduate credits during the four-week session.

Research conducted by participants in recent sessions includes topics such as “Using Technology and Timely Feedback to Improve Student Understanding,” “Templates, Word Roots, and Combining Forms – a Formula for Better Science Writing?” “Integrating Blended Learning and Modern Short Stories in the Middle School Classroom,” and “Math Ideas Come Alive.”

A 2009 study in the journal English Education found that over a 10-year period, college faculty published more than 60 percent of the literature in journals dedicated to K-12 language arts, whereas classroom teachers published only 28 percent of the literature. The researcher, Anne Whitney of Penn State University, also noted that of the 1,772 author entries, only 42 of the classroom teachers published more than one article during the decade.

Courtmanche says the Summer Institute is “an opportunity for classroom teachers not only to write for themselves or a professor, but write for a larger audience of teachers. It gives them scholarly credibility just like the other publications give them creative credibility.”

Lynn Bloom, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of English Emerita and former Aetna Chair of Writing at UConn, says the research conducted by the Connecticut Writing Project teachers extends throughout Connecticut schools.

“[The research] has to be something original that they can take back to their own schools and instruct their peers,” she says. “Each teacher has presented a research-based presentation that they can do in their own school or any other venue that may want it for their own in-service.”

A two-year study of the National Writing Project’s College-Ready Writers Program conducted last year by the non-profit research group SRI International noted the effectiveness of National Writing Project programs. It found that the College-Ready Writers Program “had a positive, statistically significant effect on the four attributes of student argument writing,” and that student participants “demonstrated greater proficiency in the quality of reasoning and use of evidence in their writing.”

The Connecticut Writing Project recently received two grants from the U.S. Department of Education for programs – a $20,000 grant from the for the College-Ready Writers Program for 18 months in a high-need middle or high school for the 2017-18 school year, and a $15,000 grant to support its Invitational Leadership Institutes, which helps teacher-leaders from diverse educational settings.

Pieratti has continued to work with the Connecticut Writing Project, most recently with the College-Ready Writers Program and leading the Teacher-as-Writer and Writing Retreat Program. She says she enjoys the opportunity to collaborate with teachers from other schools.

“It’s rewarding for me not just to be impacting my students but also other teachers as well,” she says. “I got involved with the College-Ready Writers Program for the same reason, so that I could work with more teachers, get some experience running a grant, and learn more about the National Writing Project.”

Pieratti hopes to write more, and publish more poetry, working toward a Ph.D. eventually and continuing her work with K-12 education and with future teachers through the Connecticut Writing Project. “It’s a life-changing program for a lot of people,” she says. “I think everyone should know about it.”

Leslie Blatteau, a world history teacher, right, and Steve Staysniak, an English teacher, work with high school seniors at Metropolitan Business Academy in New Haven as part of High Need School Grant from the Connecticut Writing Project.

Leslie Blatteau, a world history teacher, right, and Steve Staysniak, an English teacher, work with high school seniors at Metropolitan Business Academy in New Haven as part of a High Need School Grant from the Connecticut Writing Project.


Long River Review’s Legacy

On an evening in late April, the UConn Bookstore in downtown Storrs was packed with students, faculty, writers, and alumni. People in the back stood among the bookshelves. The audience was quiet, listening attentively to authors reading their published pieces, copies of the neon orange 2017 Long River Review in their hands.

The event was a celebration of a year’s worth of hard work by the publication’s undergraduate staff, which each year produces the student-run magazine featuring original works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, translations, and artwork by UConn students, members of the community, and for the first time ever, writers outside of UConn. [read more]

New Poetry in Translation

Hosted by the Program for Literary Translation, New Poetry in Translation is a tri-annual online periodical dedicated to publishing exceptional poetry from a diverse range of languages, cultures, and eras in translation. We seek to establish a forum for featuring the most dynamic poetry being translated today—by both new and established authors and translators—and to connect readers with work which we feel deserves an international audience. As editors, we believe exceptional literature supersedes both lingual and national borders, and we hope to make New Poetry in Translation an important contributor to the global literary conversation.

The editors include LCL Professor Peter Constantine and three graduate students from the English Department: Brian Sneeden (senior editor), Kerry Carnahan, and Matthew Shelton. Our first issue features poetry from five languages, including work by poets Elisa Biagini, Vicente Luis Mora, Mostafa Nissabouri, Göran Sonnevi, Nikos Violaris, and Verónica Zondek, and translations by acclaimed translators Pierre Joris, Rika Lesser, Sarah McCann, and Katherine Silver, and UConn graduate students Adriana Alcina Gomez and Catherine Kedala.

Our first issue is available at http://NewPoetryInTranslation.com

Patrick Hogan Named UConn Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor

Professor Patrick Hogan has been named a University of Connecticut Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, the highest honor that the institution bestows on its faculty.

Established in 1998, the award recognizes faculty members who have spent at least 10 years at UConn, have attained the rank of full professor, and have demonstrated excellence in teaching, research, and service. The UConn Board of Trustees approved Hogan’s designation at its April 26 meeting.

“I am very fortunate to have been hired by, and to receive this recognition from, the University,” says Hogan. “To me it means that that perseverance can lead to success, even when one swims against the professional tide, as I was certainly doing in arguing that there are profound and consequential cross-cultural patterns in literature.”

Hogan is an influential writer who specializes in literary universals and the relations between narrative and emotion. He joined the UConn faculty in 1987, and since then has become an affiliate of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, comparative literature and cultural studies program, and cognitive science program.

Hogan is the author of 19 scholarly books and a book of poetry; editor or coeditor of four scholarly collections and six special issues of journals; and has published over 150 scholarly articles and book chapters and roughly another 50 creative or other pieces. He was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995 and the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society in 1997. At UConn, he was recognized with the CLAS Faculty Excellence in Research Award in 2013, and this year he earned the AAUP Career Excellence in Research and Creativity Award.

Hogan is a popular teacher and has delivered invited talks at universities around the world. He was a finalist for the “Educator of the Year” Professional Excellence Award of the Undergraduate Student Government in 2009. Additionally, a number of his graduate students have published work written under his supervision.

Hogan also has an active service record in and outside of the University. In the Department of English, he served as associate department head and acting department head; he first initiated hires in ethnic, gay-lesbian, and postcolonial studies; he began the Irish literature concentration; he initiated courses in world literature in English and major works of Eastern literature; and designed the literature and culture of India course. At UConn, he was a member of the advisory board of the India studies program for over a decade, and before that, he was an academic program coordinator for the Rabindranath Tagore conference. He has also served on a number of Modern Language Association committees.

35th Anniversary of The Connecticut Writing Project

The Connecticut Writing Project-Storrs, founded in 1982, is celebrating its 35th Anniversary.

More than 500 teachers have attended a Summer Institute in Storrs since 1982, and thousands more teachers have been impacted by the work of those 500+ teachers over the last three and a half decades!  Come join your colleagues this summer for an evening of writing, music, and memories.

Rome Ballroom, Saturday, June 24, 2017, 4:00-8:00 PM

Guest Speaker:  Lynn Bloom is Distinguished Professor Emerita of English and the Aetna Chair of Writing Emerita at UConn.  She is a passionate writer, teacher reader, world traveler, family member, friend, and cook—all of which appear in her creative nonfiction, research (“The Essay Canon,” “Bodies of Knowledge,” and numerous composition studies), biography (Doctor Spock), and autobiography (Forbidden Diary; Forbidden Family).  Her current research includes Hot Genres—Alluring Nonfiction, forthcoming from the University of Iowa Press, which analyzes creative nonfiction, essays, memoirs, and writing on food, travel, and medicine.  Her recent books include The Seven Deadly Virtues and Other Lively Essays (2008); Writers Without Borders: Teaching Writing in Troubled Times (2008); and The Essay Connection, 10th ed. (2013). She has forthcoming essays on teaching disability studies (Pedagogy, 2014) and on academic life.

Schedule of Events:

Writing Marathon: 4:30-5:30

Cash Bar Social: 5:30-6:00

Dinner: 6:00-8:00