Editor's Note, by Chris Gerben

Plasma Screens as Portals to the World, by Alyssa J. O'Brien

Tutoring Graduate Students in the Writing Center, by John Peterson and Joel Burges

PWR awards outstanding student work with IRAs and OPRAs, compiled by Wendy Goldberg & Chris Gerben

Students Publish Work in New Anthology: Official Book Introduction with Preface by Wendy Goldberg

Stanford Library Honors Boothe Prize Winner in Podcast

PWR Instructors Leaving the Farm


The PWR Self-Study narrative that has kept us occupied for much of this year will be submitted to the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policies (C-USP) on May 18; by the time this issue of the Newsletter appears we will have met with the committee to answer their questions about the state and direction of the Program. Next year will see the appointment of an external review committee, which will use the Self-Study as a starting point for their assessment of PWR. Eventually, the Faculty Senate will receive the final report of the PWR University Review Committee and will take action to renew or amend the Program.


At this point in the process, as another academic year comes to a close, we’d like once again to highlight the core of PWR’s mission: to support the development of Stanford undergraduates as writers, researchers, and presenters from their first day on campus through graduation. This support takes varied forms, which the Self-Study narrative describes in detail: first- and second-year courses delivered by a highly-experienced and dedicated instructional staff; tutorials and workshops through the Hume Writing Center for students in PWR, IHUM, WIM, and other courses; advising and consultations for advanced undergrads working on senior theses and Honors projects; and a panoply of writing-related readings and events that illuminate the range of what constitutes writing on campus and in the wider culture. The story we told lays out the myriad ways PWR engages students about their writing and research, their Med School applications and grant proposals, their spoken word pieces and songs. Despite the rigors of compiling the data and crafting the report, the process was a welcome opportunity to take stock of where we are and where we’d like to go.


What has this period of purposeful reflection shown us? We know that students generally judge their experience with PWR to be a positive one. The survey, responded to by over 1700 students, demonstrated clearly that students don’t “hate PWR.” Roughly 80% of students rated their PWR 1 course as beneficial to their development as writers, researchers, and revisers. In PWR 2 roughly the same percentage appreciated how the course developed their skills as presenters and users of multimedia to support their arguments. Students cited individual conferences as a key component in their PWR experience, pointing to the specific feedback on their drafts as making substantive revision work possible. In evaluating the Hume Writing Center, students consistently lauded the opportunities to interact with tutors about their own writing; our colleagues in IHUM and other programs show their appreciation for what we offer by bringing their students to the Center for workshops focused on writing; and the readings and other special events hosted by the Center stand out as highlights of each year.
While our accomplishments are a source of pride, the data also point to challenges yet to be met and the need for specific plans for improvement. Students request consistent workload across PWR sections. We don’t take this to mean that students want absolute uniformity in each class, but rather that they want the overall requirements of each section to be roughly the same—there should not be “easy” or “hard” PWR sections. Students also desire a clear progression of course goals as they move from PWR 1 to PWR 2. While they appreciate the focus on oral presentations in PWR 2, they wonder why we continue to require writing and research. They also want the projects in PWR 2 to link more closely to their majors and to writing in contexts beyond the campus. Finally, students raise issues about the length of PWR classes. As we look forward to next year, we will think carefully about all of these issues. Program responses might include joining the Stanford Syllabus Project, so students can review course outlines and assignments before enrolling in a section, and using the Open Houses before winter and spring quarters to articulate more clearly the common elements across all sections.


Preparing this Self Study has been the work of many hands, with many thanks to go around. We are especially grateful for Alyssa O’Brien’s leadership (and persistence!) as Chair of the Program Review Committee, which also included committee liaisons Carolyn Ross, John Tinker, Wendy Goldberg, Jonathan Hunt, Mark Feldman, Kimberly Moekle, Donna Hunter, Sohui Lee, and Chris Alfano; to Alicia Simmons, Kristen Backor, and Curtiss Cobb of the Sociology Department for their excellent work on the surveys and focus groups; to Clyde Moneyhun and Claude Reichard for their work on the Writing Center and Writing in the Major section; to Allison Carruth for her help in putting together the massive appendices for the narrative; and to the Undergraduate Advisory Board, who worked tirelessly to pilot the surveys and gather additional data. But the Study could not have been completed without the participation and contributions of all members of the Program community, so we close by offering a big thank you to everyone.