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"I wanted to show a range of students how they can make a positive, practical impact on their community with writing."

English students consult local leaders to assuage homelessness through writing

University of Nevada, Reno Professor William J. Macauley Jr. reflects on his past semester teaching English 401B and looks forward to applying similar teaching strategies

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"I wanted to show a range of students how they can make a positive, practical impact on their community with writing."

English students consult local leaders to assuage homelessness through writing

University of Nevada, Reno Professor William J. Macauley Jr. reflects on his past semester teaching English 401B and looks forward to applying similar teaching strategies

Last spring, Professor William J. Macauley Jr. from the University of Nevada, Reno Department of English hoped to demonstrate the importance and influence of writing in the community. Therefore, he invited local government officials, community leaders, service providers, finance professionals and nonprofit organizations (NGO) into his 401b section of English, an advanced non-fiction course.

These community leaders came into the classroom to discuss specific issues and solutions regarding homelessness. After learning more about the complexity of these issues, students created individual proposals to address the issues raised and discussed, which they then presented to their classmates. From there, students chose the top four proposals from their peers and began working more in depth on their projects. The students presented their projects, wrote in pursuit of grants and provided business proposals to that larger audience.

“At first, I didn’t have a clear idea of the outcome of this course,” Macauley said. “But I knew I wanted to show a range of students how they can make a positive, practical impact on their community with writing. Almost a year ago, I decided that I wanted to add a community component to my section of English 401B. So I decided to write to the Mayor and ask what issues she (Hillary Shieve) was focused on fixing in the city.”

Macauley received a short but substantive list and was able to get in touch with local leaders interested primarily in helping the local homeless population.

 

“These community leaders were instrumental in helping my students understand the importance of writing in the public sphere,” Macauley said. “In the past, I had my students intern at local organizations, but because almost all of them rely on outside sources for funding and have to so carefully monitor their written presences, the opportunities to write for those organizations were incredibly sensitive. Many students weren’t able to actively work with writing in their internships. Our guests last semester were eager to share their concerns, perspectives and interests and, in turn, they were excited to see what the students came up with in their own proposals.”

Macauley is currently teaching another section of English 401B, which is being taught through community interaction and awareness and a focus on Reno housing.

Community leaders interested in connecting and working with Professor Macauley and his students can email him at wmacauleyjr@unr.edu.

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