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“There Needs to Be More Partnerships”: Course Design through Teacher-Student Collaborations

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By: Carly Hudson, Undergraduate Student, Marketing, with Sarah Hart Micke and Angela Sowa, Teaching Associate Professors, University Writing Program

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This year, we’ve had an opportunity for valuable collaboration between two professors, Sarah Hart Micke and Angela Sowa, and one of Sarah’s former students, Carly Hudson. As a former FSEM and WRIT 1122 student in Sarah’s community-engaged classes, Carly first served as a Public Good Fellow (PGF) in Winter 2020 for Sarah’s WRIT 1122 classes, developing more sustainable infrastructure for her elementary school partnership. This year–as an advanced PGF–Carly collaborated with Sarah and Angela to redesign two community-engaged writing courses for post-COVID teaching. 

How We Collaborated 

Carly compiled a robust list of nonprofit organizations around Denver to help Angela and Sarah revise their grant writing class, a course offered in the Writing Program’s Minor in Writing Practices. Carly’s analysis of nonprofits and their online ethos helpfully clarified which local NGOs would best fit writing and rhetoric courses. This list will also support future students looking for grant writing and other engagement opportunities. Carly also researched grant writing opportunities at DU, and relationships between local nonprofits and social movements. This research will inform Angela’s new course unit on relationships between public rhetorical action and nonprofit work. 

In addition, Carly helped Sarah adapt her WRIT 1122 course to in-person, hybrid, and fully online modalities for post-COVID teaching. Although Sarah had to develop a new online course when COVID paused her elementary school partnership, Carly sustained the community-engaged momentum by brainstorming how DU and elementary students could collaboratively design activities, and continue writing letters and children’s books for each other, even in hybrid or online modalities. Carly’s work also revealed deeper reciprocity between writing and community-engaged course goals. 

Why Teacher-Student Collaborations 

As a student, I, Carly, believe that having three different perspectives working on the projects is what made it very successful. In my DU classes, I have been taught all of the valuable benefits of working in diverse teams, and I was able to understand that by working on this project. Sarah and Angela brought valuable perspectives as professors, and I was able to bring my perspective as a student. I think that there needs to be more partnerships like this one because we were able to learn so much from one another. 

As professors, we, Sarah and Angela, wholeheartedly echo Carly’s call for more partnerships like this one. Conversing with dedicated students such as Carly is some of the best feedback we can receive on our teaching; it is uniquely separate from professional and pedagogical support offered elsewhere on campus and in our field. Including DU students in course design processes helps us tailor our classes more effectively to their needs–and, we believe, helps students learn more from their courses as they recognize how and why those courses are designed in specific ways. 

We are all incredibly grateful for this opportunity to collaborate. In community-engaged courses specifically, such collaborations enhance both students’ and professors’ agency as partners alongside community leaders. We see such collaborations as cornerstones for building more inclusive, collaborative communities in and beyond the university.