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Monday, July 29, 2013 - Interns bring creative writing skills to Pontiac students
By Eric Reikowski, media relations assistant

Creative writing major Rebecca Reichenbach (center) works with students at the Baldwin Center.
A fighter of fear, a martial arts expert, and an invisible man are among the whimsical cast of superheroes conjured up by local elementary students during a creative writing class taught by two Oakland University student interns. 

Brian Figurski and Rebecca Reichenbach – both creative writing majors – are spending the summer teaching youngsters to tap their imagination through a series of workshops at the Baldwin Center in Pontiac. The sessions are divided into groups based on age and ability, with 15 to 20 kids per group. Each week, the groups are given different writing exercises to spark the creative process.

“A lot of the kids aren’t as interested to write right off the bat, so we really had to tweak our plans to perk up their interests,” Figurski explained. “The older kids, fourth through sixth graders, have a good handle on writing and there are a few standouts that naturally know what kind of details they need to compose a story, but a lot of the first graders aren't there in their reading and writing skill sets yet.”

To engage these young minds, Figurski and Reichenbach spend time working with each child, asking questions and brainstorming ideas. Their goal is for each student to assemble a small book or collage of drawings by the end of the eight-week program. 

OU student Brian Figurski (left).
Both interns credit Oakland’s Creative Writing program for helping them navigate the challenges of teaching. Launched in fall 2012, OU’s Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing is one of only a few such programs offered in the state.

“The professors at OU are so helpful and thought-provoking that we are able to take our learned skills back to the kids and have them focus on the most important parts of story writing,” Reichenbach said. “Our main goal is to have the kids embrace their imaginations, and in the last few weeks, they've shown great progress.”

Annette Gilson, associate professor of English, obtained grant funding for the workshops after proposing the idea at the department's winter internship information meeting. She is overseeing the project and views it as a win-win for Oakland University and the surrounding community.

“Since there is now a creative writing major, I wanted to expand our internship offerings to give students more work experience. I also know there is a great deal of need in school systems like Pontiac for volunteers to make a difference,” Dr. Gilson said. “Brian and Rebecca are doing a great job of building the curriculum, and learning as they go.”

Oakland's Creative Writing program is offered through the Department of English. For additional information, visit the website at oakland.edu/english.

Oakland University is a vibrant academic community with nearly 20,000 students and more than 260 degree and certificate programs. To learn more about academics, achievements, and events at OU, visit the news site at oakland.edu/newsatou and follow the news team on Twitter at @OaklandU_News.
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