Fall 2016

|  by Sandra Beckwith

Research, Writing and Relationships

Facilitated by the OU Writing Center, the inaugural Rosen Fellowship for Undergraduate Writers and Their Supervising Faculty provided undergraduate recipients with research funding and rewarded their faculty mentors’ sponsorship.

Eight undergraduate students and corresponding faculty mentors received $1,000 each from the Joan Rosen Endowment to pursue mentored projects that aren’t typically available outside of graduate school. One student used her Rosen fellowship for archaeological research related to Detroit’s ruins. Another applied hers to an exploration of anxiety symptoms among physician assistants. Yet another helped launch a prison arts program for inmates in the Thumb Correctional Center.

Twenty-five student-mentor pairs applied in the fall of 2015 for the fellowships funded by Joan Rosen, professor emerita of English, and her husband, Robert. The Rosens also endowed the Writing Center, which opened in 2006 and provides comprehensive support to all campus writers.

Applicants submitted a writing sample, 500-word research proposal and support statement from their faculty mentor. In addition to conducting their research, fellows participated in training sessions and provided status updates. They also were encouraged to disseminate their findings at conferences by publishing or through other means, and to present their research at a spring reception.

“My husband and I were very impressed with the faculty, the research concepts and the students,” benefactor Joan said.

“They were so excited when they presented their results! It’s wonderful to see that kind of excitement in academia.”

A ninth fellowship recipient, writing consultant Andrew Petrykowski, is collaborating with Writing Center Director Sherry Wynn Perdue to document participant experiences and attitude changes as a result of the program. “I can see already that this experience has boosted the confidence of the students involved,” Petrykowski said.

The Rosen Fellows initiative also funded the Dissertation Supervision Fellowship, a one-year parallel program that supports 10 faculty members from three disciplines as they investigate and implement evidence-based support for graduate writers.

Wynn Perdue, a special lecturer in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, meets each month with participating faculty members to review literature on best practices, learn about relevant tools and discuss issues and solutions.

“Most faculty members have little formal training in supervision other than having written a thesis or dissertation themselves,” she explained. “We want to promote graduate student retention by first addressing the needs of supervisors.”

Researching Religious Recollections

Associate Professor of Psychology Jennifer Vonk, Ph.D., participates in both Rosen Fellowship programs.

The Rosen Graduate Supervision Fellowships program, she said, has exposed her to new ideas, resources and tools she can use when guiding graduate students who are writing theses or dissertations.

“Meeting people who do things differently and can share new approaches has been helpful,” Dr. Vonk said. “One of my most valuable takeaways so far has been discovering the services at the Writing Center that I didn’t know about.”

Dr. Vonk also mentored Ellen Searle, a recipient of the Rosen Fellowship for Undergraduate Writers and Their Supervising Faculty. Searle extended her Honors College research exploring memory formation in a religious context. Using some of the fellowship funds, Searle expanded her study’s participant base and paid them through the Amazon Mechanical Turk online service, increasing the likelihood of her study being publishable.

“One thing I learned from this experience is that there’s a specific way to write up research results – and it is different from the kind of writing I’ve done in the past,” Searle said. “My mentor was really helpful with that.”

Searle also used some of her funding to present her findings at conferences.

“I could see how that fellowship gave Ellen a confidence boost,” Dr. Vonk said. “She could talk about this research when she did grad school interviews. That is significant.”

“This has been a great stepping-stone for future research,” said Searle, who graduated in May 2016 with double majors in Psychology and Spanish. She is now at Michigan State University, working toward a Ph.D. in school psychology.