Community Engaged ENGH 101: Reimagining Connections with Our Communities

by Emily R C Staudt, with contributions from Ariel Goldenthal and Dr. Courtney Wooten

In Fall 2019 and Spring 2020, four sections of English Composition (ENGH 101) engaged in a community partnership with 826DC, a program focused on helping to foster creative and expository writing skills in K-12 students in Washington, D.C. In addition to the traditional coursework for ENGH 101, students volunteered with 826DC in a variety of ways. Throughout the course, students tackled the complex concept of literacy as they applied it to their own experiences and learned about the literacy experiences of other communities. 

A student stands in front of their poster presentation


These student-driven projects represent the culmination of over seven weeks of work. Students worked in small groups to narrow topics related to their volunteer work (e.x. writing, tutoring, non-profits, community, literacy) and to develop effective research questions. Some students created individual projects while others worked as a group to create their presentations—you can view examples of their presentations through the hyperlinks above or at the bottom of this article.

In order to reach this final stage, each student individually progressed through the inquiry process. They created research questions, searched for and evaluated sources, wrote an annotated bibliography, investigated patterns in the sources, and finally, incorporated and synthesized them in their final projects. Students were required to use at least 6 sources in their final presentation and to put the sources in conversation with each other, but the genre and form of the presentation was up to them. 


Four students stand in front of their shared poster presentation


In designing their final projects, students considered their audience: the larger Mason community. They thought carefully about the colors, fonts, and designs of their projects and how each visual decision would strengthen the delivery of their material. From choosing the topic to creating their final presentations, students had complete control over their projects.


A student stands in front of poster presentation


Other faculty and their ENGH 101 students also participated in similar community engaged themed courses.  Dr. Courtney Wooten reflects:

One of the biggest benefits of these courses is that faculty and students are able to reimagine what the connections between institutions such as Mason and the communities they reside in look like. As Shauna Rigaud from SAIL has emphasized in her work with us, it’s really important that we are able to think about reciprocal relationships in which both the university and the community partners and those they serve benefit from the work being done. The work faculty and students do in the ENGH 101 CE courses create new contexts in which students see themselves as writers and think about how to use writing in different, public settings for advocacy work, informational purposes, and so on. 

Though no ENGH 101-CE courses are planned for Fall 2020, the Composition program looks forward to being able to run similar courses in the future. 


Further student presentations:

  • “The Impacts of Workshops on Literacy in America” by Darshil can be viewed here.
  • “Educational Non-Profits’ Impact on Lower-Income Students” by Luretha can be viewed here.
  • “Environmental Effects on Child Academic Development” by Kayla can be viewed here.