This quarter, we feature two students who recently graduated from the MA in WRD and the Teaching Apprenticeship Program (TAP). Joe Anderson and Mark Lazio both received MA in WRD 2013. Here, they share with us how the TAP program helped them achieve their academic and post-graduation goals.
Tell us about your academic or professional background.
Joe: I received my BA from the College of Communication here at DePaul. I started working at the Writing Center as a sophomore and that’s when I started to consider writing instruction as a career path instead of just that thing I do for extra money. Now, in addition to teaching in FYW, I tutor and design language arts curriculum for homeschool groups and private schools. I also do some contract work for smaller writing projects—employee handbooks, marketing materials, that sort of thing.
Mark: Before entering the MA in WRD, my academic background was actually WRD. After I completed WRD 103 my freshman year at DePaul, I realized that I loved writing and literacy and wanted to do something in that area. After changing my major to English with a Professional Writing minor, I started taking as many WRD courses as I could. When they announced the WRD major, I immediately doubled up on that. What actually kept me around, besides the option of doing the combined BA/MA, was the faculty. All of my instructors were passionate about the material, making me passionate about it as well. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find a program like WRD anywhere else, and after looking around, I didn’t. One of my friends asked me why I was continuing to do my MA in the same program I did my undergraduate, didn’t I already get everything from it I could. I thought about it and realized that I definitely hadn’t; there was still so much to learn from my instructors, and I wanted to learn it from them.
Describe your career and research interests as you were going through the MAWRD program. How did you customize the program to meet your needs?
Joe: My career and research interests were (and still are) all over the place. While I was completing the MAWRD I worked as Director of Communications for a small company in the north suburbs. I was initially attracted to MAWRD for the technical writing courses but I really enjoyed studying all kinds of rhetorical theory: Foucault, semiotics, Zizek, ethics in technical writing, to name a few. Fortunately, rhetoric as a field of study encompasses so many things so I just picked courses in areas that interested me.
Mark: Around my junior year of undergrad, I became really interested in TESOL and the discourse side of WRD. I took two courses with Chris Tardy—Genre and Discourse, and Teaching ESL in Chicago. These courses opened me up to a completely different aspect of language, and I was beyond fascinated. As I decided to continue into the MA program, I knew I wanted to go into the Teaching Language and Composition track, but specifically, I wanted to focus as much on TESOL as I could.
How did your experience in the TAP program prepare you for teaching?
Joe: Prior to TAP, all my teaching experiences were strictly one-on-one or in small groups. TAP was structured in a way that it allowed take my existing skill set and adapt it for a classroom of 23 students. The program was a nice balance of explicit teaching strategies and freedom to experiment and develop my own teaching style. Obviously my teaching continues to be a work in progress but TAP gave me a practical and theoretical foundation that lets me comfortably switch a class up to meet specific concerns
Mark: In TAP there was endless support for the teachers. Darsie is not only a wonderful instructor and mentor, but she is always ready to help with any situation or question that came up. Additionally, it was great having a class attached to teaching. Getting to go into the TAP class, work out frustrations or questions or confusions or doubts was amazing! I’ve gotten more ideas for teaching just from talking with my fellow TAPers than probably anywhere else. It was the perfect introduction to teaching.
What are your plans for the future and how will you continue to use your WRD degree?
Joe: I’m currently interviewing for some longer-term contract work, so here’s hoping that pans out. I don’t really know what my long-term goals are but I do like the variety that comes with working on several projects while teaching at the same time.
Mark: Currently, I’m employed with the University Center for Writing Based Learning; I’ve been coordinating our multilingual program, the Collaborative for Multilingual Writing and Research (CMWR). It’s been absolutely wonderful getting to not only continue working with the UCWbL and its amazing community of people who love writing, but also getting to work closely with the international and multilingual community at DePaul. The job itself has been a perfect fit for me right out of the WRD program because the work combines a lot of the TESOL and teaching theories, which I get to directly put in use. Future plans are uncertain. I definitely want to do something TESOL related—who knows maybe China next year? While I think I’d like to get a PhD in say TESOL, Applied Linguistics, or Second Language Acquisition, I want to get some experience teaching first just to make sure. I’ve been applying for jobs around the city, which is exciting and frustrating at the same time, but I know it’s part of the territory.
What advice would you give to current or future WRD students?
Joe: Take classes outside of your concentration. I always liked it when my technical writing courses had people from the Teaching Writing and Language track and vice versa. It usually makes for better class discussions and a more interesting dynamic.
Mark: Make the most of your time in the program. Explore different areas, follow your interests, and make connections between the material.