Although we’re right in the middle of Autumn Quarter at DePaul, one WRD course has already come to an end—WRD 111: Transition DePaul. With the course now concluded, we were able to get in touch with the instructors and student mentors of WRD 111 to learn more about the course and the experiences of those teaching and mentoring it.
WRD 111 is designed specifically for international students and was taught this Autumn Quarter by Margaret Poncin and Douglas Sheldon. The course has two main goals—to introduce students to the city of Chicago and to help students transition into the academic culture of the United States. As a result, WRD 111 instructor Margaret Poncin says, “students visit museums, architectural landmarks, and neighborhoods as part of their research for class assignments.”
How is exploring Chicago paired with an introduction to U.S. academic culture? One class project required students to do just that—get out in the city and utilize concepts learned in class to create profiles of different Chicago neighborhoods. Poncin describes the project:
“[Student] groups conducted research about the demographics and history of their neighborhood, and also visited the neighborhood and interviewed residents…Then, during class, we made connections between this project and readings we had done about U.S. academic culture—concepts like dialogic learning, primary and secondary research, and intellectual property.”
Another unique feature of WRD 111 is the inclusion of undergraduate and graduate student mentors who serve as a step between the student and instructor. These mentors accompany students on trips throughout the city, facilitate class activities, and hold office hours for students to discuss anything from homework to questions about American culture. Allie Gourley, a WRD 111 mentor in WRD’s BA/MA program, enjoyed answering any and all types of questions that the students might have. She says, “These students are eager to learn about the new place they’re living in and I don’t mind letting them pick my brain about all the quirks of DePaul and American culture.”
Mark Boekenstedt, another WRD 111 mentor and BA in WRD student, recalls that he valued spending time with students and getting to know them on personal level. Mark had previously studied abroad in Chile, and was able to apply his experiences in another country and culture to his role as a mentor:
“It was very enjoyable to see so much of my experience with study abroad reflected in them. A few of them told me they were finding it hard to adjust to America, and I was able to reassure them that the difficulty would transform into a positive experience, just as it did for me in Chile.”
Applying one’s own education at DePaul to WRD 111 was a common thread shared between the student mentors. Allie Gourley, for instance, is currently taking TESOL classes that focus on teaching pedagogy. While WRD 111 was in session, Allie found ways to put what she was learning into practice. She expressed that while learning theory in class is vital, “when you get a chance to apply the things you’ve learned, everything is enhanced.”
WRD 111 was a rewarding experience for all involved, and especially for the students who were able to use Chicago as a classroom and effectively transition into the academic culture at DePaul. When speaking of the students in WRD 111, Margaret Poncin says, “It takes a special type of person to do this, and it’s exciting to be a part of their adventure.”
WRD 111 is offered every Autumn Quarter. If you’re an undergraduate or graduate WRD student and interested in becoming a mentor, be on the lookout for application information in the Spring!