DeGenaro selected to lead Writing Program

November 7, 2012

Headshot of Bill DeGenaro Bill DeGenaro

You’re a parent and you need to write a letter to your son’s school.

You’ve received an award and you need to write an acceptance speech.

Or you’re applying for a job and you need to write a cover letter.

“All of these things depend on strong writing skills and strong critical thinking skills, and that’s at the heart of what we do in the Writing Program,” said Bill DeGenaro, who recently took over as director of University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Writing Program.

DeGenaro, associate professor of composition and rhetoric, takes over for Margaret Willard-Traub, who served as director for six years. DeGenaro knows he has some tough shoes to fill, but he’s exited to continue expanding the program.

“I want to build upon what Margaret Willard-Traub accomplished because she really managed to grow the Writing Program in some significant ways,” he said.

But DeGenaro’s plan for expanding the program goes far beyond southeast Michigan. DeGenaro, who began teaching at UM-Dearborn in 2005, spent a year in Lebanon on a Fulbright Scholarship. There, he formed a relationship with the American University of Beirut’s writing program.

“We have sections of our writing courses that are paired up with sections of their English language writing courses, and the students work with each other on literacy inquiry projects,” DeGenaro said. “They learn a little bit more about literacy in our globalized world. They also end up writing ethnographic reports of the experience that are a lot more interesting than five paragraph essays.”

DeGenaro believes it’s essential that UM-Dearborn’s Writing Program embrace transnationalism and global cultures, so he plans to continue working with universities worldwide in an effort to forge stronger international relationships.

The eight core writing courses that comprise the Writing Program also provide students with experience outside the classroom that can help them land internships and jobs. DeGenaro has forged relationships with several metropolitan Detroit nonprofits and the university’s Civic Engagement Project, so his students can perform real-world writing projects.

For example, DeGenaro’s students have developed Web content and written promotional material for various homeless relief organizations throughout southeast Michigan.

“The students get an opportunity to work in a real live context, instead of just writing within the walls of the classroom,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for the university to say, ‘Hey, our students can contribute, our students can do good work, our students are making a difference and they are having a metropolitan impact.’”

That affinity for service learning projects prompted Jerold Hale to appoint DeGenaro to the position.

“Those activities integrate his teaching and research interests with the university’s Metropolitan Vision,” said Hale, College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters’ (CASL) dean. “Bill has broad support from Writing Program faculty to assume the position as director. I was pleased to recommend his appointment to the CASL Executive Committee and to receive their support.”

As director, DeGenaro manages one the largest programs on campus. This semester, 1,200 students enrolled in Writing Program courses.

The program also includes the Writing Center, a peer consultation service, managed by Tija Spitsberg, where students can receive writing assistance.

“Virtually all of our students take first-year writing courses at the university,” he said. “We’re working with almost everybody.”

For more information on the Writing Program, click here.

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