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The Oaks Neighborhood Association are Awarded a WEI High-Impact Grant

The Oaks Neighborhood's RAC (Rachaele Andrews), RA (Evan Buck), TSIR (Angela Ansah), Director of Residence Life (Elaine Turner), and association members, (Joan Ruelle and Scott Hildebrand) are awarded a grant for...

Enhancing Residents’ Writing and Using Writing to Build Community at the Oaks Neighborhood

Elon University has embarked upon two university-wide initiatives, the Writing Excellence Initiative (WEI) and emerging Living Learning Communities (LLC). WEI aims to prepare every Elon student to be an excellent writer using experiences in writing to learn, writing in a discipline, and writing as a citizen. LLCs are a group of students living in the same residential area, interacting academically and socially with each other and faculty, sharing the same academic interest, and building community. One connection between the WEI concepts and the goals of LLCs is the expectation that the Student Life Division serve as one of the entities to guide and enhance the writing ability of student residents at Elon. The Oaks residential neighborhood, a unit of Student Live Division is keen to meet that expectation and it proposes to do so through a creative writing initiative program equipped with creative writing tools like a Mac.

 Potential impact (need, benefits for students, number of students benefited):

Presently, the Oaks’ neighborhood has two PC computers for shared use among its 600 student residents. In addition, because these computers are standard models they are not equipped for nor used for creative student writing. They are primarily used for printing students’ “final drafts” of academic and/or creative work. Granted, most Oaks residents own a personal computer and so may not need to use the communal computers. However, a majority of students in the Oaks are in the Performing Arts and Theatre department and they need access to computers with creative software applications.  These students frequently have to go to the main Belk Library and/or the McEwen editing suites to use computers that have performing arts related software. There are several different software applications specifically and exclusively for Mac computers which could greatly enhance the writing of the students in the Oaks neighborhood. OmniOutliner (for taking, organizing, & searching notes), iProcrastinate (assignment organizer), iMovie (for writing and creating film scripts), Contour-Mac (for creative writing), and WriteRoom (for distraction-free writing to help concentrate on the text) are examples of Mac-only writing enhancing software or Mac-versions of software which are less expensive than PC versions. Overall, Macs have an interface and software packages that are a better match for the kinds of visual communication and writing that students in visual and performing arts are asked to do regularly.

The Oaks neighborhood is rife for growth in creative expression because of its artistic and talented residents. Anecdotal data indicates a high percentage of residents who would most likely use Macs if they were available for shared use in the Oaks. The anecdotal data prompted two residents in the Oaks to serve as primary investigators in writing this application for this grant. Consequently, with an increase in versatility and number of Macs available in the Oaks area, students will be more inclined to stay in the community to use creative software computers and possibly be encouraged to do more with creative software in their living space. This has the potential to enhance and maintain a desired environment of learning and increase interaction within the residential neighborhood. Students in the neighborhood will have the opportunity to collaborate and develop literacy skills as they write in their discipline.

Project objectives:

The objectives of the project are threefold. First, it is to model and encourage undergraduate student residents of the Oaks to write as citizens of the neighborhood, e.g., advocating for the improvement of their community.  Second, it is to provide more residents of the Oaks (predominantly artists and performing arts majors) the opportunity to write in their specialized areas of visual communication and performance, i.e., bridging in-class learning with out-of-class experiences. And the third objective is writing to perform. The performances of student writings should foster interaction community building among residents, faculty and staff.

Project plan (including plans for working with the Writing Excellence Initiative)

As part of the introduction to the Oaks’ Creative Expressions (CE) Initiative each year, we plan to have the Macs set up in the common area of the residence and to hold the meeting in the same space. Residents in attendance will be encouraged to explore the many features of the Macs  and the range of software available. A Mac specialist will be on hand to explain rules and guide usage.  The Creative Expression Initiative is a series of seminars in creative writing and integration of technology open to all Oaks residents. The seminars will be conducted in collaboration with the Writing Excellence Initiative (writing center) and Technology for Teaching and Learning. Oak residents will be guided on the use of these resources and tools to produce creative writing in the forms of : slam poetry, personal movies, diary writing, book reviews, and project sharing. Residents are encouraged to attend seminars and consultations held once or twice a semester. The seminar sessions will be based on the WEI guidelines or outcomes. With 600 students in the Oaks, the Macs will service a few residents at a time. Consequently, residents will be encouraged to collaborate i.e.,_the beginnings of community building The Oak Assistant Director and TSIR will be responsible for scheduling all seminars on creative writing and creative expressions

As part of the Creative Expression initiative, we propose that one day a month, e.g., third Friday be designated for Talent-Showcasing and Seminar events where students share their written products with faculty, staff, and residents. Participating residents will learn more about spoken word, poetry, writing music lyrics, classical literature in movies-format, graffiti, and other pop-culture forms of self-expressions through art and performances. These performances will contribute to building community in the Oaks. The Creative Expressions initiative may organically help the neighborhood develop traditions in the community.

Each year, in the fall, new members to the Oaks will be introduced to the Creative Expressions Initiative and encouraged to participate. At the start of each cycle and the end of each there is an assessment conducted.

Assessment strategy:

Self-reporting surveys and focus groups will be used to assess each of the three objectives. Where possible, a tally on the use of the Mac by students over time will form part of the assessment.

One of the surveys will be used to measure the perceptions of residents on how the Macs or the CE impacts their writing as a citizen. Oak residents, in particular those who participate in CE, will be surveyed on their writing on matters of advocacy for the improvement of the residential facilities, changes in community standards, addition of programmatic offerings, etc. A focus group session will be held each semester to triangulate.

 In addition, residents of the Oaks (predominantly artists and performing arts majors) will be assessed on their perceptions of the impact of the Macs and /or CE on how they write in their specialized areas of visual communication and performance outside of class during the year. Data will be tallied and compared to the baseline assessment data.

And finally residents of the Oaks will be interviewed and surveyed on the role of the Mac and CE on their writing with the intent to perform, the performance itself, and the community building.

Team members contributing to the grant application and implementation:

Rachaele Andrews (RAC)

Evan Buck (RA)

Joan Ruelle (Dean of Library)

Angela Ansah (TSIR)

Elaine Turner (Director of Residence Life)

Scott Hildebrand (TLT Director)


During the fall and the winter of 2013, baseline data will be collected. The CE will begin in the spring of 2014. In June, 2014 data will be collected again. Each semester fall and spring the CE will seek input from its consultants, i.e., WEI, TLT

Commitment to working with the Writing Excellence Initiative on the project:

The Creative Expressions initiative is centered on the collaboration with the Writing Excellence Initiative and Technology for Learning and Teaching. Consequently there is no doubt about our commitment to working with WEI.

Commitment to writing a report and making a presentation to the university

We are committed to writing a report and making a presentation to the university because of our desire to share the novelty and success of implementing an LLC agenda in a residential neighborhood that does not have an LLC. Not having students in a defined LLC should not prevent them from experiencing some of the outcomes and experiences of a Living Learning Community. In addition writing for visual communication expands the type of writing genres and may attract more residents to write.




Angela Owusu-Ansah,
3/14/2014 11:25 PM