English Matters. College of Arts and Sciences, Washington State University.

English in the news

Students gain hands-on experience in technical writing for community project

Vanessa Cozza
Vanessa Cozza

Vanessa Cozza, a scholarly associate professor in English at WSU Tri-Cities, collaborated with the nonprofit Tri-City Area Gaming (TAG) in fall 2019 to provide her students valuable hands-on experience and real-world skills development. Cozza and Sara Quinn, cofounder of TAG, tasked students in the technical and professional writing course to rewrite game board instructions for easier translation into Spanish and Russian. 

TAG fosters community building by hosting board game nights for schools and the general public. Many of the players are bilingual, and in some cases, need to translate the game board instructions to their parents. Quinn, a player herself, explains that many game board instructions are difficult to translate because they are not written in simple language and they are  not easy to follow. Some students could relate, coming from multilingual backgrounds and having experience translating for parents. As TAG was planning to rewrite the instructions into Spanish and Russian, the  group’s needs became the perfect opportunity for the English 402 students to gain technical writing experience while helping a local nonprofit organization. 

Several WSU students in a classroom examining board games and instructions and talk with Vanessa Cozza.

Cozza divided the class into six groups, making each group responsible for a set of games.  They rewrote instructions for a variety of board and card games, including Connect 4, Splendor, Hive, Gipf, Two-Player Whist, Crazy Eights, Go Fish, and others. The games varied by level, from complex strategy for adults to simple picture games for children. The students worked with the original instructions to identify readability challenges, and the groups  played with each other’s instructions when conducting usability tests. 

Students enjoyed working on a project that connected to the real world. They stayed motivated, knowing that TAG had planned to use their instructions and kept in mind their target audience, making the project more valuable. At the end of the semester, students presented their work to Quinn, who was impressed by the students’ efforts and final products.

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Making news

Find out more about the English department’s wide range of news-making people, projects, and activities.

Creative collaborations connect arts, sciences, community

Walking along the soggy banks of the Palouse River near Pullman, Washington, Linda Russo, an assistant professor of English, listened to the squish of mud under her feet and felt the cool wetness seep into her shoes. As the water rose around her heels and toes, her mind was flooded with thoughts about the past, present and future of the riverfront and other “wild edge” spaces.

Linda Russo.
Linda Russo

“Almost 11 years ago, I went down to the muddy Palouse riverbank and my feet sunk in, setting a course,” Russo said about the genesis of EcoArts on the Palouse, her newest community project which brings together environmental history, ecology and creative expression.

“EcoArts on the Palouse invites the community to engage in exploration, discussion and discovery of the Palouse’s wild edge spaces by calling out the details in the languages of environmental science and different creative and healing arts to see what image of the landscape emerges and what new connections might arise,” she said.

A similarly collaborative, cross-disciplinary current runs through Russo’s other teaching and outreach activities. The projects allow her to reach students inside and outside the humanities and to help them engage with complex, challenging ideas.

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‘BAM! Chicago’s Black Arts Movement’ screenings in Vancouver and Pullman

Two Washington State University Vancouver professors have chronicled one of America’s preeminent artistic and cultural movements in a new film.

A predominantly Black crowd mingles beneath a wall emblazoned with faces of famous Black Americans.
The Wall of Respect, painted in Chicago during the Black Arts Movement, inspired murals in cities across the United States.

BAM! Chicago’s Black Arts Movement introduces viewers to more than a dozen writers, artists, musicians and community organizers who were instrumental in the campaign centered on black pride and aesthetic. People like poet Eugene Redmond, musician Mwata Bowden, and Dr. Safisha Madhubuti, who founded four African-centered schools and went on to teach at Northwestern University before retiring in 2018.

Thabiti Lewis.
Thabiti Lewis

BAM! is the brainchild of Thabiti Lewis, WSU associate professor of English, who met many of the important figures in the movement in his 20s while working for Third World Press in Chicago – founded in 1967 as a platform for black literature.

“They were committed to making a positive impact in their community,” Lewis said of the movement’s leaders. “The Civil Rights struggle reached its apex during the Black Arts Movement and people in Chicago were concerned with the community’s needs in terms of resources and creating art that impacted the souls, minds and spirits of those around them.”

Pavithra Narayanan.
Pavithra Narayanan

Lewis began working on the film while writing a book on the same subject. He enlisted help with it from English department colleague Pavithra Narayanan.

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