Jan. 28 faculty-led workshop: Writing for Gen. 1.5

By Richard H. Miller, Academic Outreach & Innovation

PULLMAN, Wash. – WSU has students who are first-generation immigrants. And second-generation. And some who are in-between: Generation 1.5.

These students, in general, graduated from U.S. high schools and are fluent in spoken English but write using the style and conventions of their parents’ language, said Victor Villanueva, Director of the WSU Writing Program, Regents Professor and Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts.

“They sound exactly like native students,” Villanueva said. “They don’t write like native students.”

At WSU’s next faculty-led workshop, he will discuss ways to help these students. “Heritage Speakers: Writing and Perceptions of Under-Preparedness” will be at 12:10 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in CUE 518 and will be live-streamed. Lunch will be provided. Please register here.

Generation 1.5 students, Villanueva said, may write with more digressions, non-Aristotelian logic, diverse metaphors or overly oblique approaches.

“What we’re dealing with isn’t cognitive ability or intellectual ability,” he said. “It’s simply a discursive difference.”

The key, he said, is to help them become conscious of the difference without making them feel in the wrong.

“The vast majority are the first in their families to attend college,” he said. “They walk in with trepidation – should they be here at all? If we bang them over their heads about their writing, they’ll get the message that they shouldn’t be.”

Villanueva, whose native language is Spanish, had to adjust his own tendency to digress when he began writing for academia: “My tangents were important to me, so I learned to use discursive footnotes. That lets me digress without destroying the flow that’s expected by the academic community.”

This workshop series is sponsored by the WSU Provost’s Office, WSU Teaching Academy and WSU Learning Innovations. Upcoming topics include mind-mapping, flipping the classroom, first-generation students and academic integrity. For more information, please visit the Learning Innovations trainings page.