Institutional Context

The University of Connecticut is a large, public land grant institution. ENGL 1010 (Seminar in Academic Writing) is one of a number of first-year writing courses offered by the English department, which satisfies part of the general education writing competency requirement. First-year writing courses at UConn’s main Storrs campus enroll more than 3000 students per year, with more than twice that taking the course at regional campuses or through dual enrollment courses in Connecticut’s high schools (First-Year Writing, 2019). The course is primarily taught by English graduate students, alongside some full-time and contingent part-time faculty.

All first-year writing courses have the same learning objectives, which center on rhetorical practices of writing for intellectual inquiry, especially practices employed in multimodal composition. However, each course uses different assignments and explores a different area of inquiry, determined by the instructor, in order to meet program learning objectives. These learning objectives were new as part of a recent curriculum redesign and were still in the process of being piloted at the time this course was being taught. In addition to revised learning objectives, the redesigned course had recently added a one-credit attached digital learning studio, which merges two course sections for students to collaborate and experiment to create digital remixes and portfolios. The studio is normally taught by a different instructor; however, since the curriculum was still being piloted at the time the course described here was offered, the instructors of both merged sections also co-taught the studio in this case.

The community partners for this course were Caminos, A. C. in Oaxaca, Mexico and The Neighbor Fund in Willimantic, Connecticut. As an organization, Caminos is “committed to guiding and supporting migrants and their families,” which it accomplishes by aiding in the location of missing migrants, the reintegration of deported migrants, and strengthening the communities migrants come from (Caminos, n.d.). The Neighbor Fund, which formed as a response to the Trump administration’s restrictive university policies, works to raise money for legal expenses for immigrants trying to gain legal status. Though I had no involvement with either organization prior to the start of this course, I had personal relationships with members of both organizations, which facilitated collaboration.

© Gabriel Morrison, 2021