Signing up for the Excellence in Communication Certificate program

You’ve heard me talk about the Excellence in Communication Certificate (ECC) a couple of times now in class.  As the semester ends, we’re encouraging interested RCL students to sign up for the program now.  If you’re a Paterno Fellow Aspirant, or if you plan on having a major or minor in the College of the Liberal Arts I strongly encourage you to sign up.

You’re more than welcome to put me down as your preference for ECC adviser–I’d love to stay connected with you for the rest of your time at Penn State!  But if you feel like you’d rather get some feedback from someone else, I completely understand.  (And I won’t be checking up on who is assigned to other advisers, so no need to worry about any awkwardness should you choose to go elsewhere.)

So what does “signing up” mean?  Essentially, it simply means you’ll be assigned an adviser to walk you through the process, and will receive occasional emails–perhaps once a semester–updating you on changes to the program.  You’ll also have the opportunity to meet with your ECC adviser to discuss your work at any point until submission.  (Submission is usually second semester junior year or first semester senior year.)  Other than access to an adviser, the benefit of registering now is that you’ll stay updated on the program, which can help keep it on your radar.

So I encourage you to read more about the ECC program, or to sign up at the link below:

Sign up here!

Calculating your grade thus far

You know by know that when it comes to grades, I’m delightfully anachronistic.  (Or frustrating, depending on your perspective.)  Bottom line, I don’t use ANGEL for grades, because while it does points well, it doesn’t do letter grades well.  So here are some options:

Option 1: Calculate a weighted average

I spoke last semester about how to calculate your grade manually, and the same sort of method–breaking things into 5% chunks to get a weighted average–works well with the assignments this semester, too.  (Earning a B on your TIB essay (15% of final grade) would be three chunks of 3.0, and an A- on your in-class deliberation analysis (10% of final grade) would be two chunks of 3.67.  Add up all the scores 3+3+3+3.67+3.67+… and divide by the total number of chunks.)  You have scores back for ten chunks so far, and could probably accurately estimate your grades for participation, blog completion, and blog quality–bringing you to fifteen total chunks.

Option 2: Estimate grades via a spreadsheet

Too much arithmetic for you?  You can also play around with the spreadsheet I use, although it’ll require you to estimate all of your remaining grades for it to work; feel free to take a look.  Some explanation: you’ll need to enter letter grades on the left side, and find your score all the way to the right.  Note that grades need to be entered exactly as referenced in C39 to C56.  So “C/C+” is correct, but “C+/C” is not, and “B” is correct, but “B ” is not (extra space).

Let me know if you have any questions.

All the advocacy links from today’s class

It’s not a pretty post, but here are all the projects we covered in class today: Penn State Greeks – It Gets Better – Notre Dame – Spread the Word Willard Preacher confrontation–maybe it’s advocacy? Peabody Award – “Hey bros…”

Citations brush up

I’ve posted this before, but this PDF from Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) is probably the most succinct and helpful document on the MLA, APA, and Chicago citation styles.  The discussion of online sources starts on page 4, and the examples of in-text citation start on page 7.  Even glancing through to note what gets prioritized should give you a better sense of the main differences between these styles, and the rhetorical goals they’re trying to achieve.  (Note that some styles, for instance, don’t require URLs of web resources.)

Sure, you could use EasyBib, or BibMe, or CitationMachine, but let me encourage you to try to actually understand what’s going on with citations, rather than relying on something else to guess as to what’s most relevant.  (Think of it as actually learning how to get somewhere, vs blindly following GPS.)  These resources sometimes return odd (wrong) results, too, so it’s worth knowing how to double-check.

If you’re ever stuck with something unusual, just typing it into a search engine should help you out.  Try “MLA interview” or “Chicago citation pamphlet” to see how easy it is to track down oddball sources.

Outline conference sign-ups: April 2-4

We’ll be meeting individually next week to go over your paragraph-level outline.  If you have more of a draft written, please reduce this to an outline of ~1 sentence per paragraph.  Many papers of this length might contain 10-15 paragraphs, although there could be reasons why yours differs from this average.

In order to accommodate everyone in class, we’ll meet in my office (245 Sparks) for 10 minutes.  If you’d like to discuss things further, we can meet early the following week during regular office hours, or (if schedules permit) at another time.

Please sign up for a time by the end of the night Sunday, March 30.



Sign up for a time on April 2 to 4 (Wednesday to Friday) 




Intercultural Communication / Study Abroad Opportunity

Here’s the website for the program, which includes both an online and an in-country course.  The official announcement is below the pic.


Want to venture to Vienna for two weeks this summer?  The new online course CAS
271 INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION makes this possible by including an affordable
option to broaden your horizon while earning additional credits:

CAS 271 INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION (online, May-August 2014) offers an
optional embedded 12-day trip to Vienna, Austria: CAS 297A Austria in Action
(August 4-15, 2014). The embedded trip provides formal and informal
opportunities for students to engage in dialogue with Austrians from a variety
of backgrounds. The objective is for students to develop sensitivity and
flexibility in intercultural communication settings to benefit their personal
and professional lives.

Enroll by May15: The first 15 students receive 1/2 off program costs!

Link to course website:

Interested? Contact Lead Faculty: Ines Meyer-Hoess,

How to be a better writer

Catherine Prendergast, over at the blog First Year Comp, has a number of great posts designed to help students through their first college writing course.  I encourage you to check out some of the articles from the main page, but I wanted to draw particular attention to two posts, as we begin the process of constructing the policy essays in the coming weeks:

How to Write an Outline is especially germane to our task, as we’ll be meeting to work through your outline in early April.  As Catherine explains, outlines can work for some people, but others need to actually write out their ideas first, and only then can they construct a “reverse outline.”  Either way, examining an outline of your ideas lets you see the function of each paragraph from your reader’s perspective; it’s then a bit easier to figure out how your argument needs to change.

You Don’t Need to Make Your Paper Longer is a great way to consider a page/word count requirement from your instructor’s perspective:

[T]he page length is completely generic, probably one of the last things the instructor considered when creating the assignment. If you look at the grading breakdown for the paper (where given) it likely doesn’t give a percentage for what you would earn by writing the exact number of pages requested. And yet, I often find that students nearing the end of composing their drafts are more concerned about the length of a paper than anything else. They treat every assignment as if it presented them exactly the same riddle as the one before: How can I write more?

She then provides some succinct advice on what to focus on instead.  Worth a read!

plant from keyboard

Policy paper ideas and examples

We’ll be talking in class about how to format/structure your policy paper.  I’m posting some general information on them here, as well as a few samples to give you an idea of the variety of routes you could take to argue for a policy.

How longer policy papers tend to be constructed – a couple of samples at the end

Checklist for preparing mid-length to long policy papers

A quick overview, plus a lot of links to samples (some dead links, though)

Sample paper on combatting antibiotic resistance