Student Testimonials

English 15 was the first class I walked into being fresh out of high school. I expected to have a normal boring English class similar to the ones I had in high school. This was not the case. Dr. Accardi tailored the class around each individual student from the first to the last day of class. I didn’t dread coming to class once. Each day we learned new material that was both challenging and interesting.
Before this course, I only knew how to write high school essays with corny beginnings and catchy titles. Now, I know that you don’t need those things to have a great essay; you just need good arguments and to have them arranged in the right way.
I am amazed by all the incredible resources a rhetorician has available to them to convince an audience. I now have an enormous amount of knowledge about persuasion, rhetoric, and debate. Now when I want to have an honest debate, I will be able to tell whether the person and I are in staesis or not. I can now safely argue with someone without cutting down their identity.

In this course, there was a great amount of time spent on methods of rhetoric and composition. I found these skills to be extremely useful. I believe the course went above my expectations by exposing me to useful methods of rhetorical listening and writing along with analyzing papers.
To be honest, when I first stepped into the classroom, I had no idea what I was expecting; very much like my attitude towards college, purely clueless, but yet curious. English has never been my expertise, maybe because it is not my first language, or I am just not all that talented at it. […] Often, when I am writing papers, I find myself stuck, unsure of what I should write next or unable to express my thoughts. Therefore, I have always wanted to develop better writing skills and fluency in writing. If there is one thing that I have taken away from this class, it is the confidence I have gained in my writing.
You made us apply English to the real world, which I never really thought could be done and saw the effects it had on the people involved in our projects. […] The one thing that you did that was fantastic and that I’ll miss the most of all was the office review sessions. They’re invaluable to everyone whether you come out with your paper torn to shreds (metaphorically) or with a few minor corrections to make because no matter what, they help you do better. For me, they helped me fine tune my writing and you pointed things out that took my papers from good to better. I really valued your insight not only because you’re the one grading the paper, but because you seemed to take the genuine interest in what I was writing about and made it seem like me doing well was as important to you as it was to me.
I can say for a fact that I really enjoyed interviewing my grandmother for the family member project. Moreover, I learned so much about her life and the history of my family. It opened my eyes to the struggles my grandmother dealt with as a child, and how grateful people of the past were for small things in their lives. In addition to this, I felt comfortable around her because she and I are very close.

In contrast, the community member project was much more uncomfortable–at least at first. I did not share the relationship with my community member that I did with my grandmother, which honestly made me nervous every time I went for an interview. Over time, I developed a friendship with my interviewee, Claudia, and I was able to delve into the life of another person. Despite the awkward moments due to being strangers and the language barrier, this project opened my eyes to a different culture. As a person who has lived a fairly privileged life, it made me aware of the challenges and dangers that other people go through to live a comfortable life. It also humbled me–it showed me that some people feel content with a life that I would probably feel unhappy living. I think this is the true purpose of an oral history project.
Writing Project One was my favorite. I feel I have benefitted from writing this paper the most as a person. I was able to connect with a distant family member, and able to share his story accurately enough to make him proud of it. My great uncle was able to benefit from this experience, because he had never enjoyed talking about his memories of the Korean War, yet completely opened up to me. He told me details and memories he had never told anyone before. I enjoyed documenting his story, and he enjoyed sharing it with me.

As a writer, I benefited more so from working with my community partner, Daisy. Working around the language boundary was extremely difficult. At one point Daisy began to cry, and I felt horribly confused on how to console her. However, I still managed to build a connection with her. It was very difficult trying to pull accurate and specific information from her in order to write a quality paper, and I felt challenged to use my writing skills so that what I wrote matched up with what Daisy told me and to encompass the scraps of random information into one story. It was a struggle, most definitely, but it developed my writing skills in an area in which I was previously weaker.

Dr. Accardi made this class really enjoyable for me. He gave us free range to write whatever we wanted and gave no judgement about how weird or disturbing our stories might get. We had complete artistic freedom. He made the class interact with each other in creative ways so that it wasn’t like we were just sitting there and proofreading each other’s papers; we were actually discussing them peer-to-peer in a really open and honest way. At first, it was a little scary, because you never know what people are going to say about your story. By the second peer review, however, it was so easy. It wasn’t like going to class at all. It was more just like going to meet your friends for coffee and discussing your newest project.
I could never identify why the stories I wrote or read were engaging or fulfilling; I just knew they were. But when we began analyzing Moth stories in class, I came to realize why. When you break down a story and look at the structure it helps you understand why you enjoyed it. […] The writing project that was the most helpful, in my opinion, was Writing Project 3. This project let you choose everything yourself with minimal guidance, which is an important concept to learn in college. […] It was cool to have a project where you were completely in charge and there really were no parameters, only ones you set for yourself.
The content in this class was super incredible in terms of how different each project was from the other, how challenging they were at times. This class definitely pushed me a lot as a writer, and not only did it force me to write at higher quantities, but it forced me to write about very different things.

Before I walked into the classroom, I admittedly had a negative attitude toward this class. This was my last semester before going to University Park so I was more than ready to just get the semester done and over with. Also, as a science major, I was not excited about taking two English classes in one semester, English 202C and English 133. I was expecting to have to write a million papers that meant nothing to me. I was prepared to enter the classroom, get my syllabus, look at the required papers and then being to pout about how I couldn’t write to save my life but as it turned out, my perceptions of this class changed the very first day.

When we received our syllabus and I had a chance to review the assignments, I felt a little better because it seemed like I was going to be able to talk about agriculture at least a few times and being that Penn State Hazleton offers absolutely no agriculture classes, this was exciting to be able to finally include the field in one of my classes. So when we were finally given the assignment for writing project one, I was at little excited that I could finally read about something that appealed to my interests; it was a welcomed change.

I was able to talk to some professionals in my field and get some really useful tips and information. When we were assigned writing project two my enthusiasm grew when I found out that the work I did for the first paper could be used again. Usually my enthusiastic attitude would have come from the fact that I had less initial work but that was not the case this time. I found myself actually getting excited about the information I was gathering.

Writing project two required me to read actual articles published in a popular agriculture and I found myself reading each one from beginning to end, rather than just skimming the print as I might normally do. As I was writing the actual paper, I had all my articles spread across my floor with sticky notes flying everywhere with things I couldn’t forget because they were essential to put into my paper and I found myself talking a mile a minute to my husband telling how all of these articles connect together. When I finally sat down to write my paper, I took a look at my living room, cluttered with papers, and I almost didn’t even recognize it as my own work. I have never been actually excited to write a paper before. It was something that was definitely different for me. Again, I found the same feelings of eagerness when I was writing my research proposal. I can’t wait to take my idea to University Park and talk it over with my advisor, who has had research published in the journal I used for my writing projects.

I would have never imagined myself as a person who wanted to read more research and write more papers. My expectations for myself in the class were that I was going to skate by because I had no interest in another class that did not pertain to my major. Those expectations were not met and I am so thankful for that. This class has helped me gain knowledge about my field and gain knowledge about how to write a strong paper; things that I will use in the rest of my school career and my future career and an agriculture educator. I will continue to use these skills to continue to gather and even create knowledge and I truly hope to one day complete my research proposal and possibly even be published in the North American College and Teachers of Agriculture Journal.

I had an idea about what rhetoric meant as I entered the course. I now know, I knew of nothing. Rhetoric has taken an entire new meaning for me and has lifted the veils from my eyes to allow me to finally see truth for the first time. On numerous occasions, I found myself becoming circumspect about my own beliefs – my views on religion, my views of truth, and my ideology of right versus wrong. These beliefs all became skeptical this semester as I continued to ask myself questions after every text we read. Questions like, “Why do I believe this? Is there a reason I believe this, or have I been conditioned to do so?” I began to see how rhetoric has been playing a part in my life since day one, well before I even knew this influence existed.

I found how fragile my beliefs truly are as I reevaluated myself. As I grappled with my beliefs, I could not understand why I was incapable of concluding reasons for why I believe something that has been so important in my life for so long. After reading Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge and Jacques Derrida’s Signature Event Context, the cause for my uncertainty began to conceptualize as an effect caused by the persuasion of rhetoric. I found that through the rhetoric of religion, I had been conditioned to believe in an absolute truth of divinity with no real evidence or proof that I should. My beliefs in a way have been taken for granted. I made the unfortunate mistake of assuming that I simply knew the truth, and, as Plato would say, everyone else had forgotten the real truth due to the deception and manipulation of rhetoric (Gorgias). Before, I felt like a man that had found respite on a dry foundation out of reach from the unrelenting waters of the ocean below; now, I come to find that not only am I unquestionably wet, but I am aimlessly swimming with no shore in sight.

This has been a profound experience for me – one that I had hope I would find when I dreamt of college as a freshman in high school that found school so irrelevant and boring. I can honestly say that this feeling of growth I have received from this course goes well beyond the classroom. I am humbled by the fact I now see how much I have yet to learn and happy to be aware of the invisible influence of rhetoric that affects the lives of a great multitude of unknowing.
This semester was extremely interesting, especially taking a 400 level course as a freshman. I took the course at the end of last semester because I wanted to learn more about rhetoric, and see how rhetoric evolved through time. At first, I thought it was extremely daunting because I saw the amount of reading we had to do. At first I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish this course because of how hard it would get sometimes just trying to understand the theories, and at first I thought that I was making a mistake taking the course. But after a while, when everyone got to know each other better and became comfortable with sharing ideas, I started to love the class because I knew I wasn’t the only person who was struggling with the material. I loved how we had a small class and all had adequate amount of time to express our concerns or new found knowledge. I loved the dynamic of the class. The class was its own atmosphere, its own environment where rhetorical ideas were thrown across the room and challenged.

From the hundreds of pages that we had to read, I was able to gain sufficient amount of knowledge and see how the transformation of views occurred. I was also able to distinguish each individual’s school of thought. I truly enjoyed reading the classical works of Plato. I enjoyed his arguments about there being an absolute truth, I also enjoyed his scripting Gorgias and Socrates in explain what a rhetorician does. It was a joy to read the debates between Gorgias and Socrates. Aristotle was a bit dull, but interesting. It was a struggle to finish his work because of all the branches he formed and all the situations, but it all made a lot of sense, maybe it was him appealing to logos. Quintilian was amazing. He was clear in his belief and preached what the perfect man ought to do and I loved trying to poke holes into his quote “A good man speaking well.”

I wasn’t a big fan of the medieval era of rhetoric because it was mostly about how the church and religion was more powerful than free speech. I wasn’t fond of Augustine and Fell, although great ideas and reads, I just didn’t like how they were basing arguments on the bible. I understand it was the era for that type of argument forming; however, I like to stay away from religion. I was a big fan of modern and postmodern rhetoric though. I loved Derrida, Burke, and Baktin. These people really opened my mind and showed me that there isn’t really such thing as origin. I love the way they constructed their theories and how they explained them. I was a big fan of Burke’s identification theory of how you had to “speak the same language in order to persuade.” Derrida’s situational truth and theory of context really blew my mind. It made me look at knowledge and thought with a whole new perspective. It was hard to think of the idea influencing the self at first but later on, it made a lot of sense. I like the idea that there is no such thing as original thought rather, thoughts built on my each other through a process of influence.

At the end of the day. I loved the horribly heavy textbook, although carrying it around did appeal to ethos. I always felt incredibly scholarly when I was reading the book with people around or just carrying it in general. I learned a lot. I learned the different schools of thought, the development of rhetoric and philosophy, the ongoing debate, and how rhetoric made a comeback. While I was going through the process of surviving the class, I was always able to apply what I learned in the classroom to life. I saw people use rhetoric in so many ways; I saw how politicians used enthymemes to make me believe in the budget debate, how the media used Aristotle’s logos to persuade viewers that gun violence control is right, I was able to get angry at how lawyers in the Jodi Arias trail was deconstructing peoples ethos in order to win the case, and  I was able to see public speakers use Burkes theory of identification to make us believe their research. All this shows me how important rhetoric is, and how powerful it is.

While I was writing the research paper, I felt like I made a big mistake taking the class. I mean I am a freshman who could have easily taken another elective instead of Eng 471. I could’ve taken some easy course like Philo 101 and gotten an easy A. I felt the task was incredibly daunting and impossible to do. I literally thought of dropping the class because I was scared of what my GPA might turn out to be. But thankfully, I was able to persuade myself to complete the task. As I started to read into the research and scholarly journals, I found that there was so much stuff to write about. It took a while for me to finally pin down my topic, but once I had it. I couldn’t stop writing. When you told me it had a lot of potential, I went through my essays over and over again, sometimes forcing myself to read the bloody thing. I was motivated; I was encouraged that I was able to accomplish something great. So when I finally completed the 16 pages, I felt extremely good and nervous. It was a great feeling to have written 16 pages of scholarly work but also incredibly nervous because that paper alone would decide the fate of my 4.0 GPA. I enjoyed the process and the journey. I learned too much. I was almost persuaded that video game addiction isn’t actually a type of addiction but just companies employing rhetorical strategies so well, they keep games hooked by persuasion; more research has to be done to confirm both.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to challenge myself. Thank you for explaining the theories of rhetoricians throughout the ages. Thank you for allowing me to doubt myself, fall, then get back up again and push through the thick.

Thank you for a great semester.