Internationalizing Campus through

Rhetoric, Writing, and Multimodal Compositions

by: Erin Knoche Laverick

Introduction        Class Design       Pedagogical Value       Conclusion        References


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Multimodal compositions are gaining popularity in writing courses across the nation.  As the student in the above video references, multimodal assignments such as poster presentations are fun and exciting, because they stray from traditional paper-based assignments.  However, they also serve a greater purpose.   Specifically, in my first-year writing class, multimodal compositions were a means to internationalize campus.

According to Guerin (2009) “Recent events have shown unequivocally the pressing need for American students to comprehend adequately the peoples of other cultures. Isolation is no longer an option” (p. 611).  To best introduce students to new cultures and prepare them for a globally integrated, diverse work environment, colleges are implementing an intercultural dimension into teaching, research, and service.  For example, some schools now require students to take a course with international content to fulfill a general education requirement. At the University of Prince Edward Island, students are required to keep an online portfolio to demonstrate their development and growth as global citizens (Birchard, 2010). The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse opened a "global village," which is a residence hall for international students, foreign language majors, and other students who would like to learn more about culture (Fischer, 2011). And at Eastern Carolina University, where only one percent of their student body studies abroad, students can now engage in online chats with peers from twenty-three universities spanning across five continents (Fischer, 2009). Such opportunities help create an internationalized campus and thus help students become global citizens.

As indicated above, there are many ways to internationalize a campus such as curricular revisions and student study abroad. But perhaps the most basic way to internationalize campus is through classroom readings and discussion. Specifically, internationalization is already embedded in the writing classroom, as instructors often focus on multiculturalism in their class readings and assignments.  According to Donahue (2009), "Internationalization, often associated with intercultural and multicultural discourses, is shaping U.S. writing classes in increasingly embedded ways and shows up thematically in our attention to multiculturalism through the literary and expository authors we introduce or even more explicitly when we do readings with students about internationalization, globalization, and their effects" (p. 216-17). Writing courses are becoming increasingly internationalized and offer students multiple opportunities to collaborate, discuss, and participate in different layers of the campus internationalizing process, thus helping our students become informed global citizens.  Dunn (2002) wrote that important discussion in composition classes occurs when students from different cultures collaborate, forcing students to rethink their positions and consider new points of view.  Students then bring these discussion points into their writing, which they further share with their classmates when peer reviewing and through other process-based activities.  Such discourse in a writing classroom can be an effective means to begin internationalizing campus. Indeed, Matsuda and Silva (1999) have already designed a cross-cultural composition course, which not only helps students improve their writing skills but also meets their university's call to internationalize campus.

Another way to internationalize campus, which has not yet been researched, is through multimodal compositions.  Because multimodal compositions offer greater opportunity for students to collaborate and communicate with diverse audiences (Takayoshi and Selfe, 2009), students can best articulate their ideas regarding internationalizing campus and share them with a larger university community.  Selfe (2004) has advocated for writing instructors to use visual literacies such as posters in their courses. As global communications increase, texts that include visual components will increase students' abilities to communicate with audiences who speak different languages. Therefore, to begin internationalizing The University of Findlay (UF) and help students develop as global citizens, I turned to visual literacy.

UF, a four-year comprehensive school, has pushed to revise its course offerings, offer more study abroad trips, and create greater opportunities for domestic and international students to collaborate through service learning projects and classroom exchanges.  This institutional push to internationalize campus began in spring 2007 when UF brought in a consultant to help faculty and staff begin the internationalizing process. Instructors were asked to internationalize their classes by adding global content. Also, more on-campus activities and service learning projects were offered.

With a push to internationalize campus, international students began to play an even more important role on campus. As director of the Intensive English Language Program (IELP) -the English as a second language (ESL) academic bridge program on campus -I wanted all international students on campus to have a voice in the internationalizing process. And the writing classroom seemed to be the perfect place to start. In order for my students to reach a larger audience and voice their opinions about the internationalizing process, I decided to implement a multimodal assignment –poster presentations into a section of a first-year writing course.

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