RooWriter increases diversity

Beyoncé and the RooWriter: Two words you never thought would go together until now.

In an effort to help the RooWriter reach a wider audience, the school is adding more diverse materials and expanding its staff. This includes the addition of a packet  about Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.”

The RooWriter is a self-placement exam that provides feedback on student’s writing. It’s a requirement students must fulfill before enrolling in any writing-intensive courses, and can be viewed by future professors if needed. Student’s select one of the six available packets and write a critical essay using the materials provided.

Every October, the University Reading and Writing Board (UWRB) examines the data of the nearly 1,500 students who take the RooWriter and determines what aspects of the test could be improved. They break down the results into different factors, including socioeconomic status, race and gender.

Desiree Long, RooWriter coordinator, is part of the team that works to evaluate the test.

“We could tell based on the data that some students just don’t do as well as others,” Long said. “It’s far more closely tied to socioeconomic status and Pell Grant eligibility. Because of that data, we were concerned, so we wanted to find ways to reach more people with different types of packets and different types of prompts and just make everything more diverse.”

While diverse packets have been available in the past, they’ve consisted of mostly scholarly articles. An example is one of the current packets called “Code Switching, Education, and the Culture of Power.” While this packet covers the topic of the use of different dialects and how they’re used socially, it’s written using more academic language.

One of the new packets is called “Get In Formation: Beyoncé and the Art of Commodity.” The packet includes materials written by all women of color and a playlist of music videos from Beyoncé’s visual album “Lemonade.” The materials discuss Beyoncé’s intended audience with the album and its impact.

“We [did this] just by being very conscious and deliberate,” Long said. “Choosing sources that would be by women of color and people of color, so that way we have a lot of different voices in these packets. “

Another aspect of increasing diversity in the RooWriter is the staff reviewing the essays. The staff is made up of eight graduate students. Two are African-American and one speaks English as a second language.

Rhiannon Dickerson, discourse coordinator, is a member of the UWRB.

“We take seriously the responsibility to serve our diverse student body,” Dickerson said. “And we aim to have diverse faculty on the UWRB and to promote inclusion into our curriculum and assessment.”

By becoming more responsive to the student body, Long said she hopes students will be interested in the available packets and be excited about taking the RooWriter.

“We have such a diverse student body,” Long said. “We want students to be interested in what we offer so that way they write better essays, and we hope to get better outcomes out of that.”

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