All posts by Derek Mueller

How to Email Your Professor

A fitting pairing with all WRTG120 instructors who foreground genre for the second project, Laura Portwood-Stacer’s Medium article, “How to Email Your Professor (without being annoying AF),” is deservedly circulating in recent days.

Every semester, I see the tweets and Facebook posts. My professor friends, they are annoyed. Their students do not know how to write emails, they say. What they really mean is that their students don’t know how to follow the conventions of email etiquette in the academy. I used to be exasperated by student emails too. Until I realized that there was a simple explanation for why they didn’t know how to write them — they’ve never actually been taught how.*

The article maps specific features of an appropriate email. Consider as a complementary activity to this reading asking students to bring in emails  they have written and sent in the past for comparative analysis. Have emails whose features accord with Portwood-Stacer’s model been received favorably? What are some of the requests that, in spite of the email’s careful  adherence to this model, might still be ill-received?

Why Plagiarism Doesn’t Bother Me At All

A recent article by Gerald Nelms, “Why Plagiarism Doesn’t Bother Me At All,” has been circulating on the WPA-L listserv and getting deserved attention for its response to the oftentimes alarmist reactions to referential and source-based academic writing.

Now, plagiarism doesn’t irritate me at all. Student plagiarism doesn’t surprise or shock me. It doesn’t raise my heart rate. And perhaps most surprisingly, it doesn’t make me think any less of the student who has plagiarized. In fact, I now expect plagiarism, I anticipate it, I even provoke it. I want it to happen. And it always does, because I create assignments that virtually require it. Now, you may be reacting to my saying this in the same way that others have in the plagiarism workshops I have facilitated for 15 plus years: with shock.

Against Students?

From Sara Ahmed’s “Against Students” (The New Inquiry, June 29, 2015):

The “problem student” is a constellation of related figures: the consuming student, the censoring student, the over-sensitive student, and the complaining student. By considering how these figures are related we can explore connections that are being made through them, connections between, for example, neoliberalism in higher education, a concern with safe spaces, and the struggle against sexual harassment. These connections are being made without being explicitly articulated. We need to make these connections explicit in order to challenge them. This is what “against students” is really about.

How we think about students and how we talk about students reflect attitudes toward teaching. Teaching is only possible within the bounds of these attitudes. How, then, do we think about and talk about students?


The Eastern Michigan University Written Communication Program and the Michigan State University Writing and Digital Environments Research Center invite you (faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, teachers, community members, anyone interested) to propose ideas for the fourth WIDE-EMU, a free (un)conference on Saturday, October 10, 2015 in East Lansing, Mich. We seek proposals that engage the framing question for this year’s event:

Is ____ writing?

What counts as writing? The definition of what we consider to be writing is constantly shifting, evolving, and expanding. Writing classrooms now ask students to work with social media, web design, data visualization, image manipulation, and a myriad of other artifacts and practices. The question is: can we call any of those activities writing? How does writing relate to audio, visual, digital, and multimodal composing processes? How do we situate writing in the classroom, especially when students increasingly engage in the production of artifacts that feature a range of modes (textual, visual, sonic, haptic, digital, and more)? Is writing different from or similar to making? Should multimodal making be considered writing? What are the institutional and disciplinary pressures for claiming writing? Who has the agency to claim what is/isn’t writing? What are the implications of assigning writing to all forms of making? What discourses do we construct and perpetuate by claiming the act of writing? In an age of digital consumption and production, how do we prepare students for complex work that goes far beyond the act of writing? Learn more about WIDE-EMU ’15 at

Winter 2015 – Sustainable CSW

This winter’s Celebration of Student Writing is on Thursday, April 9, 2015, from 4-5:30 in the Grand Ballroom of the Student Center. The video posted here provides perspective on preparing for the event from two of the First-year Writing Program’s  best instructors, Clare Sansburn and Amy McBain.

How to Read

Rob Asghar’s recent Forbes article, “How to Read A Book In An Hour,” echoes discussions we’ve been having in the First-year Writing Program recently about approaches to teaching differentiated reading. By differentiated reading, I mean that all occasions for reading are not equal. Sometimes a first-pass reading should be quick and should arrive at a decision about whether or not a slower and more deliberative reading would be useful. Experienced readers and writers make such judgments nimbly.

I’ll show you here how to read a non-fiction book in about an hour. I should put read in air quotes, I suppose, because the point isn’t to swallow and digest every word and punctuation mark; it’s to be fluent in the book’s basic points and to be able to argue about those points.

At its best, Asghar’s argument emphasizes making full use of a book’s cover, table of contents, and index for apprehending the general project encompassed in the book. But he also introduces debatable (and perhaps perilous) suggestions premised on speed and efficiency as enduring goods.

How do you emphasize differentiated reading your classes? Where do lessons about this fit in first-year writing? In our program’s ENGL/WRTG120 and ENGL/WRTG121 curriculum more generally?

“Crafting Conference Proposals” Workshop

Crafting Conference Proposals
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
6-7:30 p.m.
Pray-Harrold 313

Interested in writing and submitting a conference proposal for an upcoming conference, such as CCCC? Join us for a 90-minute conference proposal writing workshop on Tuesday evening, April 22. The workshop will focus on genre conventions and proposal writing strategies. We will consider approaches to individual and panel proposals, especially mindful of the Call for Proposals for the CCCC Annual Convention in Tampa, Fla., March 18-21, 2015. If you already have ideas or drafts, bring them with you (that said, all are welcome, regardless of whether you are planning to submit a proposal for the 2015 CCCC). The workshop will also provide you with an opportunity for assembling into panels and also for planning and developing a proposal. This year’s online conference proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. CDT, Monday, May 19, 2014. Following the workshop, all are welcome to join us at the Corner Brewery from 7:45-9:30 p.m.

For more information, contact John Dunn (, Kate Pantelides (, or Derek Mueller (

CCCC 2015 Call for Proposals by derekmueller