by Simone Sessolo

Dear Friends and Alums of the Sweetland Center for Writing,

Dr. Tessa Tinkle stepped down from the role of Director in early October, 2023, for personal reasons. The whole Sweetland community thanks her for the years of service she dedicated to the unit. The College of LSA promoted me from Associate Director to Director shortly after that, and I will complete her term until June 30, 2024. Dr. Naomi Silver, who had served as Associate Director for many years, has resumed that role for this academic year. As you can see, Sweetland’s leadership remains strong and committed. While this is a transitional period for Sweetland, it is also an exciting moment that projects us in a new direction. Sweetland’s work is performed by exceptional teachers and staff, and our mission continues to be central to student success at the University of Michigan.

This new direction is being shaped by feedback we received from Sweetland’s first External Review, which happened in October 2023. On October 8-10, 2023, the review team (Dr. Chris Anson, North Carolina State University; Dr. Kristin Arola, Michigan State University; Dr. Melissa Ianetta, Georgia Institute of Technology; and Dr. Mya Poe, Northeastern University) visited us for the purpose of evaluating our programs and services. The visit began with an orientation dinner with Dean Anne Curzan and Associate Dean Greg Dowd. Over the next two days, the team met with Sweetland lecturers, members of Sweetland staff, program directors, graduate students, Rackham Graduate School Associate Dean Dr. Cathy Sanok, Dr. Laura Aull (English Department Writing Program Director), the Sweetland Executive Committee, the LSA Executive Committee, and Sweetland’s leadership team. As you can imagine, those were intense days, but also very encouraging in confirming Sweetland’s status as an excellent academic unit. In fact, the review team found Sweetland to be expertly administered, collegial, and adhering to current best practices in teaching and administration.

In their concluding remarks, the review team summed up their visit with these words: “We came away from our visit with deep respect for the role of Sweetland in the education of U-M students and for the values and skills that, through its multiple programs, it is instilling in them. It is clear that the faculty and administrators in Sweetland are highly committed to their work and to supporting excellence in student writing.” We are grateful for the reviewers’ thoughtful and thorough engagement with Sweetland’s constituents and for their carefully considered suggestions and recommendations. We also wish to thank the College of LSA for organizing Sweetland’s first external review, which provides a strong basis to continue our commitment to serving the University in supporting excellence in student writing. As a unit, we take the external review committee’s suggestions to heart in order to strengthen even more our support of U-M and LSA’s mission.

I am sure that this brief report on our external review solidifies your appreciation and support of the unit’s work. If you are a Sweetland Alum, I hope you take some time to submit or update a profile to our Alums Gallery. It is always a pleasure to see and acknowledge the kinds of work you’re doing right now, and the Gallery helps us recognize the trajectories students take after engaging with our programs.

If you would like to mentor current Sweetland students, you can sign up with LSA Connect, a program run by the LSA Opportunity Hub that enables undergraduates here to find alums willing to talk with them about subjects of mutual interest. Alums choose their level of engagement and subjects they’re willing to discuss with students. Networking with alums can greatly impact students’ professional development and influence the choices they make as they pursue their interests in and after college.

I hope you enjoy reading about our programs and initiatives in this newsletter. You will see how creative and dedicated to students’ well-being our faculty are, and how our staff continues to be expert and efficient. Happy reading!

Simone Sessolo
Director, Sweetland Center for Writing