Congratulations Minor in Writing Graduates!
Brooks K. Eisenbise
Adrian A. Gonzalez Ortiz
Mary Jo Kelly
Christine Hija Lee
Emma Balaban Wergeles
Congratulations, graduates! On behalf of the Sweetland faculty, I want to thank you for the immense pleasure of working with you and observing how your outstanding projects have developed. You have inspired us to do our best to support your learning, and we admire what you’ve achieved—especially throughout this final, disrupted term. You have improved your writing brilliantly, and what you have learned in the Minor will serve you well in your future endeavors.
The capstone projects described below exemplify students' wide-ranging interests. The many genres covered bear witness to the benefits of courses that challenge students to develop their own talents, to be innovative, and to grow both intellectually and socially. These students are truly Leaders and Best!
Many thanks to the faculty involved in the Minor in Writing this year, who guided students every step of the way: Julie Babcock, Jimmy Brancho, T Hetzel, Shelley Manis, and Raymond McDaniel.
Director, Sweetland Center for Writing
Graduate Capstone Projects and Reflections on the Minor
Below you will find descriptions and links to of each graduate's Capstone project, as well as responses to the question: What will you take with you from your time in the Minor?
Major: Communication and Media
Skins of Dirt and Dust
In line with the words of Lao Tzu, “new beginnings are often disguised as painful endings,” "Skins of Dirt and Dust" is a collection of memoir essays and accompanying photographs that work together to explore the muddled nature of life/death, growth/decay, good/bad, etc. in our lives, as well as the importance of perspective in understanding both what has happened and how to move forward after difficult or painful events.
The Sweetland Minor in Writing taught me to think more deeply about not only traditional forms of writing, but creativity and communication in general. From my time here, I've found that it is impossible to spend a semester learning from and with a group of thinkers and communicators as diverse, talented, and passionate as my fellow Minors and not come away a better writer because of it. From them, I learned not only how to distinguish my own voice, but also how to distinguish and appreciate each of theirs. I learned to push my boundaries and experiment with new mediums, and – perhaps best of all – I learned how to learn vicariously through each of their projects and processes. This was especially important to me because, as a Minor student, it is impossible to learn about every form of writing and communicating that you wish. A single person cannot fully research and then create a podcast, a website, a screenplay, a cookbook, an argumentative essay, a photobook, a poetry collection, a sound essay, and a million other things all in one or two semesters. There simply isn’t time. But, with the Minor in Writing, I didn't have to choose. Through the workshop process and the open, friendly, and inquisitive community we built as a class, it was possible for each of us to hone our writing skills in our particular areas of choice while still learning by example from the workshops and project presentations of all the other writers in our class. Because of this, I take from my time in the Minor not only the more tangible things – like the friendships I’ve made and projects I’ve put together – but also the experience of it all. The collective knowledge of our team of writers continually astounded and impressed me, and I will truly miss not only our lively discussions, but also seeing all of your faces in class. Thank you to my classmates and T Hetzel (my forever-amazing professor) for being my writing family all these weeks and months, and thank you to the Sweetland Minor in Writing for setting me up for success as a writer and a human being, both at U-M and in the world beyond.
Majors: Political Science and Sociology
Laughing in Your General Direction
An experiment in satirical short fiction
My biggest takeaway from my time in the Minor in Writing is the confidence to explore my ideas, observations, and inclinations through writing. The minor showed me how to make an entire project out of a passion that my professor could articulate long before I knew it existed. The minor created a space wherein I was able to produce a project at the furthest limits of my comfort zone, and my professor and classmates provided me with the perspective, wisdom, and humor I needed to see it through.
Major: Psychology, Minor: Education for Empowerment
In writing this essay, I initially set out to chronicle the story of The Pleiades, my Grammy's group of friends that my biological grandmother was also part of. These women have maintained a close friendship for their entire lives, always coming together for love and support in good times and bad. As I learned more about their lives, I learned more about myself. I found connections between The Pleiades and the constellation they named themselves after that I couldn't make up if I tried. According to my Grammy, their story demonstrates that "truth is stranger than fiction." So, this is the final product (for right now, as their story is not over yet...) - the story of the Pleiades through my eyes.
My time in the Minor has shown me that being a “writer” can mean SO many things. Writing isn’t just about putting words on a page, it’s about telling a compelling story, whatever that means for you. When I started the Writing minor, I was not expecting to use photography, watercolor painting, and web design to enhance my work. I was not expecting to see Capstone projects in the forms of podcasts, documentaries, and App designs. So, I will take my new understanding of what it means to be a “writer” with me, someone who tells stories, regardless of what form the story takes.
Brooks K. Eisenbise
Major: Art & Design
Worth, Changing: Former Teenage Girls in Conversation
Worth, Changing is an examination of adolescent female identity in retrospect. Four interviews with "former teenage girls" explore the struggles and triumphs of being female and/or femme-presenting in a world that tells us to be agreeable, quiet, and small.
Before entering the Sweetland Writing Minor, I believed that my words were only worth sharing if I squished them into an existing genre, a box that might not fit my ideas perfectly but must be complied with nevertheless. Learning that "everything is writing" in my Gateway course permanently changed my view of writing as a creative medium and allowed me to express myself in new and exciting ways. Confidence in my own writing increased exponentially during my Capstone course. There, I learned that my interests have a valid literary outlet so long as I commit to communicating them—I can write anything I can imagine if I believe my ideas are important and worth sharing. I feel I have come into my own as a writer, and look forward to a life in which I use writing as a medium for personal expression and interpersonal connection.
Major: Political Science
Why is it important for young women to have strong female role models?
My Capstone Project focuses on the question: Why is it important for young women to have strong female role models? I believe that my mix of writing forms, such as an opinion essay, research essay, and personal narrative, all make for an interesting take on my central question. I hope that you learn more about female role models and their importance, while also learning more about me.
The Writing Minor gave me an opportunity to explore my writing in an open and comfortable space. My professors always pushed me, and I achieved more than I expected. In a school that is competitive, the minor in writing gave me a support system that I was in need of. My biggest take away from the minor is that you have to start somewhere. Your first draft will probably be pretty awful, but you cannot create something great without starting somewhere. Before the minor, I was scared to write first drafts because I knew they weren't going to be what I wanted. I now have the courage to be confident in my first drafts because I know that everyone faces the same issue, and that my piece will only go up from there.
Major: Business (BBA)
This project started with a personal discomfort of mine: shattered glass. Over time, this morphed into a project about fear of all sorts. Through a series of linked essays and essayettes, I explore how our fears are both distinctly unique and unequivocally connected.
I will always cherish the feedback that I have received over my years in the Minor. Writing is something you can do anywhere and anytime. You don't have to be in a program to create something exceptional. However, it is a rare treat to be given continuous and earnest feedback from peers and professors who want you to reach your highest potential. There are select few circumstances where brilliant writers see your work from the first word, and then continue to walk with you until the end, all in an effort to create something in its best form. I am often reminded of what a privilege it is to have such feedback available to me without even having to seek it out. There is no question I am a better writer because of it.
Major: Art and Design
The Electric Lady
A collections of essays analyzing sci-fi media featuring robot women!
Being in the Minor in Writing Program has been absolutely amazing. Though I’m an art student, by nature specializing in self-expression, I would’ve felt lost if I wasn’t able to express myself through my writing practice. A practice that was first encouraged through my involvement in LSWA (formerly LHSP, riperoonie), but honed through participation in this minor. What I loved a lot about this minor was the way it encouraged community building and peer support while also being an intensely independent experience. Though I’m a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to my creative practice, I found the small-group centered workshopping process super helpful and the support of the professors I’ve worked with invaluable. Overall, being in this program has helped me become a more confident writer and has allowed me to explore new ways of communicating my ideas to others in ways I don’t think I could’ve explored in my Major alone.
The Jean Goldman Cookbook Project
My project is a cookbook that compiles my late grandma’s best dessert recipes, with some stories, memories, and reflections on our relationship mixed in.
I came into the minor my sophomore year in search of a community of writers, and now, two years later, I can absolutely say that it's given me that. I've grown so much as a writer and a person through conversations with classmates, workshops, and office hours. This program has challenged me and supported me throughout my time at UMich, and I'm so grateful to have been part of it.
Adrian A. Gonzalez Ortiz
Major: Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity (EEB) and Environment
La Vida Despues (Life After)
A short story based on climate change and how it will shape our future. The story is set in a future where action against climate change was minimal (much how like it's being tackled today) and presents the repercussions that would result from such a scenario.
I think what I'll take most out of the minor will be what entails developing a project from the ground up. Usually, you’re used to working on a project where the topic/subject matter is already laid in front of us. Maybe we already have even a certain direction or format the project has to follow. With the writing minor, it was all about developing a vision for something and seeing it through to the end which is something I had never experienced. I hope to take the lessons I learned about building my projects forward and apply it to the ideas I have in the future.
Major: International & Comparative Studies, Minor: Energy & Science Policy
Painting on Dewey Street
I embarked on a journey to bring color to my street while learning more about what motivates the work that I do
From the Minor in Writing, I will take the ability to think critically about genre, understand how to transform and adapt projects, and most importantly, write with confidence. I've had the opportunity to work on projects that allow me to express my true writing style and tone which has allowed me to investigate why I like to write, what I like to write, and how I want to write. Thanks to the writing minor, I now know that my future will involve writing in some way!
Major: Sociology of Law, Justice, and Social Change, Minor: Gender & Health
The Jar of Happy Things
For my capstone project, I decided to take an in-depth look at the past five years of my life. I selected ten different experiences that I've had and reflected on how they impacted and changed me, leading me to be the person that I am today. I have grown so much as a person, daughter, sister, friend, and partner, and this project is a reflection of that.
There is always room for creativity in your life, no matter what you're doing.
Not Your Mom's Travel Guide
Not Your Mom's Travel Guide is a podcast exploring traveler's guilt with different guests each episode who studied and lived abroad.
The Sweetland Minor in Writing gave me the confidence to share my thoughts and ideas aloud, which I think transcends any classroom. It gave me a collaborative space to think and create and scrap my work to start all over again after second-guessing myself. It taught me to second guess myself less. This program allowed me to grow into a well-rounded thinker who can convey those thoughts to others, without speaking in gibberish. It also showed me that even my gibberish, half-baked ideas have value. So thank you to those who read, listened, edited, shared, and collaborated with me over these past years.
Major: Communication and Media Studies
Fleeting is a podcast that explores the past experiences of young adults, as guests discuss their personal definitions of romance and sexuality. These stories occur throughout adolescence, from early uncomfortable high school dates to the growing hookup culture of someone's early 20s, until now.
You’d think after spending so much time at Sweetland that I’d have the perfect parting words. I’m struggling a lot to write this. But for the most part, I think I’m taking away how important it is to be able to put your thoughts into words. There’s a lot of difficult conversations happening in our world, in our country, and in our communities right now. Being able to slow down, take a step away from the big conversation, and find the words to say how you feel, is really what Sweetland’s taught me. There’s this energy of authenticity that comes along with these writer’s works, that I strive to continually make my words as authentic as possible. I learned that your words don’t always have to be beautiful, or poetic, or inherently meaningful. If you’re able to find comfort in what you write, then that’s all that matters. And if your writing can be a segway for someone else to express themselves, or use your piece as a way of expressing their own confusing feelings, then you’ve done enough.
I’m going to miss my time at Sweetland, and with the minor.
It brought me a lot of peace of mind.
The Girl's Club
My project explores my own experience with a group of women while connecting our experience with women who have come before for us.
The Minor of Writing was a series of classes and a community that encouraged me to be creative, brave, and original. It not only taught me to take risks but more importantly, it rewarded me for doing so- a rare and special academic experience. From my time I will take with me connections with professors who care about me and what I put out into the world. I will take with me the experience of a community of peers who are thoughtful, vulnerable, and generous. I will take with me the knowledge that I can and should share my voice with the world. I will think about talk about these classes for the rest of my life.
Major: Communication and Media, Minor: Sales
The P Word
For my project, I decided to write a set of personal essays inspired by a couple of Peggy McIntosh’s 50 Daily Effect of White Privilege. Each of my personal essays begins with one or two of her daily effects that inspired that piece. I wanted to delve deep and begin to understand my position as White woman in American society and how that identity has benefited me. I plan to analyze mostly my race, but as you will see throughout my pieces many different identities shine through including gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic class. This is purposeful and inevitable because privilege and White privilege take on different meanings for different people. In these essays I am solely writing about my experiences as I know privilege is going to look and sound very distinct for every individual. I hope to reflect on my experiences and also educate others about White privilege through the power of storytelling. My goal is that my audiences leave this site feeling more aware, empathetic, compassionate, and able to educate others in the process. In order to break the molds of White fragility and guilt, we must strive to learn. As uncomfortable it can be, this is the first step in this process.
The Minor In Writing has given me such an amazing community of writers and friends who have shaped my college career. I will definitely take a sense of creativity and lust from the people who have inspired me. I'm proud to leave the minor with these website and am eager to keep creating and writing in this crazy world of ours.
Mary Jo Kelly
Major: Communication & Media
My project recounts my own journey with feminism through a photo essay. It also includes the experiences of other feminists at the University of Michigan and their journeys with feminism.
The Minor in Writing allowed me to grow as a writer exponentially. The small class sizes and supportive nature of the faculty and my fellow peers let me truly take risks and be creative. I also learned about writing through many different lenses through the Minor in Writing, which was eye-opening and exciting. I gained many skills that I will carry with me into the future, especially through the Gateway and Capstone projects. Thank you so much to everyone in the Minor in Writing for making it such a wonderful community!
Christine Hija Lee
Major: Music - Violin Performance
i am opening “my closet” doors, for people to read some of my closeted thoughts, fears, and secrets. my motive behind creating this with such personal content is to “come out” with a lot of different discoveries and thoughts i’ve crossed during my undergraduate career. being vulnerable leaves an opportunity to be judged or abandoned. but i envision that my vulnerability and bravery to open up in this first collection of poems may encourage others to relate and partake in conversations.
My biggest take-away from Sweetland’s Minor in Writing is the community that flourishes here. Although we each come from different backgrounds, we all come to meet with our passion to find our voice, to discover our thoughts, and to encounter and ponder challenging ideas in our world. Our differences in who we are as we walk in day-to-day life only accentuate on paper, and we come together––whether in a coffee shop, in the classroom, office hours, even ZOOM––to talk about the thing we love most: writing. I find it pretty amazing how in such a short time, throughout the duration of completing the minor, we meet people and get to know them on a personal level as our works expose who we are. What I take away from my time in the Minor is that this community found here at U of M is one that encourages growth. And if there is one here, there are more out in the world, and it all the more encourages me to keep writing! Thank you thank you MiW!
A collection of flash fiction in an ebook format about growing up.
I so enjoyed my time in the minor. I think the most valuable thing I got out of it was the relationships I formed with the people in my Gateway and Capstone courses: I loved getting to know each person and hearing their voice come through in their writing. Additionally, I am forever grateful for T Hetzel's positivity! She ALWAYS did whatever she could to help her students succeed, and seeing how much she genuinely loves what she does is truly inspiring.
Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Ramblings of a Technical Writer
This blog thoroughly analyzes technical documents to demonstrate important concepts in technical writing. It has a more humorous, casual tone than most technical writing blogs.
I loved my time in the Minor in Writing. Learned a lot of stuff, wrote a lot of stuff, got a shirt that actually fits me (bless y’all for offering XS). 10/10, would minor in writing again.
(Wait how many words is this supposed to be again? Oh no I wasn’t ready for this. I hear tiny disembodied voices chanting “SPEECH, SPEECH, SPEECH!”. Is this form gonna expire? I mean, it probably won’t, but I really don’t wanna enter all this again.)
I’d like to thank all my writing profs, y’all are super cool and great at teaching and very empathetic towards students’ needs. I was deeply, permanently traumatized by many of the classes here at U of M (*cough* Orgo), but all my writing classes were super not traumatic. Well, except for the time I wrote a 27-page literature review for Jimmy’s Science Writing class. Or the 15,000-word Dungeons & Dragons character creation guide I wrote for Gateway. Those were a liiiiiittle traumatic, but like, in a GOOD way, y’know? No?
Okay, uh, anyway… let’s see, I covered writing, professors, longstanding emotional trauma… OH YEAH! READING! PEERS! I gotta say, y’all pick some REALLY spicy writing samples. There were a few times where I like, “hAH, I don’t got time to read this 20-page essay, I’ll just skim this bad boy.” And then I’d read it anyway because y’all always find the most interesting bullshit. And then in peer review?? Man, my classmates write some wicked interesting stuff. Good times.
In conclusion: Writing is cool, y’all are cool, keep doing what you’re doing.
Major: Political Science, Minor: History of Law and Policy
Why Students Don't Vote
People make lots of assumptions about our generation. I wanted to set out to evaluate this ever-changing question about why we have the lowest voter turnout, and what can be done about it.
I will take a freedom to think and write and explore in a way I didn't allow myself before. In college we are given this kind of rigid mandate — take these classes, major in this, get this grade, etc. etc. — and sometimes we don't stop to really think. The Minor in Writing was a breath of fresh air for me, giving me the chance to do what I love (writing) in the way I wanted to do it.
Major: Biomolecular Science
Zero Waste Eating on a Budget
For my Capstone project, I chose to challenge myself, for the first time, to reduce waste by living two weeks without producing any food waste, including waste from packaging. My experience and research conducted during the challenge was documented in a blog and video.
Sweetland’s Minor in Writing has provided me with invaluable writing and communication skills. The Gateway, electives, and Capstone courses have been some of my favorites in college. Through them, I was able to start exploring how audience, purpose, and genre tie into creating multimodal projects, projects that go beyond the standard essays that are assigned in my other courses. For my Gateway project, I had the chance to explore the genre of podcasts and learned the software to create my own on the California wildfires. In an environmental journalism class, I was guided through the process of news reporting, which resulted in publication of my news feature in an environmental news journal! In my Capstone course, I was able to utilize the blog genre to combine personal thoughts with research-based evidence to share my experience on eating zero waste with a larger crowd. As a science major, these courses gave me the opportunity to explore not only genres, but also topics, that are not a part of my major curriculum. Through other minor electives, such as academic argumentation, I was able to improve upon my academic writing skills too. All along the way, I had supportive faculty and instructors who helped develop these communication skills. The Minor in Writing has been the perfect complement to my major and will be very beneficial to me in graduate school.
Major: Biology, Health & Society
"Getting Cultured" is a project that explores how behaviors around food can enact culture and how this relates to one's identity.
Writing is not so much about intuition, but instead about making conscious choices throughout the writing process. Why am I writing this? What do I want to say? No, really. What do I want to say? What is the anecdote doing to the piece? Do fonts matter? In answering these questions, writing turns from conveying ideas to conducting an experiment. The Minor program has taught me to be brave and transparent in experimenting with forms, media, genre, and new experiences. At the end of this process, not every test is a success like that one time I tried to write a ballad. But the beauty of it all is that failures give information, not judgements.
Major: Film, Television, and Media Studies, Minor: Entrepreneurship
Conversations in Los Angeles
Conversations in Los Angeles is a collection of autofiction pieces from a summer spent working in Hollywood. Though his own circumstances remain indistinct, the narrator becomes an audience to a chain of narratives, as the people he meets tell him one after another the stories of their lives.
Majors: Business, Organisational Studies, Psychology, Minors: Playwriting, Music, Women's Studies
An exploration into the process of writing a feature-length screenplay, beginning with the first act and a treatment for subsequent scenes.
This minor interprets writing in an extremely exploratory form that goes beyond simply textual. I think this is what makes this minor so unique really, is that creativity and empathy can inhabit in so many different forms through this minor. You begin to see people's personalities and what makes them who they are by the art they create, drawing on from their personal histories. I've been able to explore the multi-modality that truly represents writing and art.
Major: Sociology with Law, Justice, and Social Change subplan
Be Good. Do Better.
A series of essays about creating change, self-reflection, and community service. What does doing good mean, and how can we do better?
I think my greatest takeaway from my time in the Minor in Writing is the value of working closely with my peers. Most of my best work and greatest memories from my Minor classes are from when I'm doing small group workshops with my classmates. The other students in the Minor are so creative and intelligent, and I always deeply value what they have to say about my work. They've helped me in times where I've been stuck and supported me in times where I've done good work on my own. In the future I hope to emphasize this type of work and feedback.
Major: Business Administration, Minor: Spanish
Words by Romy
A pre-launch Instagram venture that looks to provide a neutral ground for two sides of a debate in the genre of modern poetry: Instapoetry and modern classical poetry.
My time in the Minor has not only brought me lifelong friends and profound mentors, but has taken my dry and vanilla business writing to rich composition across a slew of genres. It's challenged me in my work ethic, my creative bounds, how I analyze text, and has afforded me opportunities to grapple with thought-provoking topics of my own choosing. It has taught me how to write and how to think about writing, and even inspired me to write for the Michigan Daily as a Columnist. The things I'll take with me from this program are friendships, growth in my writing, countless beloved essays, and of course, a newfound love for my capstone project that I will undoubtedly be continuing this summer.
Major: Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Artifacts and Fiction
My project analyzes the function of museums, more specifically ancient near eastern museums.
The ability to think outside of institutions.
Major: Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience
K squared: Kickstart Kinship
A podcast exploring common problems that can arise in friendships and how to keep those friendships for a lifetime.
I think the biggest thing I will take with me is the ability to think and work through how to approach different types of projects. I will also be able to take the confidence this minor has given me in my writing abilities.
Major: Computer Science
iris is a set of guidelines for mobile app design that challenge many of today's current design norms
Since my major almost exclusively focused on large lectures, my time in the Minor in Writing provided unique opportunities to more deeply engage with both my peers and faculty. Without any doubt in my mind, these interactions have defined my experience the most as they simply cannot be detached from other aspects of the experience. As I move forward, I will remember all of the small moments. These are the moments that might seem trivial to an outsider, but are what ultimately inspired me; they helped me slip into different perspectives and better understand my peers while also helping improve my own creativity. Of course, I am also walking away with improvements of my writing skills. However, these improvements would have been far less significant it hadn’t been for the amazing people I’ve encountered during my time here.
Major: Organizational Studies
Exploring the self and the idea of home in unprecedented times
Creativity! This minor gave me room to explore different writing styles and learn from my peers.
Major: Public Policy
The Rights of Rivers
My Capstone explores what environmental personhood is, and how it can be used in legal contexts to protect natural resources.
I will take away an expanded view of what "writing" entails. Before the MiW, I think I had a very narrow understanding of who writers were and how they honed their craft. Throughout these two years, I have learned about different writing techniques, styles, and mediums. I have learned why each of these different facets of writing is effective in different contexts.
Major: Program in the Environment, Minor: Energy Science and Policy
In Her Words
An oral history project focusing on my grandmothers.
I've enjoyed taking an interesting variety of classes that have exposed me to many different genres of writing. My peers and the professors in the Minor have also made it very special. I really enjoyed the casual and collaborative atmosphere in my Gateway and Capstone classes, and it was always such a pleasure to see everyone's work.
Major: Communications and Media, Minor: Cappo Sales Track
In the Pursuit of Character
Exploring the themes of authenticity and performance within your social script.
Writing is therapy, use it!
Majors: Music, Linguistics
This essay is the process of me trying to understand a trend in society - minimalism, and how something based on the central tenet of simplicity is actually the farthest thing from simple. It is wrapped up in difficult issues like artistic backlash, consumerism, capitalist poison, environmental degradation, wealth discrimination, classism, social needs, spiritual needs and more. It's a creative non-fiction piece that weaves my research journey with the experience of living through the COVID-19 pandemic as a senior in college, and I use that lens to ask questions about how we choose to exist in this world.
- Genre features are there not as prison bars, but as a movable scaffold to play with and construct your own.
- It's always okay to have a shitty first draft.
- Everyone brings a story to the table, and no one views anything the exact same way
- Make as many deliberate choices as you can while writing
- Writing is hard, but the feeling of looking at your work is worth it
Major: Public Policy
On Dogs: Reflections on Companionship, Love, and Family
This is a site reflecting on the value that dogs confer to those around them—and the roles they play in all of our lives. It features a long-form essay, commemorating my dog, Chudley, accompanied by four interviews with family and friends.
The Minor has been an invaluable experience, and one that I'll never forget. It has been creative, introspective, and daring. And it's pushed me out of my comfort zone. In that vein, I'll always remember the importance of each of those things as I start the next chapter of my life. So, too, will I remember that in the moments when words seem to fail—like I’m facing or witnessing the inarticulable—there’s something very special trying. I’ll see to it that I lean into the unknown, trust my pen and the advice of others, and have fun—yes, fun!—with writing. The Minor has taught me that, and so much more.
Major: Public Policy
My life has been defined, it feels, by a series of reconciliations. Growing up, simply being human, is not as easy as we'd like it to be. I reckon everyone, in their own way, feels different, struggling with the passage of time and the responsibilities of impending adulthood. My capstone project focuses on reconciling the inconsistencies, contrasts, tragedies, and triumphs that make life most mystifying and the world most incomprehensible, and how it is perhaps these realities that make life most rich. While writing the material for my capstone project and, I hope, in continuing this project in the future, one of my greatest goals is to illuminate the experience of living with anxiety and attention disorders, to write the books I wish existed.
Writing has always been an outlet for me, an escape from the stress of constantly striving for further academic excellence, the formulaic, critical thinking engrained by over a decade of formal education and testing, and the rigidity of my own pragmatism. This has proven even more true in college, as the Writing Minor provided a welcome solace from the requirements and major classes that, while interesting, still felt like school. My writing classes allowed me to dive into the creative, unsure side of my personality, greatly improving my abilities in writing across various mediums in countless ways, but also lending credence to idea that thinking about and expressing my feelings and thoughts did not have to be entirely separate from my academic life or persona. The Minor in Writing gave me the support, encouragement and structure to grow as a writer and as a person. The courses, starting with the Gateway and ending with the Capstone, guided me through college as not just as I worked on writing skills old and new, but it gave me the space to find new passions and ways of writing and new methods of refining my craft and expressing myself. With such incredible professors (special shoutout to T — thank you for everything) and an unbelievably talented cohort of fellow writers, I am still amazed by all the Writing Minor gave me: but perhaps most valuably, it cultivated the confidence to believe that my voice was one worth developing and worth sharing with the world.
Major: Biomedical Engineering Electrical Engineering
I've investigated the interplay between Christianity and environmentalism, trying to figure out if there's any inherent incompatibility.
Growing up in a world brimming with information and media, I've always worried that my writing doesn't matter - there's already so much STUFF out there. The Minor in Writing has given me the confidence to see myself as a talented writer whose content has value. More importantly, I've learned how to make people care about my writing, how to produce something fresh and compelling. Not only have I learned various tricks and tips for persuading and captivating a reader, but I've learned that the most interesting writing starts with conflict. The pieces I'm most proud of capture some kind of discomfort or perceived incongruity, as do the pieces I most enjoy reading.
Major: Public Policy
What's it like to attend Phillips Exeter Academy: a journey through boarding school, a story of growth, a promise to myself
This is a story about my experience in boarding school and how it impacted my journey of growth thus far. It explores what it is about Exeter, high school, and adolescence that can be so nostalgic, so worth remembering despite the growing pains that come with change, and that can so profoundly impact an individual’s journey through the rest of their life.
So much. Firstly, I am so excited to be able to have so many different completed creative pieces in my archive of work, none of which would have been possible without the time, mentorship, and support this minor has created for me. And even more, I know I'll be able to leave my time at UofM with a much better understanding of my love for writing, a passion I never even knew I had until I had the right space to explore it through the Writing Minor experience. Additionally, I am so fortunate for all of the wonderful people I've been able to meet through this program, because if it wasn't for my peers or my lecturers/professors, I wouldn't have been able to create this capstone or gained so many of the skills I've learned throughout the past few years. I am so thankful for the Sweetland Minor in Writing!
Comebacks (password: capstone)
Comebacks is a lifestyle magazine that tells the stories of people who have quit and made a return.
The minor provided me with a community of like minded individuals. It also allowed me to explore my interests and creativity with little constraints. Thank you to everyone who made this experience valuable!
Emma Balaban Wergeles
Major: Political Science
The Best Laid Plans
My capstone is a series of essays that demonstrates my apprehension and fear surrounding change and things not going as planned, in both personal and societal contexts.
From the minor, I will be taking the understanding that everyone has a deeply unique insight into life and the role that we each play. Further, I am thrilled to be leaving Michigan with a deeper grasp on how to communicate effectively and passionately through writing. I am grateful to have had this experience and to have met a number of incredibly deep and thoughtful writers.
Major: Communications and Media
This project looks into the process of songwriting and how each of us is able to bring our own interpretations and experiences to the music we listen to.
I think the most valuable part of the minor for me was getting the chance to hone my writing skills in fields that are not necessarily my own. During every step of the way, my professors would challenge me to go out of my comfort zone and create something I never could have dreamed of creating. The community is amazing and I always felt supported by my peers. My favorite classes have been within the Minor in Writing and it has truly enhanced my Michigan experience!
Major: Psychology, Minor: Community Action and Social Change
MOVEpwr is an online platform that explores the power that movement has in the human brain especially. It includes non-fiction pieces that explore the facts behind movement, as well as a blog component that makes it more personal!
Writing is whatever you want it to be. If you want to write, you are a writer, and your words are important. Beyond the friends that I found in the Sweetland Minor in Writing, I have also taken away a confidence in myself and my identity as a writer. I love the way that the minor allowed us to explore different modes of writing. We learned first and foremost through experience and peer review, which gave me an understanding of writing unlike any I could have garnered through lectures. I am so grateful for the way this minor has shaped my writing skills, my outlook on life, and inevitably, my future.
Majors: Organizational Studies, Psychology
Measuring Happiness is a documentary, a collection of ideas surrounding Happiness from a group of 15 people connected to the University of Michigan in various ways.
Writing isn’t just about pen and paper, but pen and paper are essential to fostering your writing skills and creativity. In both the gateway and capstone classes, we were pushed outside of the box and explored a multitude of mediums in our endeavors. In gateway, the different experiments forced us to look at one idea and transform it into different products, showing us how we could tell one story in at least three different ways. In capstone, we focused on creating one larger finished product in formats that we were not previously familiar with. In these projects, we strayed from the norm, choosing to express ourselves with audio, video, diary entries, “choose your own path” stories, etc. incorporating interactive elements in our websites. By creating in these formats, we learned that writing encompasses a variety of mediums and different messages can be shared effectively in different ways. While reaching beyond the norm, we still practiced free-writing at the start of each class on random topics, sharpening our writing skills and pushing ourselves to think creatively and produce writing that can be shared in a short period of time. These exercises kept us grounded as we explored the endless possibilities of “writing”.
Major: English, Minor: Environmental Science
Quarterly Queries: What Did You Dream About Last Night?
A magazine about dreams and sleeping.
By completing the Minor in Writing, I hope to continue experimenting with different writing styles. I love creative nonfiction, which I use for this project, but I don’t want to be confined to one genre. I like to stick with what is comfortable, but this minor has shown me I can do more than creative nonfiction. It’s okay to take risks as long as you can explain why behind it and as long as your passionate about it. I’ve chosen multiple risks during my courses and I’d gladly do it over again – maybe with some more revisions.