In and out of the workplace, much about 2020 has been disturbing and challenging. Many of us have experienced deep loss and had health worries; we grieve with each other and with students as the coronavirus takes more and more lives. Black Lives Matter protests this year moved us to reaffirm our anti-racist pedagogies and policies, to work actively toward inclusion and justice for all members of the U-M community. As we reflect over the past year in this Newsletter, we honor the extraordinary efforts of students, faculty, and staff to meet new challenges, and to support each other as we do so.

In March, Sweetland began remote operations, moving all courses, the Peer Writing Consultant program, Writing Workshop, MWrite, unit meetings, and even end-of-term social gatherings online (during one unit meeting we toured a farm remotely, which gave us a much-needed break). We’ve learned a lot this year, far more than I can summarize in this brief introduction. Along with the rest of the world, we’ve become adept at managing Zoom meetings and found new ways to connect with each other and our students. This past spring, I read through students’ end-of-term comments about their winter courses and their Writing Workshop sessions. Over and over again, I witnessed their appreciation of instructors’ concern for them; students appreciated instructors’ necessary and welcome innovations, flexibility in adjusting to new formats and digital environments, and attention to students’ changing needs and difficulties. 

We are all sometimes nervous about meeting new challenges, but we are also driven to keep students at the center of all we do, to concentrate on how we can make new modes of learning work for them, and to try to convey to them how much they matter to us, how important their education is, and how far we will go to support them. This year has given us many opportunities to live our cherished values together.

I am immensely proud of everyone at Sweetland and their work with student writers, and I hope the stories they share in this Newsletter will make you proud as well. 

Theresa Tinkle
Director, Sweetland Center for Writing