By Alan Piñon
Many students enter U-M with limited research skills, and most are not accustomed to navigating as many scholarly resources as the U-M Library provides, says Laura Thomas, program head for the Residential College’s creative writing program.
To ensure her students get a proper introduction to the resources at the Library, she partners with the Learning Programs and Initiatives area of the Library, which offers instruction sessions for any professor who requests them.
“These sessions are both useful and fascinating to students as they learn about the resources now available to them. I especially like how the session leaders tailor searches and exercises to my syllabus. Often my students get a head start on researching their final projects because the library instruction session includes how to locate sources related to my requirements,” Thomas says.
For writing instructors, Thomas says working in partnership with the Library is essential, as part of the mission of teaching writing is teaching proper sourcing and effective search techniques for research. “I wouldn't consider my first year seminar class complete without an instructional session,” she says.
Thomas also appreciates Café Shapiro, an annual event where University of Michigan undergraduate student writers, nominated by their instructors, read from their creative works.
“For many new writers, Café Shapiro is their first opportunity to read their work aloud to an audience. I've had several students comment they've never dreamed of reading their work until they were invited to the Café! Performing poetry or fiction is a critical professional skill for the serious artist. I'm grateful Café Shapiro gives students a serious yet fun experience giving voice to their words,” she said.
Laura Kasichke, Allan Seager Collegiate Professor in the Department of English, the Helen Zell MFA Program, and in the Residential College, also encourages her students to attend and participate in Café Shapiro, and says the experience is motivating to young writers.
“Bringing my two poetry writing classes this year to the Café Shapiro readings was a highlight of the semester. My fall class was an Intro to Poetry writing—so, most of the students were brand new to poetry writing and attending poetry readings, let alone reading their own poetry in public. It was incredibly fun to see them perform their work outside of class, behind a podium. It was really fun—gave us a great sense of camaraderie and a reason to be supportive of one another, as kind of a troupe of traveling poets,” Kasichke said.