Assignments With Impact

A student colors sheets at the Logan Block Party

April 12, 2017

By Kourtney Schott (’18), Sidnee Grubb (’18)

Reading The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer inspired Gonzaga English Senior Lecturer Ginger Grey to include more actionable elements of service learning in her classroom. She selected an organization seeking to create a competitive environment in classrooms to advocate for charities around the world, and along with Senior Lecturer Jessica Halliday, put the challenge to freshman students to create promotional video essays supporting a selected nonprofit or cause.

The unique nature of the assignment, says Grey, is that students go beyond writing for the teacher and “move to an understanding that their writing matters beyond the classroom, beyond a grade.”

“Students … move to an understanding that their writing matters beyond the grade.”
– Ginger Grey

Halliday finds that the nontraditional video essay asks students to consider all the rhetorical opportunities afforded them in today’s changing landscape of digital transmission. She believes that without the education and understanding of effective digital communication, “students are at the mercy of the rhetoric – in a way, illiterate.”

Mark Bechtel said the project brought light to “problems bigger than ourselves, which don’t affect us at all, but affect people across the world.” Another student, Lucy Berens, shared, “It’s been crazy to learn more about charity in America through this. We give the least, and we make the most.”

Students still had conversations about essay writing, learning about argument development, appealing to emotion and structuring a story through new media. At the same time, Erika Kahler said, “This wasn’t just an assignment. There was more motivation to do it well.”