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New English curriculum exposes students to more diverse authors

By Gheni_Platenburg
Feb. 8, 2011 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 7, 2011 at 8:08 p.m.

UHV support professor Christine Granados, second from left,  assists students, from left, Brandy Aguilar, Chelsea DeLeon and Zeke Velasquez with preparing an oral presentation on a poem by ABR speaker Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

REMAINING WRITERS IN ABR SERIES:Kate Bernheimer, Feb. 17 - Bernheimer has published novels, stories, children's books, creative nonfiction and essays on fairy tales and has edited three fairy-tale anthologies. The founder of "Fair Tale Review," she is a writer in residence at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette.

Beverly Lowry, March 10 - Lowry is a Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts award winner and has served as president of the Texas Institute of Letters. The author of seven novels and two nonfiction works, Lowry was a former instructor at George Mason University, and she now resides in Austin.

Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, April 21 - Hinojosa-Smith specializes in life and literature of the Southwest, and was the first Chicano author to receive the prestigious Premio Casa de las Americas award. He has devoted most of his career as a writer to his 15-volume "Klail City Death Trip" series.

EXAMPLESSamples of Rachel Eliza Griffiths work can be found at

www.rachelelizagriffiths.com/

A change in the curriculum for a freshmen English class at the University of Houston-Victoria likens the course to those offered at Ivy League schools.

As a pilot program, the curriculum for the university's English 1302 course has been tailored to focus on the writers featured in this semester's American Book Review speaker series.

"There aren't many schools in the country that are doing anything comparable to this other than Stanford," said Dagoberto Gilb, one of the program's organizers. "Students are going to see great writers and poets who are living right now."

He added, "This is usually the mark of an Ivy League university."

The course was advertised last semester to students, who could choose whether they wanted to enroll.

Gilb, an accomplished author and writer-in-residence at UHV, serves as the lead professor, while three other professors serve as support teachers to the nearly 65 students enrolled in the seminar-style course.

Students enrolled in the course focus on writing about the diverse group of authors' work through personal response essays, research papers and literary analyses.

Additionally, students sit in at the authors' ABR presentations and discuss the authors' work in classroom discussions.

They will be present for Wednesday's ABR presentation by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

"Freshmen students see an array of published authors," said Gilb. "I do suspect (students) may not realize how valuable this is for a few years."

Participating professors said they were pleased with the students' response to the program.

"They seem to like it," said support professor Christine Granados. "They respond differently to speakers. Some they like, some they don't."

"It's been very boring," said 19-year-old freshman Kayla Anderson. "I bet one day I'll look back and say, 'Wow, I was there when so and so did that,' but right now, it's not that iconic in my life."

Despite their feelings on the individual authors, many students were just happy about the introduction of more minority authors into the curriculum.

"We always hear about Caucasian authors, but we never hear about African-Americans and Mexicans," said 18-year-old freshman Patricia Quinones, who said this was her first exposure to a plethora of minority authors. "I like learning about different cultures."

"I'm excited because we are getting a black person during Black History Month," said Mapps, who said she was excited to see the ABR speaker Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

The professors hope to continue the program beyond this semester.

"We know it's an experiment. It's hard to anticipate bumps in the road, but it's going well so far," said Diana Lopez, one of the support professors. "Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going."

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