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Meaningful Summer Writing

Publication Date: 6/22/2011

Up-and-coming high school juniors and seniors convened at Rhodes last week and could be seen across campus writing collaborative character sketches about coffee shop conversations. And they could be seen penning poems in between navigating the Collegiate Gothic campus. June 12 marked the kickoff of the Rhodes Summer Writing Institute, an academic camp for high school students aspiring to improve to their rhetorical and creative skills. The camp continues this week through Friday, June 24.

Each day, students—40 percent of whom are from outside the South—have attended four hours of seminars and workshops depending on interests they submitted when applying. This year the institute boasts two fiction writing workshops, a poetry class, and an expository Shakespeare class, all taught by Rhodes faculty as well as visiting professors from other institutions.

However, the institute is not all pen and paper. The itinerary features field trips by day to Memphis landmarks like the Zoo, Sun Studios, and the Civil Rights Museum, and at night, students attend lectures with pop culture topics.

The program also has high claims on returning participants. Some camp alums such as Sophie Osella ’14, cite the writing camp as pivotal to their decision to enroll at Rhodes. For Osella, the camp was a “haven of people who have similar interests and who are able to enjoy learning,” and it became the college preview that camp instructors hope to convey. Says Osella, “The writing institute shares the same small class, discussion-based education values as Rhodes, and being able to envision myself in the same classrooms taking different classes two years later made that decision for me.”

Among other faces familiar to the institute is Rhodes grad Michael Gossett ′10, a student of poetry at the University of Maryland, now serving his fourth year as a resident assistant. Veteran of veterans, however, is Professor Barrett Hathcock, a Rhodes alumnus and visiting faculty member who once attended the camp himself. Now, he teaches one of the fiction workshops.

“As a 17-year-old writing ‘please-please-pretty-girl-pay-attention-to-me poems’,” said Hathcock. “I remember how that first positive feedback to my writing from strangers encouraged me.” Hathcock also remembers the “aha moments” the camp provided in his aspirations to become an English major and eventually a teacher.

For institute director Dr. Rebecca Finlayson in her twelfth year conducting the camp, this means 48 students will leave Rhodes with excellent writing credentials and self-confidence approaching the collegiate experience. After successfully completing the program, students receive two college credits on a transcript from Rhodes, as well as a letter grade and evaluations from instructors. Some will have lit the fuse for further creative writing endeavors.

(information compiled by Dylan Ledbetter ’14)

Tags: Alumni, Campus Life, Faculty, Students

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