Winners of Writing Program Awards announced

Group picture of faculty writing award winners
From left to right: Peter Whiting, director of SAGES; Christopher Flint, chair of the English department; Hee-Seung Kang, director of SAGES ESL Program; Eric Chilton, lecturer of English; Georgia Cowart, professor of music; Dean Cyrus Taylor.

At the end of each academic year, members of the Case Western Reserve University community are recognized with Writing Program Awards.

The Department of English, SAGES and the Writing Program recently recognized this year’s winners of teaching awards and student writing prizes.

Faculty Awards

The Jessica Melton Perry Award for Distinguished Teaching in Disciplinary & Professional Writing

Georgia Cowart, professor of music, was selected for this year’s award, which recognizes outstanding instruction in writing in professional fields and/or disciplines other than English.

Cowart has received numerous teaching and research awards, as well as fellowship support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. She also has the unique distinction of being the first two-time honoree for the Writing Program: In 2014, she received the SAGES Excellence in Writing Instruction Award.

In the Department of Music, Cowart is known not only for the “routine transformations” she is able to bring about in her students’ writing, but also for her collegiality and mentoring of her colleagues and students. David Rothenberg, chair of music, describes her approach to disciplinary writing instruction this way: “Through close conversation, careful reading of their work, and judicious criticism, she inspires her students to think of writing as a skill that must be constantly honed and customized for various contexts. She helps her students see that a dissertation, a scholarly article, a lecture-recital, and a grant application are all equally important for a successful academic career but require very different approaches to writing and must speak to different audiences.”

Her students demonstrate the effectiveness of her approach: They go on to publish projects begun under her guidance in top-tier journals, present papers at national and international conferences, and earn prestigious grants and scholarships, including two who recently received year-long Fulbright research fellowships in France. One student writes: “Like all good teachers, Georgia is tough when she needs to be, for she knows that higher expectations lead to higher achievement. However, her kindness, wit and indefatigable enthusiasm for good writing inspire self-assurance rather than self-doubt.”

The SAGES Excellence in Writing Instruction Award

Hee-Seung Kang, instructor in the Department of English and director of the SAGES English as a Second Language (ESL) Program, was honored for the award, which recognizes outstanding commitment to and success in teaching academic writing to Case Western Reserve University undergraduates in SAGES.

The number of matriculating students enrolled in the ESL writing courses this fall was 200 percent higher than it was just five years ago. Kang has been tireless in her curriculum development efforts to support multilingual writers, and she has recruited a dedicated and expert team of faculty to lead the ESL First Seminars. In addition, she has served as a mentor to faculty at all ranks, who have approached her for advice on how to support multilingual students in their classrooms.

Kang was nominated for this award by a record number of individual students this year. They speak warmly of her attention to their writing and speaking needs, and they praise her generosity. One wrote: “Professor Kang teaches in a way that is more detailed, closer and clearer than any other language teacher I have ever seen.”

Another commented, “She tried really hard to create a sense of hospitality inside class hours through multiple cultural activities as well as academic ones.”

The WRC Excellence in Consulting Award

English lecturers Jessica Birch and Eric Chilton were selected for the award, which recognizes outstanding writing instruction for students of the university and exemplary service to the Writing Resource Center during the academic year.

Birch, according to her students, “has a passion” for writing instruction. They praise her willingness to “adapt her teaching approach to [their] learning styles.” In her own words, “consulting in the writing center functions as an extension of and addition to teaching writing, operating in the liminal spaces between teaching and mentoring. As a consultant in the writing center, I begin by establishing the unique needs of each student, centering the session in the expressed individual goals of the student.”

Chilton is often described as “patient, kind, helpful, and knowledgeable.” His students praise his care and attention to all aspects of their writing projects. One commented that: “He doesn’t make me feel like he is rushing the whole process … but truly wants to make sure that I get the help I need. Working with him on my paper is a very comfortable experience.” Eric enumerates the values he deems essential to a successful writing consultation this way: “a focus on who students are, respect for what they are writing, and a willingness to ask why it matters.”

Student Prizes

Professor Cowart with her award-winning students
Professor Cowart with her award-winning students, Lauren Whitehouse and Adam Gleichsner.

The SAGES First and University Seminar Essay Prizes recognize the best writing that students produce in their first and university seminars. These essays are chosen from those nominated by SAGES seminar leaders each semester.

The University Seminar Awards are judged in September and recognized at the Celebration of Student Writing in December of each year. The winners for academic year 2014-15 are:

  • Adam Gleichsner for his essay “Setting the Internet on Fire: #GamerGate, New Games Journalism, and the Discourse Surrounding Sexism in the Gaming Industry,” which was written for USSO 290H (“The Social World of YouTube”) led by Cowart.
  • Rana Ulhman for her essay “America Against the Islamic World: Creating a Radicalized Other in the Minds of U.S. Citizens” written for USSY 290Z (“Secularization and the Culture of Belief”) led by Scott Dill.
  • Lauren Whitehouse for her essay “Fair Use in a New Cultural Paradigm: Amateur-Produced Appropriative Works on YouTube” written for USSO 290H.

    Eric Chilton with his award-winning students
    Eric Chilton with his award-winning students, Aya Bahij and Amalia Donastorg.

The First Seminar Awards are judged in January and recognized at the Celebration of Student Writing in April each year. The winners for academic year 2015-16 are:

  • Aya Bahij for her essay “My Life as a Palestinian Refugee from Lebanon” written for FSNA 161 (“Making Sense of Place”) led by Chilton.
  • Amalia Donastorg for her essay “Simulation and Place” written for FSNA 161.

Booklets including of the essays are available at