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Instructors inject new life into writing classes

Alexis Butzner teaches a Writing 121 class. Photo by Jenaro Ramirez.

Students who are interested in health related fields at Chemeketa now have the option to enroll in a class where academic writing and medical literature come together.

Alexis Butzner and Shannon Kelly, both English instructors here at Chemeketa, have been teaching what Butzner deemed a “themed Writing 121” where students focus on learning the regular curriculum of a Writing 121 class with medical texts as the source material, and substituting MLA formatting style with APA style.

This idea came about after Butzner had a desire for the nursing program to have a Writing 121 class focusing on APA formatting.

“Students in Health Sciences don’t use MLA in their lives after college,” Butzner said,“so the idea was to just focus a class around that basic principle.”

Kelly, who also teaches this specific WR 121 class, says that her class focuses on contemporary health and science themes.

“I’m very interested in what’s termed ‘the medical humanities’ and the interplay between health sciences and humanities like literature and philosophy,” Butzner said. This proves to be the essence of the class and what it offers to its students.

As for what actually happens in class, Butzner and Kelly have the same principles but different teaching styles and emphasis. Butzner places a focus on both classical and modern health texts. This helps students get an overview of how health issues and debates have evolved over time.

“One thing that is very interesting about the history of science and medicine,” Butzner said, “is that it exists on a continuum, and we often think what’s modern is better and it’s often the case that the classic methods are actually beneficial, that there is a logic to things that feel ancient and crazy.”

Kelly prefers to discuss contemporary health and science themes. In today’s world, many health issues are being revised and contested and Kelly seems to keep that in mind. She mentions that in class that “ethnic disparities in literature…bioethics, and empathy in healthcare professionals” are thoroughly discussed.

Even though this WR 121 class is mainly targeted for Health Science majors, about 40% of the students in both Butzner’s and Kelly’s class are not Health Science majors.

Both Butzner and Kelly have different ideas as to why that is. One of the reasons may be students don’t know about the existence of this class. “Even though we make it clear that it is contextualized through the health and sciences and uses APA many are not aware of either of these until the first day of class.” Kelly said. This can be helped by taking the time and knowing what you’re signing up for.

“Click next to the course and…it’ll say ‘health science focus,’” Butzner said. Schedule conflicts are another common reason.

“Students tend to sign up for classes that are convenient to their schedules,” Kelly said.
Despite this, Butzner and Kelly continue to teach the class. They both understand the importance of having a Health Science-focused class.

“The themed course is a way of applying their current interest and career goals and-it is a required course so you’ll have to take it. So being able to apply your passion to a course that is outside of your field is always excellent.” Butzner said. The course is open to anyone who wants to educate themselves about current and classic health issues while maintaining the core content of a WR 121 class.

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