Before UCF student Allyson Goolsby took a Rhetoric & Civic Engagement class this semester, she didn’t realize she could play such a role in confronting and solving social problems.
But then, that is the purpose of this course that teaches how to use the art of persuasion and effective writing to shape outcomes.
“I didn’t know that I’d be capable of doing this much,” Goolsby, a junior public relations/advertising major, said about her final project to benefit homeless people in Brevard County. “I can’t believe I actually accomplished this.”
Students in the course were required to identify a problem to which they wanted to respond and then implement a civic-engagement campaign. Goolsby’s project included raising money and supplies for groups that provide aid to the homeless, rallying other students to support the cause, and organizing a volunteer day to help feed the homeless.
Results of about a dozen projects were showcased Thursday at The Burnett Honors College.
Johanna Anda-Bellorin’s campaign calls for voters this November to approve the sale of medical marijuana because it could help her 80-year-old grandmother who has painful rheumatoid arthritis and her 11-year-old cousin who has autism and epilepsy.
“A lot of people don’t understand what it is or how it can be used,” the junior said.
Sophomore Danielle Saff created a Homeless Bill of Rights that she is pushing the Florida Legislature to pass. The 10 points in the bill include guarantees such as the right to travel freely in public areas and the right not to be subject to unreasonable search.
“The purpose of this bill is to minimize discrimination against the homeless by ensuring that the homeless are not deprived of the rights and privileges that all other citizens receive,” she wrote in her project.
Other campaigns raised awareness of Indian River Lagoon pollution, worked to establish a Seminole County counseling program for victims of school bullying, pushed to keep the arts in schools, and promoted other topics.
Elizabeth Wardle, the class professor and chair of the Writing and Rhetoric Department, said she was pleased with the campaigns by the students, who were “to see themselves as active citizens who can use rhetoric to make change in their communities.
“I’m never surprised by what students can do, but I was impressed. Once they got into it, they were really motivated.”
The course will be one of the core classes of UCF’s recently approved Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Rhetoric, housed in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. The department is part of the College of Arts & Humanities.
The new major scheduled to start this fall is the first of its kind in Florida and is an extension of UCF President John C. Hitt’s vision for students to learn to write more effectively.
When the Department of Writing and Rhetoric was separated from the Department of English in 2010, part of the new department’s mission was to improve the writing of all graduates from UCF, Wardle said.
“This is the final piece of the mission Dr. Hitt gave us. We’re trying to respond so that when students graduate they’re career-ready,” she said.
Degree courses will include writing in digital environments, writing for nonprofits, marketing your writing, and other topics.
The program is designed to produce graduates proficient in analyzing, creating and editing, and to prepare them to be “more effective and ethical citizen-communicators,” according to the degree’s outline. They’ll also have opportunities to work with community and business partners in publishing, education, healthcare, marketing, public relations and other industries.
Several of the students who showcased their projects Thursday said they plan to switch their major to the new Writing and Rhetoric degree instead of just completing the requirements for a minor. All of the courses in the current minor in Writing & Rhetoric can be applied toward the new major.
For more information about the new degree, go to https://writingandrhetoric.cah.ucf.edu/.