Erin Kelly wins president's collaborator award


For the past three years, Erin Kelly has been working to transform UVic’s approach to academic writing.

An associate professor of English and adviser for the Academic Writing Requirement (AWR), Kelly has administered UVic’s only universal graduation requirement, which seeks to give students the critical thinking, communication and research skills they need to succeed.

It has been a massive undertaking: AWR serves nearly 4,500 students each year, plus a teaching contingent of more than 30 instructors. Kelly works across faculties and with stakeholders including the Centre for Academic Writing, UVic Libraries and International Student Services.

“We are the writing people. We really care about your ability to write. We are here to support your work,” she says.

Kelly’s introduction of semi-annual Write In events in the Department of English have brought hundreds of students together to benefit from writing support, quiet study space and, of course, free pizza—the towers of empty takeout boxes indicative of the events’ success. During her time as adviser, she also managed to secure an external review of the AWR, and, starting next year, class sizes will be capped at 30 students, down from 35 in 2017-2018.

For her efforts, Kelly will be honoured with the Collaborator Award at the President's Extraordinary Service Awards on April 30, a recognition she feels she shares with all those teaching in the AWR.

“Our instructors are doing incredibly important work that’s meaningful for students’ lives,” she says. “I feel this award is calling attention to the valuable work that’s happening in the program.”

Kelly’s plan is only getting started. Beginning in July, she will take on the role of interim director as the AWR transitions into an official Humanities’ program. Her mission is to create the most robust, effective writing requirement possible.

“There is an opportunity to ask the big questions, which are what is this university requirement trying to do, and what can we do as a program to do a better job of meeting these requirements?” she says.

More formalized training for teaching faculty and instructors, a lecture series and special topics courses are on the cards, among other plans.

Kelly says was inspired to take on the AWR role by her experience at the University of Maryland, where, as a graduate student, she was trained to teach students composition. She said the program gave students starting university a better chance of being successful.

“I genuinely think universities are these special, magical places,” Kelly says. “Making it possible for students to enter the university community and thrive within it is one of the most rewarding things I can do.”