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Saturday, April 8, 2017
Todd H. Sammons
Director, UH-Mānoa First-Year Writing Program

On behalf of the University of Hawai‘i President and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Interim Chancellor, David Lassner; the Interim University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Vice Chancellor for both Academic Affairs and Research, Michael Bruno; the Dean of the UH-Mānoa College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature, Laura Lyons; the Chair of the UH-Mānoa English Department, John Rieder; and the Director of the UH-Mānoa First-Year Writing Program, Todd Sammons--me--welcome to the first-ever UH Symposium on First-Year Writing.

Before I get to my two further tasks this morning, I would like to recognize attendees in the audience. So, as I call out your campus, would you please identify yourselves? [Nine of the ten UH System campuses were represented.]

And now, would you please turn to the person on either side of you and say “Thank for your attending this Symposium”? So . . . three announcements.

First, I would like the members of the Symposium Planning Committee to stand and be recognized. [They did and were.]

Second, I would like to recognize as the person without whom this Symposium would not be anything like how extraordinary it has turned out to be, my program’s Assistant Director, the amazing Amanda Christie. [I gave her a special lei.]

And, third, please do go easy on us: this is the inaugural Symposium; and, although I do get a modest stipend for directing our first-year writing program, we are pretty much doing this on no money.

I would now like to briefly set the scene for the rest of the day by, first, explaining how the Symposium came about and then, second, making a few remarks on the Symposium’s theme, the General Education Hallmarks for Foundations - Written Communication (FW).

The word ”symposium,” we on the Planning Committee discovered when one of our number looked it up online at one of our meetings, means “mini-conference” (more about that in a second). But when I looked in my semi-antiquated hard copy dictionary, I found slightly longer definitions, all of which, I think you’ll agree, obtain for what we’ll be doing today: “a convivial party with music and conversation”; “a social gathering with a free exchange of ideas”; and a “formal meeting where specialists deliver short addresses.” Hard copy dictionaries do have their uses.

Amanda and I initially thought that this would indeed be a mini-conference, hence the decision to call it a “symposium”: a half-day affair with maybe two panels, just for the Mānoa FYW instructors.

But then we decided to go wild and crazy, opening it up to all ten campuses, at which point things grew like Topsy such that here we are: a whole day, five breakout sessions, lunch, and something like 20 presenters.

My last remarks concern the FW Hallmarks, the thematic focus for our Symposium. The answer to “why this focus?” is I hope blindingly obvious: the Hallmarks map out what every first-year writing course in the UH system is supposed to do. It seemed to us a good place to start.

But maybe how the Hallmarks came about is not known to everyone in the room. So, since I’m really a literature professor who has recently started teaching Shakespeare, let me arrange this history in a five-act play.

My very important prologue to this history play is this: contrary to what you might believe, the Hallmarks were not done by any administrative fiat; in fact, as you will soon see, they were created by our colleagues.

Act I – The still-existing Standing Committee on Written Communication, composed of faculty from all ten UH campuses, way back in the late twentieth century constructed a document that would govern all first-year writing courses: “Criteria for courses that satisfy the written component of the University of Hawai‘i General Education Written Communication/ Communication Skills/English Communications Requirement.” [The URL for the current version of this document is http://manoa.hawaii.edu/mwp/sites/manoa.hawaii.edu.mwp/files/home/wr_policy.pdf]

Act II – General Education at Mānoa was redesigned by a Task Force, also composed of faculty members.

Act III - The Mānoa Faculty Senate (yep, faculty members) voted in favor of the new General Education requirements.

Act IV - The new gen ed requirements were implemented, via the establishment of various faculty boards, one of which is the UH-Mānoa Foundations Board, which made up the current FW Hallmarks, based foursquare on the “Learning Goals” section of the “Criteria” document mentioned in Act I.

Act V - Eventually, the eight of the nine campuses signed on to Mānoa’s new General Education requirements, such that the System Foundation Board (which, another faculty-only group, oversees the FW designation) grew from three campuses to nine, which is where we are now.