UNCG Campus Weekly

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Food for thought: Lauren Shook receives departmental award for innovative pedagogy

Community-engaged teaching and learning is at the heart of the UNCG experience.

Recently, English instructor Lauren Shook ’15 PhD was honored by her department with the first Hephzibah Roskelly Pedagogical Innovation Award. The award was initiated this year in honor of the professor emerita and specifically to recognize innovation in first-year writing courses.

Shook has been incorporating projects related into food insecurity into her courses for several years, but this year she expanded the scope of the projects so that they shaped the academic material and the writing assignments of her two English 101 courses.

The students in her spring courses analyzed articles, interviews, and documentaries on food insecurity and how it affects college students. They also wrote argumentative essays proposing well-informed solutions to food insecurity, and as a final project, one class worked in small groups to create a cookbook that contains inexpensive, healthy, easily-prepared  meals.

“Service-learning and community-engaged writing courses help students see that their writing and communication skills can facilitate change in the world,” said Shook. “The most gratifying moment was witnessing my students’ developed investment in helping others. And with the collaborative cookbook, they’re seeing that writers must be intentional with creating, composing and delivering a written or multi-modal text to a specified audience.”

After a class visit to the Spartan Open Pantry with directors Andrew Mails and Emily Saine, the students not only continued their reading and writing projects, but also initiated a food-drive and bake sale to raise funds and awareness for the campus resource. Those projects, in turn, put the focus on writing and audience awareness, because the second class group designed flyers and social media posts to promote the projects. The classes raised more than $300 and several wagons of food donations.

“I really enjoyed that this was not the traditional English class, said Shyann Sigmon. “I learned about writing, but I also learned about real-world circumstances. I loved that I was able to help someone out and expand my writing skills at the same time.”

“Dr. Shook’s English 101 course was an amazing surprise,” said Dontae Burnett. “The topics and projects exposed me to aspects of college campuses that I had no idea about, and the final goal of creating the cookbook was my favorite part. This class was fun, energetic and new.  I was excited for this to be my eight o’clock class.”

Shook’s research in Renaissance literature combines her interests in food access, hospitality and civic democracy,  and advocates for a service-learning approach to Shakespeare’s culinary worlds. She has studied twice at the Folger Institute, which helped her to amplify the material of her course,“Dining with Shakespeare,” and the scope of her research project, “A Place at Shakespeare’s Table.”

Story and photography by Susan Kirby-Smith