Emily Avery-Miller: Writing and Advocacy in S-L Courses

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Round Table Inc. Youth Center, South Boston

Emily Avery-Miller has been teaching at Northeastern since Fall 2016 and regularly integrates service-learning into her courses.

With a background in non-profits and communications, Avery-Miller matches her students with local advocacy organizations so that they can experience first-hand how writing is integral to an organization’s mission.

How did you become involved in service-learning?

I started integrating service-learning in my writing classes shortly after I started teaching First-Year Writing at Emerson College. Some of my mentors there were involved in service-learning. They inspired me and gave me really helpful guidance to get started. A few years later, I started here at Northeastern and I was excited to see that the university and my colleagues in the English Department were very engaged with and supportive of service-learning.

What motivates you to design your service-learning courses?

Before I became a teacher, I was a communications director at a non-profit organization. I knew how integral writing was to advocacy and making change. When I began teaching, I saw how talented and engaged students were. I saw the opportunity to integrate the energy, creativity and talents of college students with those of the community organizations.

What kinds of service-learning opportunities have your students pursued?

Groups of 2-4 students are matched with 5 local advocacy organizations. They work together to identify and develop writing projects that support the organizations’ missions. There’s a wide range of what students get involved with, including:

Professor Avery-Miller’s students build and create art at Round Table Inc. Youth Center in South Boston

How would you describe the mission/goal of service-learning: how it relates to writing and how it benefits both students and their communities?

Service-learning provides a meaningful context for the writing goals of the course, namely to understand and respond to different writing situations and make appropriate choices about tools, voice and audience. Writing in partnership is one way to cultivate engagement between Northeastern and our neighboring communities, and to pursue goals together.

What do you value most about your service-learning experience?

A service-learning course is never the same twice. Every day presents opportunities and challenges, and the outcome is never quite predictable. At the end of the semester, I love hearing that students and community partners have discovered something new together.

Learn more about ENGW S-L courses

Published On: June 14, 2019