Advice to Fall 2020 Capstone

By the time you’re reading this, so much will have changed. Will you be online? Will you be in-person? I can’t say. Either way, you were probably looking forward to your Writing Capstone being just like you Gateway – a tight-knit group of writers that meet twice a week to discuss their writing and make cool things – and I’m here to tell you that that is still possible, no matter if you’re online or not.

Before the criticisms start bubbling up in your brain, let me inform you that I do, in fact, have some basis for this claim. Unlike every other semester of Capstones, I was part of the Winter 2020 Capstone in which we spent the first half of the semester in-person and the second half online. I had the advantage of getting to know my classmates in-person before we were asked to move online, but I actually found our online interactions even more enjoyable and productive than our in-person ones. This may be due to the fact that it was the second half of the semester and not the first, as opposed to being an in-person vs. online thing, but I felt that being online and able to see everyone created a sense of community in a way that an airy, spaced-out classroom didn’t.

It is true that you will have to work harder at this than I did. You, potentially, could be meeting your classmates online for the first time and never seeing them in-person after that, but I have faith in you. Hopefully, by this point, you’re accustomed to using Zoom or BlueJeans or whatever program is being used (unless you’re in-person, then yay for in-person!), and, if your class is anything like mine was, you’ll adjust well.

My advice, then, boils down to this:

  1. Treat this like you would any other crazy adventure: roll with the unexpected, laugh when you can, and give other people (and yourself) a lot of grace and understanding if things start working out in ways that aren’t ideal.
  2. Communicate well and often. Gmail is your friend. (Well, maybe not your friend, but you get the idea.)
  3. Don’t be afraid to share your writing! The notebook reading series was one of my favorite parts of the class. The sooner everybody gets sharing, the sooner you start to get a feel for everyone’s voice as a writer. And the sooner that happens, the sooner online class will feel enjoyable.
  4. Give T (or whoever your professor is) a lot of your patience and kindness, but also make sure you reach out if you need anything at all. She’s super helpful and, honestly, one of the sweetest humans alive. You’re in good hands!
  5. Take your Capstone project one step at a time. Especially if you’re having to work from home, deadlines might seem more lax than they really are. Don’t get behind, but don’t stress out. A good (but flexible) schedule is better than winging it.

Hopefully this helps! And hopefully you won’t need to worry about the online bit, but who knows? Either way, have fun with it! This class can be a blast as long as you keep up with the work.

Enjoy yourself, and happy writing/creating! 🙂

Gateway Guidance

The amount of work in the gateway course can seem like a lot, especially if you are a procrastinator. Personally, I’m not very much of a procrastinator and I generally think things are easier to handle if you get a jump start. But below are some of my practical tips for the Gateway course.

  1. Don’t Neglect the Eportfolio: You don’t have to work on it everyday but if you slowly work on one page at a time, by the end of the semester, you won’t have to worry as much. You already know how to edit your site. Also, you’ve already done most of the heavy lifting.
  2. Do Your Dream Project: This class gives you so much creative freedom! Use it! Do that project you’ve always wanted to do. Whether that’s a video, writing a song, or starting a blog, you can do that in this class. Don’t miss your chance to have an excuse to actually do it!
  3. Challenge Yourself in Workshop: Be nice and courteous when giving your workshop feedback, but be extremely picky and critical towards the piece. Push yourself to ask the author questions about the intent of the piece and the heart of the story. Give the best feedback you can.
  4. Make Friends: I loved this class. My classmates are incredible and I’m so lucky that I was able to be a part of something special with them. They’re a great resource because they understand the demands of the class and if you want an extra pair of eyes, they can be there for you.

Those are my main tips for the Gateway course. A huge thanks to T and the rest of the “tea cup pigs” for a great semester. Good luck to those in Gateway classes to come!



DMC Orientation Response

North Campus has always seemed like a foreign land to me. The buildings that house the engineers, musicians, actors, and artists are daunting. The dreaded bus commute from central is a deterrent. The library where engineers cry as they try to finish their projects at 3 am, only to have messed up one line of code, seemed like a somber place. A space full of technology but not accessible to me. After making the trek up to the land of people more talented or better at math than me, I have gained a new perspective.

Touring the DMC, I saw the incredible tools that are available for students to use. The recording studio and the video studio were both incredible impressive. It is so cool that we have these on our campus for our use! It had me dreaming up projects and going back to my childhood dream of working in the movies. It was cool to see what you could do with GroundWorks, how it allowed for people to be working with software they might not be able to afford otherwise. (aka me, a poor college student, who works two jobs in the summer and still can’t afford tuition hahahaha)

With all the technology and new things I saw, it all still felt pretty inaccessible.

A small reason I felt this way was because I am unclear on the rules. Are we allowed to use these tools when we do not have a project? If only allowed when you have a project, that’s pretty sad as I have so many ideas on how I could use this equipment. It would be cool to be able to make projects with my friends for fun!

However, the biggest reason is because of the complexity of the software and craft. How I wish there was a class on production of online video, where students could take for credit a course that teaches the basics of the software! Instead, I worry that in using some of it I will be flailing around trying to figure out how it works before the deadline. I worry that I won’t know how to use the tools to my advantage and create the best quality I can. I worry I won’t be able to properly put it to use.

I really like video making and the DMC gives me the opportunity to do so and in high quality. That is… if I’m allowed to just try and learn how to use all of it!
Thanks for the opportunity T!

R & R

“Remediation and Resources” is what the title refers to. Credit to Miles for that joke.

I plan on doing either a slam poem or a spoken word piece with musical accompaniment. For the former, I would need some decent video/audio equipment. These kinds of things can be rented from the Music Library, if my memory serves me correctly. Here’s the link: For the latter, I wouldn’t need any extra equipment as I have a guitar and my own DAW programs that I can work with to write and record anything that I may need to.

Yay! Fun things are fun.

Creating my Remediation Project

Class today was very helpful. Discussing my remediation project with someone else helped give me more insight into what format is the most logical, and plausible, for my project. I decided to turn my repurposed paper, a memoir, into a podcast. A podcast can easily be very personal, almost like a conversation or confessional-style piece because I will be the narrator, talking about my own life. Additionally, I will incorporate audio clips from my performances in order to give context to my stories, and also to make it more engaging for listeners.

In order to achieve this, I will use Garage Band. Garage Band easy to use for audio editing, and I am very familiar with it. Additionally, I will import audio files from my performances, either by re-recording the audio of video with my iPhone, and/or by making the audio from YouTube videos into mp3s and importing those (using this website). After I make the track by importing outside audio and recording my own audio, I will export the track from Garage Band to Soundcloud, and that will be my final format. If anyone else is doing a radio show/podcast for their project and has questions regarding Garage Band or importing/exporting audio, feel free to comment on my post and I can try to help!



Top 5 Advice to Incoming MiW Students

Here is some of my advice to the new Minor in Writing students. This is what I would’ve liked to know before diving in.

  1. Have an idea of a passion of yours that you would like to turn into a project. This will save you a lot of time and confusion. If you have a genuine interest in something, turn it into a project and have fun! Have a clear vision.
  2. Keep working on the micro assignments throughout the semester. Keep up with your peer reviews, process reflections, blogging, and commenting. This will save you a lot of time and heartache at the end of the semester.
  3. Don’t come in with a lot of expectations. Enjoy the ride. Learn and grow. Bring in your passions and execute them to the best of your ability. It’s all about the process and the journey.
  4. Take at least one class with Ray. I was fortunate to have him for Gateway and Capstone. He is an amazing teacher and he will challenge you every class period to think beyond our normalized way of thinking. You will look forward to his icebreakers at the beginning of every class period.
  5. Have fun. You got accepted into the writing program for a reason. Enjoy the experience and have fun creating.

My advice to you.

How the MiW Will Help Me

I chose to do the Minor in Writing because the skill of competent writing is beneficial in every capacity. After graduation I will be a college adviser at Ottawa Hills High School through the Michigan College Advising Corps (MCAC). The skill of being able to write effectively is necessary in basic everyday life. This minor will always help me when I am writing my essays for graduate school and in my future as a potential journalist, if I choose to go this route for graduate school. This MiW has also helped me create a platform to showcase the research that I have accomplished about my family and genealogy. I greatly appreciate the opportunities that the minor in writing has given me go grow and create in ways that other writing programs wouldn’t have given me.

Thank you.

Kierra Gray #pivot #RayRay

Ahh. To think of my experience in the Minor in Writing and my undergraduate career in general is nostalgic. April 21st, 2014, actually marks the day that I completed by last final exam at the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor. However, life has only begun. I have so many hopes and dreams in regards to my writing and career ambitions, plans, and hopes for the near and far future. Let’s start with the basics. I will be graduating from one of the best schools in the world with a concentration in Women’s Studies, a minor in Writing, and Afro-American & African Studies. I have so many interests that I don’t know what I want to do exactly quite yet. I know for sure that I want to attain a master’s degree, but a master’s degree in what is the question. I want a Master’s in Business Administration to complement my master’s degree in another specialty area, but let’s not jump the gun.

Although this is an exciting time in m life, I cannot speak on my future without speaking about my past. Sankofa. On June 10, 2010, I graduated from Southfield Christian High School. To finalize my senior year in high school, I chose an amazing senior project. I had the opportunity to work at the University of Michigan Detroit Office. It was my responsibility to gather admissions material from some Detroit Public Schools and assisted with the incoming freshman with their transition into the Summer Bridge Program. I was able to transition to the university through the Summer Bridge program two weeks after high school graduation. By the time the fall semester came, I was already familiar with the campus, and this made the transition less challenging. During my freshman year of college, I had the opportunity to begin to think about my identity as a Black/African American woman. I have always been interested in writing and people, but this is when I really began to narrow it down. I knew I was interested in Black culture and how my identity fit into my community. At first, I wanted to apply to the Ross School of Business and then I wanted to apply to Communication Studies. After I decided to forgo both of those options, I began taking a couple English classes and Afro-American & African Studies classes. While I was trying to decide if I was interested in public health, I took some Women’s Studies classes. I changed my major and minors over and over again. Fortunately, with the concentration and minors that I settled on, I could use the skills that I would gain in any field. It’s crucial to understand the Black American identity, to understand how that intersects with being a woman, and to have above average writing skills. This was the perfect fit for me. I knew I was going to graduate school anyway.

These last four years have been a crazy ride. I have had many ups and downs academically and personally. I am coming out a better person than how I entered the university, but I still have so much to learn and I am honestly still trying to find myself. I have had a chance to go overseas twice. During my freshman year, I participated in the Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates. My plan was to go to Kenya, but that fell through so I ended up doing the Detroit site. For my next experience, I participated in the Contemporary London Program spring 2013. That was one of the highlights of my undergraduate career. I had a friend that was an exchange student from London living in the same dorm as me travelling back to the London around the same time that I was going. I also have a friend that has family in London that I had the opportunity to visit. Also, I have three other friends that were on exchange at Michigan, one from Japan and two from Australia that were travelling the world and decided to stop and visit me in London. My post-graduate plans involve me going abroad and planning my next big move.

Let’s start with my post-graduate plans for the next two years. I will be graduating from this prestigious institution on May 3rd, 2014. On May 15th I will be travelling to Ghana, West Africa. I have always wanted to travel to the Motherland and experience West African culture. This will give me a sense of returning home despite being generations removed from the continent. I will be conducting research about maternal and child health among women miners in Nangodi. I will be there until June 14th. When I return from Ghana, I will have a break for a couple days to get myself acclimated to the states and then I will begin training for the Michigan College Advising Corps. While I train for the corps during the summer in Ann Arbor, I will be doing an independent study within Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgrander, and Queer Studies to fulfill my final requirement. I will be studying attractionality among women of color. Upon my completion of training, I will move to Grand Rapids to serve at Ottawa Hills High School as a college adviser. This is an extension of my experience as a student leader at the Center for Educational Outreach.

In regards to my writing ambitions, I would love to run a blog about my experience being a Black woman living in the United States. I want to speak about my experiences, Black political and social issues, and maybe advice for Black youth. I want to share my experiences about attending a predominately white institution with youth planning to attend college. I would also have a section speaking about researching Black genealogy. During my freshman year, I began seriously researching my ancestry. With the information that I have found over the years, I hope to write a book. I want to entitle my book Sankofa: A Black American Story. I have in mind how I want to set the book up. It will be divided into three parts. Part 1 will begin in West Africa. Part 2 will be in the United States. Part 3 will be the present day into the future. I want this book to enlighten my fellow Black American’s about the diverse Black experiences and histories and encourage them to reflect on their past to understand their future. Sankofa. 

#Top10 by Kierra Gray #RayRay

These are the top 10 books I would encourage everyone to read. As a feminist woman of color, I may be biased, but these are on my list of books I have read and would like to read in the near future. This list is in no particular order.

  1. Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry
  2. Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
  3. Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
  4. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
  5. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherríe L. Moraga
  6. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patrica Hill-Collins
  7. The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson
  8. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  9. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
  10. The Bible