A Semester in a Website

Hello Writing Community!

It has been an interesting semester to say the least. The Gateway grants its students a great deal of autonomy and flexibility; I believe I have utilized both of these to my advantage, developing relationships with classmates as academic peers and friends alike. People can use this class as a platform to express themselves, as a means of getting a certain grade or credit for school, or a tool to learn about a given subject they are interested in. As a sophomore in college, it is an important time to start reflecting on what I want to pursue as a career. While I may or may not want to go into real estate/urban development, a strong theme in my work for the semester, I do acknowledge that whatever I do will require writing. I can confidently say I am a more versatile and tactful writer than I was January 8th.

To those reading this… please write anything. A thought, a song, a movie, a book, a short story, an inquiry. While time can be escaped through listening to music, and time can be released through breathing, time can truly be felt through writing. With that, I leave you with my ePortfolio for the semester (And final project) ! I hope you enjoy

Also, in general, remember that worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.



Here is a little preview…

Advice for incoming Gateway Students


Whether you’re studying biology, gender studies, or business, congrats on making the choice to supplement your major with the Sweetland Writing Minor. This class has been unlike any other that I’ve taken, so be prepared for a little change.

The Gateway course encourages its students to independently grow their writing and creative skills in a relationship-driven environment. I encourage you, the new guy, to capitalize on this; you will be given projects deemed “experiments” where the sky is the limit. I would suggest taking the chance to think about something you’ve always wanted to learn about, and honing in on it for any/all of the experiments. The unique light you must present your subject and argument in will further enhance your research, communication, and writing skills that no surface level english class has done to date.

Beyond the work itself, your teacher is the captain of your ship – trust him/her and make sure to build a friendly companionship with them. The semester flies by but never forget to write what you want to write for your audience because no one writes like you do.


Andrew Green


Hello!  My name is Grace Kent and I am a sophomore studying Public Policy and minoring in writing and digital studies.  I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan but went to MSU for my first year before transferring to UofM. As an individual, I would consider myself an adventure-seeker.  I love going on spontaneous road trips and exploring places I’ve never visited before. I am a homebody and am very close with my family, but I also love meeting new people and branching out.  I am introverted yet I wear my heart on my sleeve.  As a writer, I am very much the same way. I write to my emotions and I let them flow through my pencil (unless I’m doing academic writing—then it is much different). Ultimately, I write because I want to remember and I want to convey important messages that I might not be able to vocalize eloquently.  

The origin piece I am going to choose is a letter I wrote during Obama’s 2009 inauguration speech when I was about 8 years old.  My parents made me write this letter expressing my feelings about such a historic moment in U.S. history.  When I was 8-9 years old, I did not know hardly anything about politics—mostly, I mirrored the emotion my parents felt regarding the election. I knew from the presidential portraits that surrounded my classroom walls that we had never even had an African American president before—so, for me mind, Barack Obama being elected as present was one of the coolest things I had ever experienced. My parents kept the letters my sister and I wrote stored away in a file cabinet.  The letter is informal, child-like, and funny—but conveys a candid sense of happiness and emotion regarding his inauguration.  

Here are some of the ideas for my experiments!

  1.  A short film/montage of a child writing the same letter that I once wrote in 2008.  The camera will be overhead filming the pen moving across the paper.  Then the shot will cut to a montage of b-roll footage on the 2008-9 inauguration with Obama, his family, the music, etc.  Overlaid on top of that will be audio of me (or the kid) reading from the letter while the footage plays on the screen.  It will cut back-and-forth between the writing shot and the footage of Obama’s inauguration/presidency.  
  2. A giant collage of pictures/mood board (representing the ideas of our current political climate:  Trump tweets, women’s march, BLM, climate change, etc.) and words and phrases used in my 2008 letter, but cut out and enlarged like a giant collage.  
  3. A back-and-forth video of a kid reading my letter from 2008 and me reading a new letter I would write from 2019.  It would be sort of a sentence-by sentence montage cutting back and forth between my sentiment then and now.  Pictures and videos will play in the video of both political climates while the audio plays on top.  

I am excited about getting to experiment with all of the Shapiro tech/design tools!

What do you wonder about the experiments or life itself? I wonder how kids perceive people in high-power position and what influences their mindset.

How to Write an Open Letter

My origin piece was originally an academic research argument that examined racial bias effects the way people differentiate between graffiti and street art. Although the paper briefly touched upon gentrification and it’s impact on the development of street art, it did not dive deeply into the concept of gentrification (that could be a whole separate research paper and I tried to stay on topic and not exceed the 20 page limit). For this experiment cycle I aim to study gentrification, what it means, how it is effecting our cities and different view points on gentrification. Currently I do not have a strong opinion on the topic (because I feel I do not know enough to form one), but hopefully my research will enable me to form an educated opinion. For this cycle I am going to write an open letter from a teen growing up in Harlem.

According to my good friend Merriam-Webster, an open letter is a published letter of protest or appeal usually addressed to an individual but intended for the general public.

How to write an Open Letter: 

Dear People Reading My Blog,

If you are not a member of the Sweetland Writing Program, thanks for checking this out and being interested in what a bunch of college students minoring in writing have to say. If you are a member, Hi! Anyway here’s my letter on how to write an open letter. Here are a few things I learned from “An Open Letter To Anyone Thinking About Writing An Open Letter”. First I’m sorry you’re pissed off, upset, mad, or emotionally charged, but take that energy and turn it into passionate energy – get it all down on the paper because you can. This isn’t addressed to anyone specifically, but oh it is. All though my “Dear _________” is a general population, I know exactly who I am talking to and although I may or may not know you personality I want you to hear what I say loud and clear. My introduction of you may be harsh and objective but I am passionate and I do not mean to beat around the bush and be careful to offend anyone. I am going to say exactly what I want how I want (with all the emotions that come with it). When writing an open letter, be careful because you have just become subject to possible open letters. If you are going to ignite the flame be ready to fight the fire. Here’s some more things I learned from reading open letters. 

Open letters use a lot of “I” and “you” because although I may or may not know you. I am not going to explicitly say your name, or else the letter isn’t very open. Open letters can be numbered to organize thoughts like this or they can be a series of paragraphs, or one long one. Open letters often use bold or underlined words to emphasize their strongest points. Although not all have a valediction at the closing, or are signed by the name of the author, I believe the strongest most powerful open letters have an ambiguous targeted valediction (like the one used to sign this letter). Good luck writing an open letter in the future and I hope this helped.


A girl attempting to write and open letter

Introduction: Who am I?

My name is Caitlyn. My mom once told me that if I were a boy, she would have named me Christian. I’m not named after anyone in particular, my mom just likes names that end with ‘n’. Hence, my older sister’s name is Allyson. Then there’s my last name, Zawideh, which puts me at the end of every alphabetical list I’ve ever been on. I was always last to take my yearbook photo in school. Alphabetically assigned seats always put me in the back of the room. My locker was always at the very end of the hallway. I don’t mind being at the end of the alphabet so much now. Yearbook photos and locker placement are no longer things I need to worry about.

Once, I asked my dad what our last name means. He told me he couldn’t remember exactly, but it might mean “great” or “great ones,” something like that.

We called his mom to ask, and she replied, “Great, good, some of us are okay.”

Names are always the first thing we think to give in an introduction, and they are important insofar that people know how to address you, but other than that, they say nothing about who you are as a person. When we are asked to give an introduction, we are answering the question “Who am I?” If given enough time, this question can easily become an existential one. Instead of dwelling on the existential, here are some icebreaker-eque fun facts:

  • I’m a Sophomore studying Computer Science
  • I transferred here last semester from Michigan State
  • My favorite movie is Baby Driver 
  • Once, a Buzzfeed quiz told me if I were a character on Friends I would be Rachel.
  • Buzzfeed should know that I’m a Chandler.
  • If I found a genie in a bottle that would grant me three wishes, my first wish would definitely be to write better introductions.

Dear Prospective Minor in Writing Applicants,

I was hesitant to apply to the Minor in Writing because, well, I didn’t really know what it was. It was introduced to me with an email forwarded from an older friend without any real explanation. As I searched the Sweetland Center’s website I understood the structure of the program, but I still had unanswered questions. How much freedom do I have to write what I want? Am I just going to be studying grammar and punctuation all day? What will the classes be like?

I wished I could have seen students’ work, their progression, their struggles. I wished that there was a glimpse into the program other than the descriptions of courses and historical syllabi.

Over the course my time in the Minor in Writing Gateway, I’ve developed an understanding for all of these questions. And so, I wanted to share my experiences to show you, the prospective applicants, my struggles and progression, my missteps and successes.

An accumulation of my experimentation can be found here, in my Gateway ePortfolio.

You’ll see a discovery of my writing process, how I learned to think again. You’ll see the progression of my voice and how I learned to highlight it throughout various genres. You’ll see how I developed a strong sense of different audiences, and how they might react to assorted techniques.

And hopefully, you’ll see how I plan on continuing to experiment and question my ideas from now, until my final Capstone course, and beyond.

Happy reading, prospective students. Send in that application; you won’t regret it.



Advice to the gateway students: A bright future is ahead!

Hello new MiWs!

I’m glad you’ve joined our cult. I think you’re really going to enjoy the gateway course. It has honestly been my favorite class at Michigan and I wish every student got the opportunity to experience it. I guess what makes it so great is that everyone who is in the class wants to be in it — they applied for it! No one thinks they’re ~too cool~ for writing and advice from their peers. I hope you put as much as you can into your time in the gateway course — you will get a good return on your investment. Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you find yourself in the Minor in Writing community your first semester:

  1. Be you! It is definitely intimidating being in a class full of writers, at first. It’s easy to assume that everyone else is probably better and more experienced at writing than you are — don’t. Like I said, you’re going to be in a class full of writers…don’t forget that you, too, are a writer. You’ll soon learn that the best way to grow as a writer is to take down the security wall you have up about what others will think of you and your writing.
  2. Manage your time. This class may require three projects (or at least did when I took it), but do not be fooled — there is much work to be done! You will be tasked with reflecting on your writing processes and given many short, engaging writing assignments. Putting things off until the last minute won’t help you develop as a writer so be strong and push through the want to procrastinate! Also, consider starting the practice of saving multiple drafts of an essay on your computer as you go along (i.e., create a new document every time you revisit and revise the draft) — it is an excellent way to observe how you progress through the revision process and helpful to include in reflective essays about “the making of” your projects!
  3. Use your resources. You are part of the Sweetland Writing community now! That’s an exciting title, but what does it mean? Not only do you have access to one-on-one faculty or peer writing support like all non-minors, you get additional time and a special sign-up schedule for making these appointments. You also get a community of writers who are in the same boat as you: your MiW cohort! I’m sure every group of people is different and group dynamics are always varying, but I cannot stress enough trying to build a bond and connection with your gateway class. I was lucky enough to part of a great group of peers and it made me love writing so much more. We currently have a GroupMe to commiserate in stress about assignments as well as cheer each other on and stay connected — 10/10 would recommend.
  4. Learn to L-O-V-E peer review. I’ll be honest, I was not a fan of peer review in some of my other English classes. Writing a one-page single-spaced letter to three peers at a time for one workshop day x 2-3 workshop days per project seemed daunting. If you feel that way now, it’s ok! Keep your mind open to change because I learned to love it. Peer review is such a great way to a) gather insight on your own writing by reading others’ and being forced to reflect on what worked and didn’t and b) help point your peers in the right direction. Don’t be afraid of being workshopped and don’t be annoyed to write letters — both will help you grow as a writer more than you imagined if you keep an open mind.

Thanks for sticking with me this long and making it to the end. You’re going to have a great semester in the gateway and a great college experience in the minor. Here’s a cute gif to reward you for reading my advice:

A Letter to Future Gateway Students

Future Gateway Student,


You are certainly not a number to the Minor in Writing. You are you, and the gateway class will help you explore whomever you believe you are..

The journey you are about experience will be one of the most informative of your college career so far. The writing minor gateway class is unlike any of your other classes. There is no cramming, no memorization, no true target. It is exclusively up to  you how this class will academically service you. You merely need to show up and involve yourself in the daily discourse to  jump into the deep end. Try not to skip the readings ~ they are the heart of self improvement in this course as you may soon realize some of the greatest writers have a lot in common with you.

What is writing? Why do you write? What is good writing? Does good writing exist? Do not worry about the bigger questions. Just write. Struggling to make the first blog post? Just let the words flow. Afraid to speak during the first conversation about an article? Just let the words flow. Unsure where you want your major project to go? Just let the words flow. If there is one piece of advice I can give you, it’s just let the words flow. The gateway class is about getting the first “shitty draft” out and returning to it for improvement. You will realize that sometimes a heat-of-the-moment fire of writing will let you delve into a sea of honesty and raw emotion. Don’t be afraid to jump. The words on the page, although they may appear to be at first, are not a stranger. The words are you. Use the paper to have conversation with yourself.

Unlike Orgo or States, there is no wrong answer in this room, and there certainly is a multitude of routes to arrive at one. Some of your peers will use this class to improve their professional career aspirations while others may use this course to explore themselves. You will read personal narratives, poems, journal entries, research reviews, and genres you didn’t consciously realize existed.  What will draw every one together is a desire to explore. Try to figure out how the words can be written on a page in an intriguing and meaningful way to communicate your story.

I started this semester a bit knocked down. The sophomore slump can be real (perhaps more real than the freshman 15). The gateway course has made writing much easier for me. I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be, but I am willing to let the words flow and get lost in my own brain.

Be careful not to procrastinate too much on first drafts. Once a full draft is done it’s much easier to take your time to return to, but make sure – no matter how bad it may be – to power through and pump out the first round, ALWAYS. You’ll be happy you did.

And even on nights when you get very little sleep, show up to class!


Enjoy the journey.


Daniel Greene

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days…

In two weeks I can officially say that I am halfway done with college. As happy as that should make me feel, I actually am quite overwhelmed and completely terrified of going into the “real world” in just two more years. Though I feel that I have learned SO much during my first two years at the University of Michigan, I know I still have a LOT to learn before I’m ready to graduate.

These past two years have flown by literally in the blink of an eye, this semester in particular. I was lucky enough to be accepted to the Sweetland Minor in Writing program and have almost completed the Gateway course. I have had to opportunity to explore so many new and exciting pieces of work, created by others and by myself. While I think back and smile at all the memories I have made throughout the course, I cannot help but wish I had time for more.

If I can give new admits to the Sweetland Minor in Writing any advice at all for the program, it is to never take your time for granted – you are limited. With constantly moving schedules, it can be hard to stop and just appreciate all that is going on around you. But I can guarantee that when you do, you’ll realize how much you’ve been missing out on and how much there is yet to explore. The Gateway courhourglassse is about challenging yourself and making the best of all the opportunities you are given. Come to class everyday with an open mind and be willing to learn. While I tried my best to remember these few pieces of advice that I had read on a blog post earlier in the semester, I failed to realize how quickly time moved out from under me.

As I make my way through the remaining courses for the Minor, I hope to keep these few thoughts in mind in order to better myself and my writing, as well as the other writers in the program and their writing too. We all have the opportunity to explore our potentials, let’s take advantage of that.

Examining Project 2– My Research

For my project two, I will be completing interviews of college students asking them about their connections with the pieces that they read, specifically newspaper articles. I will also be interested in seeing if this differs from novels and also research how college students react to the words of musicians through their music. I feel that these all are one in the same, how other peoples words make us react and feel.

I am taking a research methods class and we have read numerous articles about how to successfully create and execute surveys and interviews. I have re-read these for the purposes of this project, and look forward to executing their recommendations.

One aspect of my project that has required the most research, is where to publish my research. In our group meeting, some informal outlets, such as The Tab, were recommended, but throughout my research I have decided to seek a more formal outlet. I have decided that the opinions section of the Huffington Post and the Michigan Daily are optimal places for my work.