Summer Happenings with PWR: Pre-College Institute

by Program in Writing and Rhetoric Faculty

     With summer in full steam, so is Stony Brook’s PWR! In addition to offering many inter-semester courses, Stony Brook’s Writing and Rhetoric faculty are involved in a wide range of further academic and professional development projects – both here at the university and abroad.

     One program in particular, the College of Arts and Science’s Pre-College Institute, offers high school students an invaluable glimpse into the life of a college student via an immersive week-long stay at Stony Brook University. Here, students are exposed to lectures, social activities, and many other college prep training and resources.

The Pre-College Institute graduation ceremony!

     As part of the Pre-College Institute, students are enrolled in a variety of exploratory courses, including: music, philosophy, science, and writing. For most, this is their first exposure to college level writing. Their two-part, Monday and Friday writing class focuses on the nature of writing as a rhetorical tool, and furthermore, how to use this understanding of persuasion and audience awareness to craft a full college essay. As is the nature of writing, however, the value of these lessons intertwines with others, expanding far beyond just putting pen to paper.

     Perhaps these sentiments are best summed up by the PWR faculty themselves who teach these workshops:

“​The pre-college introduction week crushes a four-year college experience into 5 days for these young students, many of whom are away from home for the first time. The idea of college as a door to the future was evident in their faces, in their questions. The majority had never done free-writing before or mind-mapping. This class gave them the empowering message that college is their turn to start speaking their own thoughts. They no longer have to parrot back a curriculum. Those who ‘got’ this message looked liberated and a bit scared, as independence also brings much responsibility.​”

– Carolyn A. Sofia, Ph.D.
Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric

“The high school students I worked with were humble, and driven. Many shared with me on Friday that getting the opportunity to attend the summer institute was a life-changing experience for them. Having taught them their first class at 9am on Monday and another again on Friday, I can personally attest to the students’ dramatic transformation in just five short days! I am grateful to have been part of such a vital community program.”

– Jennifer Young
Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric

“What was perhaps most surprising – and rewarding – was how interested the students were in what I as a Stony Brook faculty member had to say about the nature of the college process from start to finish. ‘How did you become a professor?’ they asked? ‘How much time do we have?’ I answered. This seems to be the real goal of the program here, and it applies to the college essay as well: showing them that there is no one set path through life – or college – and that our diversity and differences are what make us unique. In turn, these self-reflections are well-worth considering when writing something that should be thought of ‘out of the box’ like a college essay.”

– Joseph Labriola
Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric

“This is my second year participating in the Pre-College Institute, and I think it’s one of the finest things the University does. The faculty who volunteer their time, including the four PWR members who taught the two-day writing classes, do so with admirable enthusiasm, and I’ve found the students to be enormously grateful. I taught a fiction writing workshop on Wednesday, and the students were not only eager to offer inferences on texts they’d just read but also share writing they’d just done to people they’d just met. By Friday, many of the students looked alternately exhilarated and exhausted. Several confessed that they couldn’t bring themselves to sleep, so excited were they to talk about all of the new things that were happening.”

– Kevin Clouther
Associate Director, Program in Writing and Rhetoric

     Clearly, these students greatly value their time at the Pre-College Institute, as do the instructors. To expose young minds to new horizons is a wonderful thing, and one that this program does exceedingly well.


About josephtlabriola

Joe Labriola is an author, blogger, and lecturer of Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University. He enjoys writing, swimming, and cooking crazy Joe-coctions. His more eccentric hobbies include collecting beach glass, reading great books at bars, and describing himself in the third person when writing "about me" biographies. Please visit some of his very professional social media sites for more info!
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