More than 20 Stanford undergraduates were honored for their writing and oral presentation accomplishments at award ceremonies this week.

The Hume Center for Writing and Speaking offers undergraduate students support on a range of projects including course writing assignments, oral presentations and honors theses. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

The Boothe Prize recognizes and rewards outstanding writing by first-year students in both the Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) and COLLEGE requirements. The Lunsford Oral Presentation of Research Award recognizes the oral presentations, usually supported by multimedia elements, that students develop in their PWR 2 classes. Lastly, the Hoefer Prize recognizes outstanding Stanford undergraduate work in Writing in the Major courses, the third writing requirement for all students regardless of their area of study.

“We’re celebrating these students, but at the same time we also celebrate the shared project of all students, faculty, and lecturers making language work at Stanford,” said Marvin Diogenes, associate vice provost for undergraduate education and director of PWR. “Awards week represents a celebration of a vibrant culture of writing.”

PWR also held a ceremony for the 15 undergraduates who completed the Notation in Science Communication (NSC). NSC, celebrating its 10th anniversary at Stanford, provides undergraduates with an opportunity to develop their ability to communicate scientific information to a variety of audiences using multiple genres and modes.

Helping students become better writers

PWR teaches undergraduates how to develop their ability to write purposefully and confidently as an integral component of their academic journey. Course themes are designed to inspire students as writers and researchers – from artificial intelligence, ethics, and language and power to Silicon Valley and the future of work.

PWR’s main objective, said Diogenes, “is to give every Stanford undergraduate a rhetorical education.”

“Writing with an awareness of rhetoric means that you don’t believe that one kind of writing fits every situation,” Diogenes said. “A rhetorical understanding of written or oral communication stems from an awareness that the situation, including audience and purpose, shapes your decision making.”

As a central element of a PWR course, students have the opportunity to pursue a research project on the topic of their choice, aligned with their class theme.

PWR 1 engages students in the practice of academic analysis, college-level research, and research-based argument. Students complete PWR 2 in their second year; the course continues PWR 1’s emphasis on analysis and research-based argument, while adding a focus on oral and multimedia communication.

“Whatever your discipline is, you write your way through the university,” Diogenes said. “Writing is one of the primary ways we engage with others about ideas. We do it in literal conversations, seminars, tutorials, office hours, and many other settings. Students also write informally in reading responses, discussions, and group chats. In sum, students use the written or spoken word throughout their academic and interpersonal experiences in the university.”

Students can access writing and speaking help at Hume

In addition to the support students get within the program, the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking, part of PWR, has offered writing and speaking support to both undergraduate and graduate students for more than 20 years. According to Zandra L. Jordan, director of the Hume Center, the center is committed to helping students develop rich and varied abilities in every aspect of written and oral communication.

Hume ​​tutors help students get started on assignments; address and overcome writer’s block or performance anxiety; learn strategies for revising, editing, and proofreading; and understand academic conventions in their fields. Tutors include well-trained peer tutors, graduate tutors, and lecturers in PWR and the Oral Communication Program.

“We encourage students working on any type of writing, presentation, or passion project to come to the Hume Center for free, individual consultations,” said Jordan.

“These collaborative sessions support students at every stage of composing and throughout their Stanford journey. After visiting the Center, students often tell us that they wish they had come sooner. So, our earnest exhortation is to come early and often!”