Best Text Contest for Englwrit 111 Renamed to Marcia Curtis Best Text Contest
Thursday, April 20, 2023
Thursday, April 20, 2023
The Writing Program is pleased to announce that the ENGLWRIT 111 Best Text Contest is now the Marcia Curtis Best Text Contest. Marcia Curtis served as a teacher and administrator in the Writing Program for around 25 years, leading the Program as Director from 2000 to 2003 and making essential contributions to the Program that are still seen today.
“When I think of the Writing Program it is impossible not to think of Marcia Curtis,” says Peggy Woods, past Associate Director of Teacher Training in the Writing Program. “Her fingerprints are everywhere. Marcia’s unique gift to be able to envision a project/program and then execute all the steps to make it happen is the foundation of today’s Writing Program. Although she applied this gift to all aspects of the Writing Program, her passion was for Basic Writing. As a devoted teacher and director of this program Marcia consistently worked to develop materials and resources to enable students to gain experience in all areas (writing, reading, thinking, discussing, computer literacy) to ensure their success throughout their academic careers. I am delighted the Englwrit 111 Best Text Contest will now bear her name. This will serve as a reminder of the gratitude we owe Marcia for her foresight and hard work.”
Curtis’ original education was in literary criticism, but she joined the UMass Amherst Rhetoric Program as a teacher and administrator just as it was transitioning to the Writing Program in 1982. At the time, no one had been appointed to manage the “Basic Writing” course, now known as Englwrit 111 Writing, Identity, and Power, so Curtis volunteered.
During her time in the Writing Program, Curtis, along with Anne Herrington, Professor Emerita of English, and Director of the Writing Program from 1990-96, was instrumental in the development of Englwrit 111. In 1990, Curtis helped redesign Englwrit 111 in order to better represent the diversity of students at UMass and allow students to share their voices. Curtis and Herrington also took care to design the 111 course to carry general education credits—something uncommon for many basic writing courses at the time.
Curtis’ research on the Writing Program, and especially the Englwrit 111 course, advanced writing studies scholarship and created pedagogical resources. Curtis published work on basic writing, computers and writing, and research issues for studying computer classroom pedagogy, beginning with an article in the Harvard Educational Review, co-authored with Herrington, "Basic Writing: Moving the Voices on the Margin to the Center."*
In 1994, Curtis and a group of graduate students published The Composition of Our"Selves,” a reader for first-year writing courses. Curtis later developed another reader with graduate students; The Original Text-Wrestling Book, published in 2001, was designed specifically for the College Writing course.
In an early attempt to harness digital resources, Curtis, along with Herrington, Charles Moran, and Sara Stelzner helped produce the CD-ROM Teaching in Process: Multimedia Resources for Teachers of Writing. This 1994 project, spearheaded by Houghton Mifflin, included an extensive collection of teaching materials for writing teachers.
Additionally, Curtis and Herrington authored Persons in Process: Four Stories of Writing and Personal Development in College (2000), which was awarded the David H. Russell Prize for Research in Teaching by NCTE. Persons in Process which follows students in Englwrit 111 as they progress through writing experiences in college.
"Naming the 111 component of the Best Text Contest after Marcia Curtis is a fitting way to honor Marcia’s many contributions to the Writing Program, particularly 111: Basic Writing,” says Herrington. “Marcia is the one who created the first text-based curriculum for 111, using those texts as a springboard for students to generate their own, equally valued texts. When I recall the many years Marcia and I worked together, I remember an intellectually creative, witty, and forceful advocate for the student-authors in 111, for their voices, and for the value of their texts. The Marcia Curtis Best Text Contest will convey that value to those who will receive the award in the future."
After leaving the director position, Curtis continued working at UMass Amherst, directing the Dean’s Book Course in what is now Commonwealth Honors College.
The Marcia Curtis Best Text Contest will honor Curtis’ contributions to the Writing Program and its Englwrit 111 course by celebrating the writing of outstanding students.
*"Basic Writing: Moving the Voices on the Margin to the Center." 60 (November 1990): 489-496. rpt. in Teaching for Change: Addressing Issues of Difference in the College Classroom. Eds. Kathryn Geismar and Guitele Nicoleau. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educational Review, 1993.