Winning team

April 14, 2011

Senior nursing student Sarah Lutgen knew she had a great idea for the National Student Nurses’ Association Essay Contest, but she wanted to make sure her essay was the best it could be. She turned to English Professor Michelle Cusack for help in developing the strong essay into a national award-winner. This spirit of cross-curricular cooperation pervades Bradley University.

Lutgen won first prize in the NSNA Essay Contest for her essay on environmentally friendly healthcare. Lutgen said she writes at least one major paper for every nursing class, and last fall she took Cusack’s expository writing course. She said the course taught her to write precisely and communicate effectively, skills that have proven useful in writing essays, completing job applications and dealing with patients. Cusack had nothing but praise for Lutgen’s talents and work ethic.

“She was an excellent student,” Cusack said. “She came in with strong writing skills but was a very conscientious worker, as well.”

Cusack said the role of any good writing instructor is to bring out the best of the student’s writing.

“I take the student’s own voice and ideas and give feedback to help make [his or her] writing the best it can be,” said Cusack. “In Sarah's case, her rough draft was already strong and her revision was exceptionally effective.”

The English department faculty is comprised of scholars versed in a variety of academic disciplines, so collaborating with students outside the department comes naturally. Several faculty members have degrees in business or history and all of them explore a range of topics in their reading and writing.

Dr. Robert Prescott, chair of the Department of English, received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry before receiving a master’s degree and doctorate in English. Prescott said English courses can be a valuable tool for students in any major.

“Everyone knows the importance of communication in the workplace, but in many disciplines there isn’t enough time to complete the course objectives and add in writing components,” he said. “In our upper-level writing courses, we teach the conventions of various professional settings.”

Bradley has many tools to help students improve their writing. The Writing Center staff meet with students one-on-one to help revise and edit essays and many English professors meet with students who need help with their writing. The English department offers minors and individual courses designed for non-English majors to help students develop and maintain good writing skills.

Working with Cusack helped widen Lutgen’s perspective and bring new dimensions to the arguments in her essay. The end result was a more thoughtful, stylistic product.

Working with professors dedicated to a student-centered personal touch is “one of the advantages of going to Bradley,” Lutgen said.