Roger & Joyce Howe Award for Excellence in Disciplinary Writing Instruction

The Roger & Joyce Howe Award for Excellence in Disciplinary Writing Instruction honors individuals or teams of faculty who have made concerted and continuing efforts to innovate writing instruction in their disciplines. 

The award additionally recognizes applicant efforts to ensure their students have multiple opportunities to write across their educational experiences.

  • Priority is given to applicants who are attentive to how writing is taught, and learned, across courses and time in their department or program.
  • Faculty who make innovations in a single key course in a department or program will also be considered as strong candidates
  • Individual and team winners will receive professional development funds that can be used for travel, books, technology, etc. 
  • Individual winners receive $1,000 in professional development funds
  • Faculty teams of three or more receive $3,000 in professional development funds to be split among team members. 

Nominations are due by Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.

Nominate for Award

Portrait of Roger and Joyce Howe

Funding from Roger and Joyce Howe (both Miami class of 1957) has made this award possible. The Howes have donated over $15 million to support writing at Miami.

Nomination Info

Faculty members may nominate themselves or nominate another faculty member, or nominations may be made by members of the Liberal Education Council (LEC) or Global Miami Plan Writing committees. Students may also nominate faculty or teams of faculty.

Please direct questions regarding the award application process to Elizabeth Wardle, Director of the Howe Center for Writing Excellence and Chair of the GMP committee, at


Each nominee for this award must:

  • Be a current Miami faculty member in a continuing faculty line (TCPL or tenured/tenure-track).
  • Have taught at Miami for at least two years (four semesters) at the time of nomination.
  • Have demonstrated a commitment to excellence and innovation in the teaching of writing in their courses and programs.

How to Nominate

Nominations should include:

  • A letter of nomination outlining why the individual or team meets the award criteria. The letter should briefly describe the ways that the nominee(s) have innovated writing and writing instruction in/across their courses and program, why this approach to teaching writing is a best practice, and what its impact has been. The nomination letter should be no more than 4 single-spaced pages.
  • Documentation to support claims made in the nomination letter regarding excellence and innovation in the teaching of writing. Such documentation may include selections from syllabi, writing assignments, assessment reports, articles describing innovations, student work, student statements, etc. The total body of supporting materials should be no more than 20 single-spaced pages.

Selection Process

All nominations will be reviewed by the members of the Local Advisory Board for the Howe Center for Writing Excellence, which also functions as the GMP Writing Committee for the Liberal Education Council. Recommendations for finalists will be submitted to the President and Provost, who make the final selection.

Notification of the award winners will be sent to the individual, the Dean, and the nomination contact person in March. Notification of nominations that were not selected will be sent to the contact person or an appropriate senior member of the nominating team.

2021 Award Winners

The Roger & Joyce Howe Award for Excellence in Disciplinary Writing Instruction was awarded for the second time in Spring 2021. Discover the winners, and the stories behind their exemplary contributions to disciplinary writing at Miami, below.

Individual Award Winner

Dr. Mark Sidebottom, Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Machine Engineering

photo of Mark Sidebottom

For “significant and dramatic” contributions to evaluating and influencing writing instruction in the department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering (MME), Dr. Mark Sidebottom has been named an individual winner of the 2021 Roger & Joyce Howe Award for Excellence in Disciplinary Writing Instruction.

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Sidebottom was one of the first faculty members from the College of Engineering and Computer Science to participate in the Howe Faculty Writing Fellows Program. He graduated with the Fellows cohort of Fall 2019. In an immediate effort to put what he learned in Fellows into action, Sidebottom began research on the role of writing in MME courses. He conducted a rigorous audit of existing writing instruction and underlying departmental support for it. The results showed that MME students write in nearly all classes, and in a range of genres. Writing evaluation could be worth as much as 70% of a course grade, with writing assuming particular importance in upper-level and laboratory classes. Typically, Sidebottom found, feedback came in the later stages of a student’s writing process.

Equipped with data on how students were writing in MME, Sidebottom worked with others on a comprehensive guide for faculty and students on the threshold concepts of writing in the discipline. He sought to make explicit the conventions of common writing genres like the lab report, the design/project report, the research/term report, and the master’s thesis. Sidebottom also collaborated with Kristen Adams and Eric Johnson of the University Libraries to develop appendices on best practices for conducting literature reviews, visualizing data, and citing sources.

In just 2 years as a faculty member, Sidebottom has helped establish a writing standard in the MME curriculum and forged sustainable partnerships with the Howe Center for Writing Excellence (HCWE) and the University Libraries.

Team Award Winners

Department of Economics: Janice Kinghorn, Teaching Professor & Assessment Director; Ling Shao, Assistant Teaching Professor

photos of Janice Kinghorn and Ling Shao

Dr. Kinghorn and Dr. Shao together have been awarded the 2021 Roger & Joyce Howe Award for Excellence in Disciplinary Writing Instruction for their work integrating meaningful writing instruction across multiple courses in the economics department.

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As Faculty Writing Fellows in 2017, Kinghorn and Shao began a project to understand how writing was being taught in economics classrooms. They designed a survey, documented existing practices and assignments, then presented their findings to colleagues. An insight they found, for example, was that they could not necessarily depend on certain aspects of writing, like how to communicate findings from a statistical model, to be taught by faculty outside the economics department. They realized the department could revise its curriculum to ensure that both College of Arts and Sciences students and Farmer School of Business economics majors were being taught conventions of writing for economics by experts in the field.

With Kinghorn and Shao’s leadership, the department identified multiple sites where writing instruction could take place in their major. They developed a scaffolded course sequence (ECO 311, 315, 317 and two 400-level classes) that fulfills the Global Miami Plan’s Advanced Writing (AW) requirements. They’ve also developed an ongoing, iterative, department-wide assessment of student learning that reflects research-based principles and best practices in writing.

What distinguishes Kinghorn’s and Shao’s contribution to writing instruction at Miami is how they’ve embraced the principle that writing is disciplinary and learned over time. This illustrates best practice in teaching writing in multiple ways. First, the approach does not assume that writing can be learned in one course or even a set of courses taught by non-disciplinary specialists. Second, it assumes that all students benefit from additional instruction in writing in economics.

Special Recognition for a Transformative Writing Project

Heeyoung Tai, Chemistry & Biochemistry

photo of Heeyoung Tai

How can the next generation of scientists and healthcare professionals ethically weigh the benefits, and the potential harm, that can come from advances in science and tech? Dr. Heeyoung Tai, through her capstone course CHM 491: “Chemistry in Societal Issues,” utilized the fictional essay form to challenge students with that very question. For ingenuity in assignment design, Tai has earned the Special Recognition for a Transformative Writing Project distinction in this year’s Roger & Joyce Howe Award.

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To prepare students to compose a compelling piece of science fiction, Tai devised a scaffolded unit that modeled what informed, nuanced writing about ethical issues in science and technology looks like. Students first selected a book to read among options like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and also watched the film Gattaca plus an episode of Black Mirror. Analyzing these sources, students paid particular attention to the intended benefits of the science or technology on display, as well as the unintended consequences of it. They gradually built up to writing their own stories, gaining understanding through group presentations on the fictional essay form and a storyboarding assignment that included peer review. Students’ final essays were collected in a 100-page volume titled Unintended Consequences.

Beyond the ambitious, inventive nature of this writing project, Tai’s cross-disciplinary collaboration helped earn her this distinction. While designing the assignment, she consulted with Cathy Wagner, a Professor of English who teaches in Miami’s MFA program. She also invited Justin Chandler, a PhD candidate in the English, creative writing instructor, and Miami MFA graduate, to give a guest lecture on writing fiction. Tai’s example shows all the good that can come from faculty working together to foster dynamic student learning.

Previous Winners


Individual Award Winners

Joseph Johnson, Professor, Psychology

photo of dr. joseph johnson

Dr. Johnson demonstrates the difference that one faculty member can make when committed to core practices around the teaching and learning of writing in a discipline. He has been working for 15 years to improve disciplinary writing in psychology at Miami on many fronts. He redesigned the PSY 293/294 course sequence required of all majors to a problem-based approach that includes writing in both and created a set of scaffolded materials for the sequence; he conducted training for the graduate students teaching the associated lab sections; he worked on a departmental committee that added a capstone course, PSY 410, to ensure continued writing in the major. His work resulted in an approved Advanced Writing plan for his department. He has since spearheaded an effort to revise the 293/294 curriculum, demonstrating a commitment to ongoing reflection and revision in pedagogical practices. He also founded an undergraduate research journal in the Psychology department, in order to provide a venue for disseminating the best honors theses written by psychology students each year. To support this work, he developed a course in editing and publishing, PSY 394, in which the journal’s undergraduate editors could be trained. As the inaugural Director of Undergraduate Research, he designed a two-course sequence, UNV 171/72, where first-year students could conduct and present original research. He also leads the professional development seminar, PSY 603/604, required of all doctoral students, and includes instruction on genres important to the discipline.

Jennifer Kinney, Professor, Gerontology

Photo of Dr. Jennifer Kinney

Jennifer Kinney exemplifies the teacher/scholar model for which Miami is rightly known. She has worked tirelessly with her colleagues in gerontology to support the teaching and learning of writing for gerontology graduate students. Although she has been consulting with the Howe Center for Writing Excellence staff for many years, in Summer 2018 she completed the Howe Faculty Writing Fellows Program with two of her colleagues. As a result of their thinking in that program, she worked to completely redesign the support for writing across the graduate curriculum, pushed students to take the teaching certification offered by CTE, and then in curricular space left by that move,  designed an innovative new course, GTY705, devoted to helping graduate students write in the ways that the field expects, and draft both articles and grant proposals. She created a scaffolded set of assignments to help students understand the rhetorical moves of various academic genres, and work to enact those moves themselves. She and her colleagues created a disciplinary writing guide which the HCWE shares on its website, outlining the interdisciplinary nature of writing in gerontology, and the characteristics of what she describes as the “gerontological voice.” She and her colleagues have been highlighted twice in the HCWE’s Miami Writing Spotlights, once for overall curriculum redesign, and a second time for her innovations in GTY705. Dr. Kinney is a tireless advocate for her students, and they recognize this, sending in five letters of support for this award, where they praised her transformational, innovative and transparent pedagogy. Dr. Kinney’s pedagogical transformations are seeing publication, as she is currently working on a book chapter for an edited collection and an academic paper on writing in gerontology.


Team Award Winners

Department of Philosophy: Keith Fennen, Associate Teaching Professor; Gaile Pohlhaus, Associate Professor; Elaine Miller, Professor and Department Chair

Photo of Keith Fennen, Gaile Pohlhaus, and Elaine Miller

Drs. Fennen, Pohlhaus, and Miller represent the very best of what is possible when groups of faculty team up to innovate and revise their curriculum in ways that align with their discipline’s values and practices, while also recognizing the need to explain to students, parents, employers, and the public at large the value of a degree in the humanities. They have worked tirelessly since May 2018 to implement a “mindful, coherent system of practices for teaching students how to write philosophy.”  After completing the Howe Faculty Writing Fellows Program in May 2018 (work highlighted in a Miami Writing Spotlight), they entirely revised their department Advanced Writing course (and then revised it again after teaching it), created and delivered a set of pedagogy workshops for their full faculty, articulated a set of statements and resources about writing in philosophy that they use in their courses and share more broadly via the HCWE website, undertook serious curriculum redevelopment for their complete undergraduate program, and are implementing a portfolio requirement for their majors to showcase their work--and which will also be used for a more comprehensive departmental assessment of writing and critical thinking. All of this work is being coupled with a new career liaison position the department has created in an effort to help students recognize how the reading and writing skills they have cultivated in the philosophy major will lead to a meaningful career pathway. Not only this, but Elaine, Gaile, and Keith are also publishing about their innovations: they are writing a chapter for a forthcoming edited collection, and are also drafting a textbook about teaching writing in philosophy.