Special Recognition for a Transformative Writing Assignment

The Howe award recognizes commitment to writing instruction across courses, programs, and time. However, we also recognize that some individual course writing assignments can be transformational and should be publicly recognized and shared. Such assignments can be submitted for consideration with a 1-page explanation of why the assignment illustrates best practices in writing instruction.


Each nominee for this award must be a current instructor at Miami (including graduate assistants) who created the nominated assignment.

This recognition will come with a certificate and the writing assignment will be shared on the HCWE website.

Nominations are accepted on a rolling basis and will be reviewed routinely.


Nominate a Transformative Writing Assignment

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.

2021 Award Winner

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.