Analyzing Essays – How Essays Work

Analyzing Essays – How Essays Work

Essays are short writings that teach us something interesting, something useful, or fun- or all three at once… Many thousands have been written, and in them you find a dizzying range of strategies and arrangements: comparisons, assertions of cause and effect, storytelling, logical arguments, accounts of personal experience, historical reconstruction of events, ethnographic studies, facts and figures, interviews, dialogue, self interrogation, poetry, puns, and pictures. (1)

How essays work: we understand essays because we live in particular times and places; we understand essays because we have bodies; and essays differ from opinion pieces. (1)

“We often come to the realization that we’ve spent so much time cooking without looking at recipes that we cannot fully teach another how to prepare the same meal. I decided to take some time to refresh my memory – the rules and strategies of writing – revising rhetorical strategies for integrating written, oral, and visual communication.”

— Wintony Sands

To be continued.


(1) Wysocki, Anne Frances, and Dennis A. Lynch. Compose Design Advocate: A Rhetoric for Integrating Written, Visual, and Oral Communication. Boston: Pearson, 2013.

Feature Image: Art by Clive Igwe



“…having a Disability, not Disabled Individuals”

“…having a Disability, not Disabled Individuals”

“…he believed that others should be referred to as “individuals having a disability” rather than “disabled individuals”. Regarding the subject of Stigmatization and Discrimination of Persons having disabilities…I say to you, you in particular, be the change. Let change start in you, and be bold to be the change.”

I attended a presentation yesterday by Josh Sundquist, organized by the Office of Disability Services at JMU. Josh Sundquist is a Paralympian, a bestselling author and motivational speaker. It was a really really interesting talk, Sundquist is a hilarious speaker. I found it emboldening how he used to humor as a channel through which he accepted and dealt with a disability. He mentioned how he believed that others should be referred to as “individuals having a disability” rather than “disabled individuals”. Josh shared several stories with the audience – about his life, about Sarah Madison, awkward questions he had received, and what he does with his right-shoes…

Now at the event, there were sign language interpreters, braille writings, and hearing aids… There was also someone typing out whatever was being said at the event (I think you call her a typist), and that was projected onto a screen on stage. She even typed out questions from the audience! I was so impressed – I am not a fast ‘typer’ (although I started using Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing since I was 7 yrs old).

What stood out to me more than all of this, was how much empathy has been developed for people with disabilities in JMU, and in the United States at large. In countries I have lived in (Ghana and Nigeria mostly), the stigma surrounding people with disabilities is disheartening. I grew up oblivious to affairs of this nature. However, the concern and efforts put into this subject of disabilities in James Madison University is impressive. One of the things I love about my international education experience is I am being exposed to different ways of doing things. Today I learned that “I can be the change”.

While undergoing training to work at the Student Success Center of the JMUniversity, I had the opportunity of visiting the Office of Disability Services. What a space! There were rooms tailored to the needs of individuals from various walks of life. The staff was willing to use all of their available resources to assist students with any challenges they faced as a result of their disability. It is a blessing I would say, to have so much help at your disposal – all there for you to succeed against all odds. I only hope students actually use these facilities.

In a country like Ghana, I wonder how individuals with disabilities are treated. In her article, , a former reality TV contestant who is a paraplegic with a T4 Spinal Complete injury, remarked during her visit to Ghana, “…I found some things that many tourists, holidaymakers or backpackers would never see. Nor, in fact, would many Ghanaians. The people I met during my trip were mostly devout Christians, but who had imported traditional beliefs to shape the way they explain disability. It soon dawned on me that for many people, disability was considered not a physical or mental impairment, but in fact a spiritual sickness or curse that could either be healed by prayer or by confinement, and in some cases by physical violence.”

I’d pause there and comment on that another day. I do hope I can be the change and impact the lives of many suffering from stigmatization as a result of disabilities in the West African region. Someone may tell me that it does not help to point out problems without offering solutions. Solutions, you say? I say there is no “microwave solution” to this issue in countries like Ghana and Nigeria. It is a mindset issue, I believe. There should  be public education to build empathy for individuals with disabilities. Education! Education! Education! Knowledge is key in these affairs. I know another person would ask me, “What if after being educated, people choose not to change?”.

I say to you, you in particular, be the change. Let change start in you, and be bold to be the change. Just, be the change.


Writing. Engineers. Teamwork. The Struggle.

Writing. Engineers. Teamwork. The Struggle.

…I think it interesting that some up-and-coming engineers do not consider writing a necessary skill. I see writing as an important tool – an opportunity to show character on paper…

I have had an interesting semester so far – and as usual, time flew by so fast. I am taking enough classes to give me many reasons not to blog this year. But, nay nay, blogging I shall, I will , blogging I must. The school term has not been not been distressful at all. I have had the chance to write many papers for some classes – even engineering classes. One of my biggest achievements this semester is the archival exhibit I co-worked on and put up at the University’s Institute of Visual Studies. But I will talk about that another day.

I have wondered several times what-at-all a person can do with writing. Especially when they are in fields of study like engineering, architecture, or medical sciences. For as long as I have known myself, 70 percent of my free time has been spent writing. In Nigeria and Ghana, the countries I grew up in, people mostly saw writing in terms of academia and for official use. That is, you write an academic paper, you write school essays , you write official letters..etc. Others also knew writing as a form of communication – students in school used to write letters (till text technology appeared on the scene, of course). So when I talked of myself as being passionate about writing, it didn’t really make much sense to my people “at home”.

Student engineers in my college work in teams a lot – for whatever reason.  I am sure faculty have the best intentions, but I also believe that working independently can breed innovation. When a student doesn’t have to deal with the dynamics of – rather, the drama that comes with working  in a team, they can fully focus their attention on tasks and improve their inherent work capabilities and innovation. I think learning to work in a team environment is a necessary tool for success in a working environment, but then so is the ability to work independently and still be productive also. But…I am only a student, what do I know?

Last semester I decided to challenge myself in a team-working environment. In the past, I usually stuck to the role of secretary, ’cause I believed it would keep me writing for the team “in peace”, and I could be away from team drama. But that never really happened. I painfully learned that choosing to be just a quiet team member who writes team reports is not regarded as “work” or a meaningful contribution to the team. A team member in this part of the world has to speak frequently during meetings, whether or not they have something to say. “Just say anything you think, so they would know you are contributing”, a student co-worker advised me. I think this has to do with the Extrovert-Ideal Syndrome which Susan Cain, author of best-selling book Quiet, writes about way better than I can do at this moment. I will share the colorful details of my teamwork experiences another day.

As I mentioned earlier, last semester, I chose to be the team manager of my engineering design team. No. No. No. It was a hard learning experience for me. I had to learn to work with extroverts who questioned decisions I made without regard for authority. I worked with introverts who were indifferent to team drama. Fun part was that I had to manage all these people! I know continuous muscle strengthening shows you muscles in your body you never knew were even there. That’s what this experience did for me. One memorable occurrence while working with that team was when one member blurted, “Wini, I think you don’t know what the f*** you want!” I froze…thinking of what to do. I simply sighed and moved on to continue what I was saying. But all in all, that leadership experience molded me into a good supervisor generally. It also gave me a reason to purchase a book that discussed the subject of introversion, extroversion, and teamwork.

This semester however, I chose to return to my position of being secretary in a team. This time I played a different role in the team – I chose to be a facilitator in discussions and the “chief-editor” of team memos. I usually ask each member in the team questions during meetings to make sure we are all on the same page, and each member is staying on top of his/her work. I write most team memos and edit the rest of them, which is what I enjoy doing.

I think it interesting that some up-and-coming engineers do not consider writing a necessary skill. In my mind…I wonder how else I would communicate my ideas to others. Yeah, yeah, you can talk about your ideas, you can make a video about your ideas, but let’s be real  – how many supervisors are willing to dedicate time to watching videos about proposals and ideas. A number of supervisors would be willing to, I believe, but many would not. I see writing as an important tool – an opportunity to show character on paper.

I have had my fair share of writing this semester, from lab reports to memos. I enjoy taking up the task of writing when others shy away from it. I love how others let me do most of the writing work – it is my pleasure!IMG_20140304_111933

Writing. Engineers. Teamwork. The Struggle.