Technology and political activism, poverty and food insecurity, rape kit backlogs in the state of Delaware, dream analysis and trauma, gender-neutral pronouns, supermarket design. These are the topics of this year’s exemplary and wonderfully diverse collection of Arak Journal essays. As in years past, the collection highlights the range of subjects that UD students explore in English 110. But these essays also reveal the ways that 110 students can use the research assignment as an opportunity not only to investigate a topic, but also to grapple with complex and urgent issues facing our world. All of this year’s writers explore contemporary issues about which they were passionate and curious. Some of our writers discuss topics that are deeply personal, even painful. In every case, students chose to use research to provide their audiences with an informed perspective on a topic that was important to them personally and to society at large.
The essays in the 2017-2018 Arak Journal were selected from a group of nearly one hundred submissions. Writers’ names were removed from entries to help ensure a fair evaluation process. A team of enthusiastic editors made up of faculty and graduate students who teach English 110 read through all the entries, taking them through three rigorous stages of evaluation, and whittling them down from 100, to 25, to the final six. Working from January to April to select the essays, the editorial team met to discuss and sometimes argue over the finalists. After finalists were chosen and informed of their selection, a team of three editors worked with the student writers to source check and edit the essays from April through July. This final group of six essays features not only a range of topics, but perhaps more importantly, a variety of approaches and research methods. That diversity is a particular strength of this collection, and we believe it will help readers to appreciate the fact that there is more than one way to compose compelling, well-researched, thesis-driven academic essays.
The essays are the culmination of dozens of drafts and hours of work from the writers, their instructors, and their peers. Discovery, drafting, research, revision, development, more research, more revision, editing, more editing: that is the stuff of this demanding, exciting, personal and collaborative endeavor that we call writing. And these essays showcase some of its wonderful rewards. Our hope is that first-year English 110 students will read these essays, see the possibilities that such efforts help to create, and be inspired to take on ambitious, complex writing projects of their own.
The Composition Program and the English Department are not the only contributors to the Arak Journal; it is truly an interdisciplinary project within the College of Arts and Sciences. The visual representations of the essays are done with the help of Professor Robyn Phillips in UD’s Department of Art and Design, whose Art 352: Illustration Narrative I course illustrated the essays as a class project. Our website and web design are by Carson Hake, an independent web developer and a student at UD.
None of this would be possible without a generous financial gift from Sydney F. Arak and Ruth Toor in honor of their parents, John and Frieda Arak. A sincere thank you to Mr. Arak, Ms. Toor, and the many others across the University of Delaware’s campus who believe that writing is at the heart of learning and discovery.