WELCOME TO CLASS! This small, interactive, community-based learning seminar offers a chance for you to get to know more about the major, about writing, and about rhetoric, while collaborating with each other and a community partner—the Driftless Writing Center in Viroqua, Wisconsin—to contribute to a real-life community project: Stories from the Flood.

Stories from the Flood is a project to collect and produce thorough accounts of what people, municipalities, and the environment in Wisconsin’s Kickapoo and Coon Creek watersheds endured in the August/September 2018 floods as climate change alters their lives and landscape. The effort creates a platform for Valley residents to work through and share their collective experiences, while offering a foundation for watershed-wide planning about future flooding in the Valley. As of January 2020, volunteers from the Driftless Writing Center and its partner organizations had documented the stories of more than 70 flood survivors through individual interviews and community workshops from Wilton to Wauzeka.


WHAT IS ENGL 245? The course catalog says that this small, 3 credit hour seminar offers students close instruction in the principles and practices of informed, engaged, critical reading and writing. While texts and topics vary, each seminar reinforces fundamental skills taught across the English major, strengthening students’ capacities to write and speak powerfully and to build convincing, original, well-organized arguments that persuade audiences of their significance. Students will meet with the professor in individual writing conferences and will write at least 30 pages, including drafts and informal assignments spread throughout the semester.


  • Spend approximately 2.5 hours in class and 6 hours out of class on our work each week. Over the semester, at least 25 of those out of class hours will be spent participating in community-based service.
  • Think. Write. Talk. Go places. See things. Engage people. Write even more!
  • Learn about rhetoric, writing, Wisconsin, rivers, flooding, resilience, public memory, and each other.
  • Create timely, compelling analyses of personal stories, texts, river valleys, and life.
  • Complete writing projects on behalf of our community partner, the Driftless Writing Center.
  • Contribute to the creation and preservation of Wisconsin’s history and think critically about how that work connects to planning for the future.


This semester, students will:

  • Learn about writing, rhetoric, rivers, resilience, and Wisconsin history as it shapes the present.
  • Learn about writing, rhetoric, rivers, resilience, and Wisconsin history as it shapes the present.
  • Engage with Wisconsin’s freshwater ecosystems and the humans who rely on them.
  • Create original, coherent, and compelling analyses that push beyond summary to synthetic, independent, critical thinking.
  • Apply the tools of rhetoric to solve problems and take action in the public sphere.
  • Partner with others to address timely problems and create positive community change.
  • Enact the Wisconsin Experience: cultivating empathy and humility, relentless curiosity, intellectual confidence, and purposeful action.



Tuesday, January 21

Introduction to the class and community-based learning; discussion about how water shapes the stories of our lives; syllabus review

Homework for Thursday, January 23:

Thursday, January 23

Return to syllabus questions and clarifications; view SWOT analyses to come out with our shared strengths and opportunities; introduction to Stories from the Flood and why it matters; watch Tim Hundt’s film from the SFTF Celebration; more on flooding and why storytelling matters

Homework for Tuesday, January 28:


Tuesday, January 28

Archival workshop with Troy Reeves (Head, Oral History Program, UW-Madison Libraries)

Homework for Thursday, January 30:

Thursday, January 30

Processing the oral history workshop; considering bias and identity: what are we doing here? What help can we offer? What harm might we cause? In class: reflective writing for portfolio.

Homework for Thursday, February 6:

  • Reflective writing activity (post to Canvas): Take some time to think and write about how you’re feeling about our community based work so far. What are you excited about? Interested in? Concerned about? Think about our discussions and readings so far – on oral history, trauma, the Wisconsin Idea, Stories from the Flood. What ideas are sticking with you, irritating you, etc.?
  • Begin listening to (4) SFTF audio files (links on Canvas)
  • Make notes on the interviews and on interview themes


Tuesday, February 4

No class meeting! Listen to audio files!

Homework for Thursday, February 6:

  • Keep listening to SFTF audio files
  • Make notes on interview themes

Thursday, February 6

Discussion of audio files and themes. Prep for Saturday field trip.

Homework for Saturday, February 8:

  • Stories from the Flood Celebration Booklet
  • Heasley, “A Dam for New Times
  • Steinmetz, selections from “Local History Notebook”


SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8 – Stories from the Flood orientation at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve!



Tuesday, February 11

Reflection on Saturday’s field trip, followed by discussion. Thinking about the long history of flooding in the Valley, based on Steinmetz and Heasley. Rewatch Tim Hundt’s Stories from the Flood film, and considering the SFTF booklet. Begin thinking about best practices for the project.

Homework for Thursday, February 13:

  • Listen to two more stories from the flood (links on Canvas)
  • Start thinking about best practices for story collection

Thursday, February 13

Story collection workshop. Create a list of best practices, review Stories from the Flood documents, look back at the stories we’ve listened to. Practice interviewing each other.