(Archived) ENGL/ENVIR ST 533: Rhetoric, Science, and Public Engagement (Spring 2018)

Dr. Lily Lewis talks about bryophytes with people gathered around a mossy tree in southern Chile.

Welcome to Rhetoric, Science, and Public Engagement! This course focuses on theoretical and practical aspects of public engagement with scientific research, policy, and management, with an emphasis on science communication. During the semester, we’ll explore University of Wisconsin’s land grant mandate to share university research with the public and use university resources to explore public needs. We’ll build from readings in science communication and public participation in scientific research, and reach out to experts in Wisconsin working on a variety of projects with public stakeholders. At the end of the class, you’ll use what you’ve learned this semester about the theory and practice of science communication and public engagement to design, execute, and assess an activity that engages a segment of the public in scientific research (maybe even your own!). In short, this class is about learning and doing.

Full syllabus downloadable here.


“Urban foxes and coyotes learn to set aside their differences and coexist” by Mason Muerhoff
“Resilience and discovery in decades-long satellite collaboration” by Mason Muerhoff
“Ice Off and Carbon Fluxes: Springtime on Lake Mendota” by Angela Baldocchi
“Guest Post: How To Create A More Beautiful Earth” by Stuart Deets (full essay here)
“A Thirst for Change” about Nenad Jakovljevic’s short story “Thirst”


WEEK ONE (1/22-1/26)

Tuesday 1/23 | Introductions to each other and the class, discussion of public engagement with science (definitions, importance, challenges, examples), and syllabus review

Homework for Thursday, January 25:

Thursday 1/25 | Return to syllabus, introduction to Dr. Druschke, review readings to create a working definition of rhetoric, and create shared course goals:

  • Have fun!
  • Give a shit about something!
  • Create a killer action project
  • Get out of our comfort zones
  • Discover of make use of a new skill
  • Create persuasive proposals
  • Keep an open mind
  • Clearly communication science to different groups
  • Find engaging and interesting ways to talk about science
  • Have a net positive impact on Wisconsin
  • Discover specific organizations working on public engagement with science in WI, Midwest, US, beyond
  • Consider how to apply this work to different international contexts
  • Expand knowledge and application of rhetoric

Homework for Thursday, February 1:​

WEEK TWO (1/29-2/2)

Tuesday 1/30 | No class meeting

Thursday 2/1 | Introduction to outreach, extension, and land grants

Homework for Tuesday, February 6:

WEEK THREE (2/5-2/9)

Tuesday 2/6 | Jamila R. Siddiqui introduces HEX-U (undergrad deadlines coming soon 2/12 or 3/23, also Flash projects: $250 for graduating seniors), introduction to project assessment

Homework for Thursday, February 8:

  • Begin prepping for Exam #1

Thursday 2/8 | Review for Exam #1

Homework for Tuesday, February 13:

  • Review readings on science communication, Cooperative Extension, and assessment for Tuesday’s exam

WEEK FOUR (2/12-2/16)

Tuesday 2/13 | Exam #1: Environmental communication, land-grant mission, assessment

Homework for Thursday, February 15:

Thursday 2/15 | Schedule conferences for next week, discuss expectations for how students should prepare, talk through Exam 1, review engagement examples, discuss Gross and Rowe & Frewer

Homework for Tuesday, February 20:

  • Prepare a short, written statement of interest for the final project (to review during conferences)

WEEK FIVE (2/19-2/23)

Tuesday 2/20 | INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES (in HC White 6183)

10:15 / Angela
11 / Emily
11:15 / Alex
11:30 / Liz W.
11:45 / Charlie
12 / Nash
12:15 / Sydney
12:30 / Paige & Shaina

Homework for Thursday, February 22:

Thursday 2/22 | INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES (in HC White 6183)

10:30 / Stuart
10:45 / Mason
11 / Chad
11:15 / Kim
11:30 / Maddie
11:45 / Jackie
12 / Alexandra
12:15 / Brianne
12:30 / Evan
12:45 / Liz K.
1pm / Jon

Homework for Tuesday, February 27:

  • Finish reading

WEEK SIX (2/26-3/2)

Tuesday 2/27 | Follow-up about group projects, discussion of Collins and Evans (return to Gross, Rowe & Frewer)

Homework for Thursday, March 1:

  • Begin preparing for Exam #2

Thursday 3/1 | Review for Exam #2

WEEK SEVEN (3/5-3/9)

Tuesday 3/6 | Exam #2: Gross, Rowe & Frewer, Collins & Evans

Homework for Tuesday, March 13:

Thursday 3/8 | Emergency – no class meeting

WEEK EIGHT (3/12-3/16)

Tuesday 3/13 | Pitch presentations postponed to next week / Discussion of citizen science readings today

Homework for Thursday, March 15:

  • Gather all materials for final projects – bring to class Thursday
  • Read Kelly Tyrell’s story about a public engagement project that is using archaeology to reach people in rural Wisconsin and as a basis for curriculum development in K-12 schools
  • Review this website-in-progress about Kelly Tyrell’s multimedia storytelling project
  • Read this article on the “civic science imperative,” co-authored by UW–Madison’s own Dietram Scheufele
  • Prepare specific questions for Kelly Tyrell related to science communication and action projects

Thursday 3/15 | Special guest: Kelly Tyrell, Science Writer, University Communications

Homework for Tuesday, March 20:

  • Bring all action project materials for a workshop in small groups led by Liz K. and Alex D.

WEEK NINE (3/19-3/23) | Dr. Druschke in France / Workshop and Pitch Presentations


Homework for Thursday, March 22:

  • Refine project based on classmate feedback


Homework for Tuesday, April 3 (after spring break):

  • Refine project based on feedback
  • Cox and Pezzullo, ch. 12 “Public participation in environmental decisions”
  • Don’t forget your engagement analysis papers!!! (Due by Tu 4/3)

WEEK TEN (3/26-3/30)

Tuesday 3/27 | SPRING BREAK! No classes.

Thursday 3/29 | SPRING BREAK! No classes.

WEEK ELEVEN (4/2-4/6)

Tuesday 4/3 | Public participation discussion of Cox and Pezzullo ch. 12; submit engagement analysis papers! CGD returns exam #2

Homework for Thursday, April 5:

  • Cox & Pezzullo, ch. 10, “Environmental Justice and Climate Justice Movements”

Thursday 4/5 | Environmental justice discussion re. Cox and Pezzullo, ch. 10

​Homework for Thursday, April 12:

WEEK TWELVE (4/9-4/13)

Tuesday 4/10 | CGD@AAG – no class meeting (make sure you’ve done the extra work above!)

Thursday 4/12 | Conflict and collaboration discussion

Homework for Tuesday, April 17:

  • Prepare for review for Exam #3

WEEK THIRTEEN (4/16-4/20)

Tuesday 4/17 | Review for Exam #3

Homework for Thursday, April 19:

  • Review for Exam #3

Thursday 4/19 | Exam #3: Citizen science, public engagement, and environmental justice

Homework for Tuesday, April 24:

  • Prepare a 10 minute ppt presentation about your final project. Each presentation should briefly present the project, including highlights and lowlights. Students should explicitly connect with course readings and core concepts, and should spend time considering how their projects confirmed, extended, or complicated course readings. Each student should offer some best practices gleaned from projects. Each class period will feature 6 presentations with time for synthesis.

WEEK FOURTEEN (4/23-4/27)

Tuesday 4/24 | STUDENT PRESENTATIONS (see instructions above)

  • Angela
  • Paige & Shaina
  • Mason
  • Sydney
  • Charlie
  • Stuart

Thursday 4/26 | STUDENT PRESENTATIONS (see instructions above)

  • Chad
  • Kim
  • Evan
  • Jackie
  • Brianne
  • Nenad

WEEK FIFTEEN (4/30-5/4)

Tuesday 5/1 | STUDENT PRESENTATIONS (see instructions above)

Thursday 5/3 | Presentation synthesis and course evaluations – attendance is mandatory!

  • Maddie
  • Liz K.
  • Liz W.
  • Emily
  • Alexandra
  • Alex D.


Monday 5/7 | FINAL PAPER DUE via email by 5pm