Dr. Sharleen Mondal: Please say a little bit about your participation in the AURWC--how you heard about it, when you initially joined, how long you've done it, and why you chose to participate.
Sophia (Leddy) Larson: I've done the AURWC programs in 3 different semesters because I had longer papers for various classes. My first experience with the program was my sophomore year in Fall 2015 when I decided to write a 20-page paper for a class on NATO, and because of my participation in the program, I chose to present at URCA [the College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium]. I also participated in Spring 2017 and this semester, Fall 2017, for different papers including my senior Ashbrook thesis. I chose to participate because I had never written a longer paper before, and I wanted to know how to do it. Before joining, the thought of a 20-page paper was overwhelming. However, through AURWC, I was easily able to complete it with time to spare. I stayed in the program because I could see the improvement in my approach to writing.
SM: Please share with readers how the AURWC has assisted you with long-term writing projects during your involvement in the program. What were the most useful aspects of the program for you?
SL: Like most people, I need external motivation in order to accomplish the hardest tasks. AURWC provided a platform for me to be accountable to a group of people who would give constructive criticism and encouragement so that I could achieve my goals. In the program, we meet once a week to discuss what went well, what we need help with, and to learn new skills to become more productive that we could apply in our calendars and daily lives. We also record time spent on our projects in a spreadsheet so that we can see our progress and to see what worked and on what days. It is not a program for the faint of heart because during one week we even had to track exactly how we spent our days in 15-minute increments. However, the payoff from this technique and others was well worth the pain in seeing how much time we spent on Facebook. Since the first step to solving a problem is knowing it is there, time-tracking and other techniques were very effective and made everyone in all the groups I was a part of improve.
SM: Please share a bit about your final thesis and defense, as well as your post-graduation plans.
SL: My thesis was titled War is Peace: A Comparison of the War on Drugs and the War on Thoughtcrime. I used 1984 as a basis for what government should not do, and by finding similarities with the War on Drugs in 1984, I was able to point out some of the dangers to liberty. I worked on it every day for an hour and a half with few exceptions, and as a result of this constant work, I was able to complete this project. Following graduation. I have a position with the John Quincy Adams Society in which I hope to expand the organization into more universities. JQAS works to spread the idea of restraint in American foreign policy, and they have chapters around the country in various universities to help spread this message.
Editor's Note: I checked in with Sophia and asked how the habits of AUWRC are guiding her in the post-graduation world. She replied, "At first it doesn't seem that you'll be able to use a writing club in real life, but I've found that skills in prioritizing time and energy have been invaluable in my current position. You also learn to receive and accept feedback in the program, which has proven so useful that I've used it almost daily. What you learn in AURWC are life skills, not simply skills that apply only to writing."