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Theatre, Film and Dance Cornell University Cornell University Theatre, Film and Dance, Cornell University

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Stratford wins Knight Institute Award

Aoise Stratford, a doctoral student in the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance, was recently honored with an award from Cornell’s Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines.
Stratford won the award for Writing Exercises and Handouts for her work teaching the first-year writing seminar, “Murdering Maids.’
Stratford’s award honors an innovative teaching method that allows students to view and rewrite their work and that of other students in the class.
“Sometimes the examples from the textbook aren’t relevant,” she said. “But using these worksheets, student groups revised sentences and then talked about them, which the students found super useful.”
Since first-year students can choose whichever writing seminar they’d like, Stratford said her classes have so far been full of diverse majors, from engineers to philosophy majors. Each semester, more than 100 different first-year writing courses are offered in more than 30 departments and programs located in the humanities, social sciences, expressive arts, and sciences.
“We talk about how to structure an essay and how to write more clearly,” she said. “And it’s all done in relation to the texts, which in this case are plays in which female protagonists are violent.”
Students in the class write play reviews, argument papers, analyses and dialogue exercises, as well as other pieces.
Stratford is a playwright who currently has five plays in production, in locations ranging from Los Angeles to England to Canada. One of her plays is on the syllabus for a class that Theater Professor Bruce Levitt is teaching this semester on new works.
“I believe that our mission is not just to do research, but to be able to communicate that scholarship to undergraduates,” Stratford said, adding that she loves teaching the first-year writing seminars.
Stratford earned her bachelor’s degree in Theatre Studies and English, University of NSW, AUS in 1997 and her MFA in fiction from the University of San Francisco in 2000.
Graduate students from the Department of Theater, Film and Dance have won numerous awards from the Knight Institute for their work, including:
•    Megan Shea (and her student, Justin Yee) won the Spencer Portfolio Award in Fall 2004.
•    A student in Magda Romanska’s class won a Johnson Rice Honorable Mention for his essay in Fall 2004.
•    Brian Holmes won the Knight Assignment Sequence Award in Spring 2005.
•    Jimmy Noriega (and his student, Eric Young) won the Spencer Portfolio Award in Spring 2007.
•    Jimmy Noriega (and his student, Rachel Bukerg) won the Spencer Portfolio Award in Spring 2008.
•    A student in Sarah Powers’ class won a James E. Rice Honorable Mention for his essay in Spring 2008.
•    Lindsay Cummings won the Knight Award for Writing Exercises in Spring 2008
•    Sarah Powers (and her student, Alexandra Gribizis) won a Spencer Prize Honorable Mention in Spring 2009.
•    Sarah Powers won a Knight Award for Writing Exercises Honorable mention in Spring 2009.

•    Jimmy Noriega won the Recognition of Achievement in Teaching award in 2009.

“Our graduate students in the field of theatre have had unusual freedom in developing writing seminars in theatre, performance, and cinema studies,” said Amy Villarejo, chair of Cornell’s Department of Theatre, Film and Dance. “Theatre graduate students have developed original courses in their areas of expertise that have proven exciting to freshmen and have also won a string of awards.
“First year students have relished chances for hands-on learning: whether touring backstage with a prop master for work on theatrical staging, or attending performances and screenings (such as those for a course some years ago on "Schwarzenegger and Shakespeare"). In their written work, too, first-year students taught by our graduate students encounter provocative assignments, exercises, and handouts developed just for them, resulting in award-winning student portfolios and essays,” she said.