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The Knights Writes Showcase features the best-of-the-best student writing at UCF.

The annual event, now in its sixth year, is hosted by the Department of Writing and Rhetoric and focuses on research from students in classes NC1101 and NC1102. This year, 26 students will present research they've spent an entire semester gathering to wow attendees on topics ranging from Harry Potter to social media.

"This event will draw hundreds of UCF students, where they will view first-year writing poster presentations and listen to panelists speak about their research in first-year composition courses. President Hitt will also attend to award the President John C. Hitt Prize for Excellence in First-Year Writing, a scholarship award given annually to a student selected by President Hitt himself after reading several essays submissions," said Jacob Stewart, an instructor in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at UCF.

Stewart said students who participate are the crème de la crème because of the effort the they put into conducting and communicating their research.

“Professors nominate students who have spent their semester researching a topic and have reached a level of academic understanding where they’re able to contribute to the conversation,” said Scott Launier, an instructor in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric.

Writing and rhetoric instructor Adele Richardson said that because the students who participate in the event are first year college students, it increases their sense of confidence and ability, which in turns leads to them becoming better students.

Komysha Hassan, a junior double majoring in Political Science Writing and Rhetoric, was one of those students.

Hassan participated in the showcase for the first time during the spring semester of 2014. She said she presented research focused on digital interfaces and how they changed the way people approached concepts. Hassan said that online searches have a different discovery route than the human thought process and, because of that, she wanted to look into how the interface changed the way people found information. She's returning to the showcase this year to participate in a panel discussion.

“I really had no intention of writing, but after this experience, I felt there was so much I could do, that I could talk about issues that mattered, that I could look at stuff from an academic perspective and people would pay attention when I said something,” Hassan said. “The recognition [of the event] was more of a validation that my ideas mattered, that I should continue down this road and explore and research and maybe try to answer questions myself, and not just feel that I can’t compete or that I’m not ‘there yet’."

Hassan said that though the showcase changed the path she was on, the most important thing she learned at the showcase wasn’t that she loved research or writing.

“I think it affected the road that I’m on dramatically … it just jumpstarts this idea, this fire in you,” Hassan said. “If you have a passion of some kind, your ideas can be legitimized," Hassan said. "I learned that everyone’s ideas matter."

That sense of confidence is exactly what Richardson said every student leaves the event with.

“Over the years, there’s been a lot of students who have a lack of confidence and every single one of them, after they have participated, were glad they did it,” Richardson said. “You have to know what’s being said in the community in order to join that conversation successfully and that’s a big part of it. Just learning what’s being said and then adding your own [view].”

Launier said that students who participate in the showcase become better writers and students.

“I think it increases students' confidence and I also think it helps [them] take the next step in understanding how academics work,” said Launier.

Stewart said students who participate spend time in NSC1101 and NSC1102 researching, reading up on the major theorists and authors concerning their chosen issues and become entrenched in the related academic conversations before they start to answer their own research questions.

“They don’t become experts, but none of us become experts in a semester … it takes time. But, they spend that semester gaining the authority to weigh into those academic conversations and be successful in contributing to them,” Stewart said.

The research that's presented has to focus on literacy, but Launier said that many students misunderstand what that means. Launier said that literacy is not the fundamentals of reading and writing and that the showcase is much broader than that. It could be computer literacy, music literacy, comic book literacy, professional literacy, hip hop literacy — literacy is inhabited in different communities.

Hassan said students interested in this event shouldn't shy away even if they don't think they're strong writers.

“I feel like people have this idea about ‘Oh, I don’t write, so I’m going to stay away from that,’ or they think it’s all about grammar and its usage and the mechanics of English literature. But I want students to see that [the showcase] is not what that’s about,” Hassan said. “Writing and Rhetoric, the whole program, is focused on research and whether [or not] you’re focused on researching literacy ... you can choose a literacy that you’re interested in.”

Launier said he’s seen students who present at the showcase go on to do incredible things. He said that one student was accepted into University of Florida’s medical school and during his entry interview, the showcase was brought up repeatedly. Launier said the interviewers kept coming back to the student’s participation in the showcase because they were impressed by the level of research required.

Richardson and Stewart echoed those sentiments and said that students who participate walk away with much more than a sense of confidence in their writing, they gain a greater understanding on the effect writing has on their lives. Stewart said that students don't understand how integral writing is to their everyday lives. He said even small bouts of writing like texting, emailing, or summarizing reports shows how important the communication through writing really is.

Stewart said that students who attend the showcase benefit from seeing how others have approached projects, how the participants came up with ideas and dealt with problems in the writing or researching process.

The Knights Write Showcase will take place Feb. 3 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom in the Student Union.

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Alissa Smith is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @thealissasmith or email her at AlissaS@centralfloridafuture.com.

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