Clarice is great. Looking back, I am so, so glad I had her as a teacher for Lit Hum. She is extremely nice, and she did a lot of things as a teacher to make our lives easier. Whereas a lot of other Lit Hum instructors require extra work beyond the basic requirements for Lit Hum (Wiki postings, answering questions about the reading for homework, etc.), Clarice did not ever make us do any of that. She also did not add an extra reading at the end of spring semester, unlike most instructors (which, I think, is completely the right decision. I mean...Lit Hum already spends WAY too little time on each book in Lit Hum as it is, so why exacerbate the problem by adding yet another reading?). In terms of grading, she is completely fair. I would say she is right in the middle in terms of difficulty: not obnoxiously easy, but definitely not an extremely difficult grader either. At the beginning of the year, she said something like, "It's not impossible to get an A in this class...It's just that it's unlikely." Do not believe this, and do not get scared. When I looked on my transcript from last semester, it said that 57% of the class got A range grades (A, A-). There were 14 people in the class, which means 8 people got A range grades and 6 people didn't. I'd say that's way more than fair. However, I will say that the midterms both semesters were pretty tough. You will probably walk out of them feeling completely demoralized, and the finals will be a piece of cake in comparison. But don't worry about it because she clearly curves the grades in the end (in her words, she grades "holistically"). In terms of her actual teaching, she is very solid. I've had one or two teachers before who have changed my perspective on life with the things they taught me. Clarice was not quite "life-changing," but those teachers are a rarity anyways. Overall, I really enjoyed her instruction. I sometimes felt like our class discussions did not really help me to gain much insight from the books that I couldn't have gotten just from reading the book myself. However, they were still solid. Also, I really appreciated how she was always so open to meeting with students about their essays and other things. She gave great feedback on our written work. In general, Clarice was a good instructor because she really seemed to care about her students. She understands that we are sleep-deprived. She understands that we may have not done the reading. She understands that we would rather be somewhere else than in class. Almost every class, she let us out at least 10 minutes early. Sometimes, she would let us out 20-30 minutes early. Also, she often brought us breakfast (I think three times first semester, and four times second ). And not just a couple of muffins or bagels...but a full spread. Bagels, cookies, croissants, fruit, juice, etc. It was just a really nice gesture, since it was not necessary for her to go to all that trouble. It's a testament to how nice of a person she is.
I had Professor Wirkala for Lit Hum at 9 AM. I was planning to switch out of the class simply because of how early it was, but on the first day I had really enjoyed her teaching style. She is very engaging in discussions and actually sparked an interest for me about the books we were reading (I'm not huge on humanities). Though you don't really have to read all of the books, you should at least skim through them to have a general understanding so that you can engage in class discussions. The workload is simple, one presentation one midterm, and one final per semester, but because of her slightly more challenging grading it's important to work hard for those. Personally though, Professor Wirkala's class was my favorite one of first semester
I took the UW with Clarice Wirkala and enjoyed it a lot. It was a small class (10-12 students) so everyone got plenty of personal attention. Her class not only allowed me to improve my writing skills, but also allowed me to conduct the research on the topics I was interested in and share it with the rest of the class. This led to (sometimes heated) discussions during which each student had a chance to express themselves and Clarice would have her own opinion yet still respected her studentsâ€™. So, you could take her class to any intellectual level you were interested in. She was very flexible and supported the students in their search from the topics they were writing on (advising books and other sources) to the forms and styles they used to express their thoughts. We submitted several drafts of the essays before they were turned in for a grade and received her comments on each of them. This allowed me to work on my writing in depth and for a while, which drove me insane at times but the final product turned out quite decent (which was the purpose of the writing class to me). I think the rest of the class went though similar â€œwriterâ€™s anguish" (this knowledge comes from the last evaluating essay we wrote about her class), but as a result, we all became more aware about our writing style, our tendencies and finally stepped up our writing skills thanks to her guidance and hard work we put in. She is a fair grader; it mattered that you put enough effort into improving your essays from the first draft as well as how you essay compared to the rest of the classâ€™s essays (depth of discussion, clarity, logic, etc wise).
Clarice Wirkala is a good professor. Relative to other University Writing teachers, I would say she is likely a bit more difficult in terms of grading but this is because you actually learn. When grading drafts, she points out a lot of errors but does not always offer suggestions on how to fix them, e.g., issues with fluidity or clarity. At first it is frustrating, but, as a writer, it takes careful thought to choose which errors should be addressed and the best manner to do so. Whenever I was completely lost, I found it was easy to talk with her and her feedback was always helpful. She's highly approachable, understanding, and pretty generous with her time--both of which are essential for a good writing teacher. I can honestly say my writing has improved as a result of her class. The class isn't an automatic A. In the end, you really get back exactly what you put in.
Simply put: I just don't think that she was at at the intellectual level of most of my professors. I write this review primarily because I understand she may be teaching Lit Hum in Fall 2009. If you have her, I'd recommend switching into a more experienced teacher's section. Then again, switching into a good section for the core is sound advice for any Freshman, if you're willing to go through with it.