WRDS Course Spotlight: 150A Topic: Environmental Justice – led by Kirby Manià PhD

Charles Brockman

There is an array of engaging course topics for our WRDS 150A and WRDS 150B courses. The School of Journalism, Writing, and Media at UBC would like to spotlight some of our outstanding students and instructors, to give curious prospective students a better understanding of what to expect.

Kirby Manià Ph.D. kicks off our spotlight series with an environmental justice WRDS 150A course that she says “equips [students] with a number of transferable skills that they can apply, not only in their studies, but also in the workplace.”

By that metric, Dr. Manià’s WRDS 150A is a major success. “I feel like just in general in school it’s been easier to understand how to structure writing,” says Josianne Assignon, a third-year psychology major who previously took the course.

“I’m quite creative but having structure is something I struggled with before taking this class, and now I feel I have more of a direction of how to put my ideas together – and it’s made reading papers easier as well,” Assignon says.

Learning from WRDS 150A has also put her ahead professionally. “This summer I was working with the City of Vancouver and I had to produce a report at the end of the summer regarding my work and, again, having an understanding how to use a professional tone was really helpful in that regard.”

But what exactly do you learn in WRDS 150A? According to Dr. Manià, “It’s an academic writing course that helps students to understand the importance of writing situations, the various different types of academic genres that they may encounter.”

Dr. Manià says students can expect to learn the differences between different academic genres, how to summarize and cite key scholars in a field, and how to take part in knowledge production and knowledge mobilization through forms of writing.

Second-year student, Sofia Lopez says she didn’t know what to expect. “I think I heard from another student that it was good to take the WRDS 150A course… I [didn’t] really know too much about environmental justice, so I just figured I’d try that course,” she says.

For Lopez, that decision paid off. “I think it’s also boosted my confidence going into other courses, knowing that I can write a really long paper,” she says.

Both Assignon and Lopez insist that their success in the course was due to dedication from their instructor.

“She made herself really available for us. Like at any time she had office hours, but she was also willing and flexible around working for us…she is all at once very knowledgeable in her subject, effective in her delivery (clear and concise) and sensitive to their needs – a rare combination in the academic world,” says Assignon, speaking about Dr. Manià.

According to Dr. Manià, her course is a success for a few reasons: “I think for me it’s really about teaching through a philosophy of mutual respect. And also a readiness to learn from my own students and knowing that everybody brings something valuable to the classroom… I really enjoy seeing students grappling with a research project and thinking their way through things and trying to facilitate a confidence in their own resourcefulness.”

Research projects are a valuable part of WRDS 150A. Assignon completed a project on greenwashing in the fashion industry, while Lopez studied mercury poisoning in Peruvian Indigenous communities.

Both were self-led topics, and completed with guidance from Dr. Manià, whose experience writing about environmental justice runs deeper than just the course.

Dr. Manià is the Executive Editor of Sprout, an eco-urban poetry journal set to release its second issue soon.

With expertise and ethos like Dr. Manià’s, it’s easy to see why students like Lopez have such glowing reviews.

“I hope that other people can take the course with her – even if you don’t think environmental justice is something that you are interested in – I think it’s really an interesting course and you’ll learn so much through her amazing lectures!” she says.

Learn more about registration for WRDS 150A and WRDS 150B sections here.