School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

Rebecca Johnson, Ph.D., has seen a lot in 15 years of working as a higher education writing coach, mentor and administrator. Even a technological thumbs down for the Bard from Stratford-upon-Avon.

Headshot of Rebecca Johnson
Rebecca Johnson, Ph.D.

That would be William Shakespeare – not Google’s artificial intelligence tool.

Dr. Johnson joined the School of Social Work as the student success writing advisor in Fall 2023, a job she describes as a “jack of all trades. You have to be able to help with any kind of writing assignment and at any stage of the writing process,” she says of her role. 

“While that’s one of the reasons that I love this kind of work, sometimes constantly pivoting between different things can be difficult.”

Software to help with writing, editing and grammar, like Bard and ChatGPT, has grown in popularity, but it has its flaws.

“One time, I ran Shakespeare through Grammarly to see how it would respond, and it gave a poor rating to what I’d entered,” Dr. Johnson says. “So, technology might produce technically perfect writing, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be creative or nuanced. That being said, this kind of technology is here to stay, so we have to show students how to use it critically and ethically.”

Similarly, she views texting as just another expression of the written word.

“I don’t think texting has made it harder to enforce formal writing,” she says. “Language is just always evolving, and I think that’s one of the reasons that it’s so beautiful!”

Language is just always evolving, and I think that’s one of the reasons that it’s so beautiful!

Rebecca Johnson, Ph.D.

At the School of Social Work, she has started a weekly writing accountability group and workshops around topics like time management strategies to help students balance the heavy writing workload of graduate school. She draws on her own experiences as a student writer.

Working as a writing center administrator, “I missed the one-on-one work with students, and this position allows me to have that, Dr. Johnson says. “I actually struggled with writing for a while in college, and that’s another reason that I like this position.

“I know how hard it can be, so I like seeing students when they have that ‘aha!’ moment about writing. I especially like working with social work students because they’re so nice, and everyone writes about interesting topics.”

Her main advice for writers: Perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“Do not let your perfectionism or fear of failure get in the way,” she says. “Writing by its very nature is a messy process, so sometimes you have to lean into that. I’ve learned that you just have to get words on the page, and you can always clean them up later. 

“I’m here to help students wherever they are in their college careers. Also, I hope that students know that they can come see me at all stages of the writing process, even if they’re just brainstorming ideas and they don’t have anything written yet.”

Categories Education, Faculty and staff, Students
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