The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Two UI professors teach the craft of controversy through a workshop

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Lily
Obermann Center for Advanced Studies Director Teresa Mangum (top right) poses a question during The Art of the Provocative Opinion Piece in the Obermann Center on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. The event covered the structure and pitch of opinion pieces. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

A few University of Iowa faculty members went into the nuts and bolts of composing a written opinion piece.

Director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies Teresa Mangum and sociology Assistant Professor Jessica Welburn led a workshop Wednesday afternoon called “The Art of the Provocative Opinion Piece,” instructing the public on how to write an effective Op-Ed article.

The event, created by the Obermann Center, was a part of the Get It Done series, which was formed to encourage students to effectively get work done.

Both women were involved with the Op-Ed Project, a nationally touring workshop aiming to provide a platform for underrepresented groups, particularly for women and people of color.

Using the skills they learned at the workshop, the two professors wanted to share how Iowa City residents could write journalistic pieces for their local newspaper, regardless of the individual’s background.

Jennifer New, associate director of the Obermann Center, said she views the event as beneficial for several different types of people.

“I think all of us can improve our skills in sharing our ideas with a public audience,” New said. “By using newspaper to share our opinions, this will give us great skill building on how to do that effectively.”

Mangum said she believes it is important for experts in a particular field to contribute opinions relevant to their interests.

“What we learned is that whatever your specialization is, there are many opportunities where your special knowledge helps to offer an important perspective on something that is happening in the world,” she said. “Bringing in our expertise, we can see how our problems are multidimensional.”

Welburn was one of 20 UI faculty members who originally took the Op-Ed Project course at Iowa City, learning important aspects of sharing her voice adequately.

“One thing I’ve found is that you don’t have to write about a topic that is directly connected to work or research that you do,” Welburn said. “The connection can be loose.”

One of the first op-eds Welburn wrote for The Gazette was focused on the similarities between Ferguson, Missouri and Iowa in terms of issues centralized on African-Americans.

“I felt like I had enough background and knew of enough places to go get resources to write the op-ed,” Welburn said. “I would describe that as something I’m loosely connected to, but I felt like I had enough information and enough of a perspective to write a short op-ed on the topic, so it can be anything that inspires you.”

History Professor Elizabeth Heineman, an event attendee, said she has had experience where she needed to present her opinion in a creative manner while writing opinion articles.

“When I try to translate aspects of my scholarship or make my scholarship line up with current events, with this business of thinking, I think, ‘How do I explain this to my aunt?’ ” Heineman said. “How could I make it conversational or make it short and sweet? I do find that to be a creative process.”

Mangum said having more people contribute their input will increase the quality of future op-eds.

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About the Contributor
Sarah Stortz
Sarah Stortz, Arts Editor
Twitter: @sstortz_
Sarah Stortz is an Arts Editor at The Daily Iowan. She has been on staff since her freshman year, previously as a news reporter, digital producer, and arts reporter. She is a senior at the University of Iowa, studying journalism & mass communication with a certificate in nonprofit management and a minor in theatre arts.