Aliki Dragona

2006 Award for Excellence in Teaching

“Teaching writing at UC Davis has been the most enjoyable work I have ever done in my life,” Aliki Dragona writes. “I love reading and writing, and so in teaching writing I am simply doing what feels natural to me: sharing the pleasure of reading, thinking through all sorts of texts, and practicing the art of writing along with my students.”

Since arriving at Davis in 1990, Dr. Dragona has taught the widest possible range of writing courses, from preparatory courses (writing for English language learners and first year students who have not passed the entry-level writing requirement), through the writing pedagogy course for graduate students, and almost everything in between. She has taught first year writing and mentored graduate students teaching it for the first time. She has taught intermediate writing and numerous advanced writing courses in the disciplines and professions: writing in African-American Studies, Economics, Engineering, Environmental Studies, Human Development, Religious Studies, and Sociology; writing in business, education, and the sciences. She has also worked in the Writing in the Disciplines Workshop Program, teaching faculty and TAs across the disciplines how to teach more effectively with writing and presenting writing workshops for undergraduate and graduate students across campus.

In all of her writing courses, Dragona teaches her students how to write effectively in a variety of formats and styles appropriate to the needs of varied audiences and purposes. But, more importantly, she wants students to realize that “writing is a powerful tool that they can use positively,” to understand their rights and responsibilities as members of a larger community, and to see that “by writing successfully, we can bring about change in a powerful and peaceful way.”

Dragona’s commitment to teaching critical reading and writing for meaningful effects on the real world derives partly from growing up in Greece under a military junta in the 1960s and 70s, which dictated what should be taught. Teachers who taught critical thinking and exposed different types of oppression “endangered their careers” and became “beacons” guiding her own career path.

Dragona’s heritage also motivates her teaching Summer Abroad classes, Travelers in Greece, starting in Athens and touring different islands while studying Greek travel literature, history and culture. She asks them to write about their experiences, considering their “transformation from students of one country and one campus to students of the world.”

For all of her students, she envisions the writing process as a “journey” where each small step.“ counts towards the outcome.” As a writing consultant, she engages intimately in this process, breaking each assignment into sequenced, manageable tasks, facilitating their planning, drafting, and revising, and fostering a sense of empowerment.

Dragona’s reflective teaching practice also enriches the University Writing Program, where she works on curricular development and reform, serves on program, personnel, and hiring committees,, reads portfolios and writing proficiency exams, and reads submissions for the publications Writing on the Edge and Prized Writing. She also has served on numerous campus committees, including the Undergraduate Council, the AF Executive Council, and the Chancellor’s Childcare Committee.

As a writer, Dragona has written biographical and critical essays on women writers from Greece and the U.S., translated fiction by Greek women writers, and written on translation as an “exact art.” She has also written and presented on techniques of commenting on student papers, focusing particularly on strategies for helping English language learners.