Professor Spotlight: Dr. Jennifer Kunka

Dr. Jennifer Kunka, director of The Writing Center, is currently
co-authoring a book that helps college students with writing.

Photo by: Keyla Shepard

Dr. Jennifer Kunka, director of The Writing Center, is currently co-authoring a book that helps college students with writing.

Most FMU students know Dr. Jennifer Kunka as the jovial Writing Center director and English professor, but she is actively working on writing the next edition of a nationally known writing guide for college students.

Kunka and Dr. Muriel Harris, a former colleague from the Purdue University Writing Lab, have coauthored the “Prentice Hall Reference Guide” and “Writer’s FAQs” books for the past 10 years.

They just finished the sixth edition of “Writer’s FAQs” that published Jan. 22, and they are currently working on the 10th edition of the Prentice Hall Reference Guide that will publish in January 2017.

It’s not a book about one thing,” Kunka said. “It’s not a book about how to do one type of writing. It tries to address a lot of different things. The reference guide will help a college student all the way through school and even helps them after school.”

The “Prentice Hall Reference Guide” is a book that allows students to answer any writing-based question ranging from citations to job resumes. “Writer’s FAQs” is a shortened version of the reference guide that answers some of the same questions as the reference guide.

Kunka and Harris met while she was in her graduate studies at Purdue University working with the Writing Lab. Kunka was a tutor while Harris was the director of the Writing Lab.

Kunka said that she ran into Harris at a conference a few years after working together at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), and Harris offered her the opportunity to be involved with the creation of the “Prentice Hall Reference Guide.”

Kunka began working on the reference guide during the creation of the seventh edition.

“The hardest part of publishing the two books over the years of the books together,” Kunka said.

The guide has multiple sections that cover various forms of writing.

“We want the most current information about citations in the book,” Kunka said. “We want to be up-todate on better composition, and we want to reflect that in our books. They are comprehensive books. Pulling all of that together is a challenge.”

A new edition of the two books is published every three years to keep the guides up-to-date, Kunka said.

According to Kunka, the new reference guide will include major changes to the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) rules for citations.

Kunka said that before she could send the book to publication, she had to revise the section on MLA citations to accommodate the changes made in the the style.

Kunka also features student work in the reference guides as examples.

“The books are used all over the country,” Kunka said. “It is really cool that our students are a model for students across the country.”

Apart from her work on the “Prentice Hall Reference Guide” and “Writer’s FAQs,” Kunka also contributed to OWL while she was in graduate school.

According to Kunka, on the OWL’s website there are still examples on the MLA online guide written by some of her graduate professors and one by her husband, Dr. Andy Kunka, that Kunka used.

Through her work with OWL, Kunka said she feels that she has been well prepared for directing the FMU Writing Center. Kunka came to FMU to direct the Writing Center and teach after graduating from Purdue University 15 years ago.

“It was very clear that the Writing Center was very important to the faculty and administration here,” Kunka said. “I felt that I could do some good. The Writing Center was much beloved here, and I felt that I could add to its mission.”

Kunka said she enjoys her work with the Writing Center tutors and the students she teaches.

“I love working with all of the students tutors,” Kunka said. “I find that they are very energizing.”