SMWC class kicks-off pro-Terre Haute website project

March 17th, 2017 | SMWC


SMWC students listen attentively as Shikha Bhattacharyya discusses why she thinks Terre Haute is a family-friendly place. The creator of non-profit enterprise ReTHink joined David Haynes, president of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

By Dianne Frances D. Powell

“What is the best kept secret in Terre Haute?”

This was a question asked by Bill Riley, assistant professor of English at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), during a panel discussion in his professional writing class on Monday.

The stimulating question drew thoughtful responses from four active community members, visitors to the Le Fer Hall classroom and panelists to the class activity dubbed, “I love Terre Haute.” The panelists were Richard Payonk, executive director of United Way of the Wabash Valley, David Haynes, president of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, Shikha Bhattacharyya, creator of non-profit enterprise ReTHink, and Candace Minster, garden manager at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice.

The panelists’ answer to Riley’s question was unanimous: the best thing about Terre Haute is its people. “Our capacity to care for one another is higher than I see at other places,” Payonk said. With hundreds of non-profit organizations calling it home, the panelists described Terre Haute as a “charitable community.” In addition, Bhattacharyya called it a kid-friendly city. 

This exchange was only part of almost an hour-long discussion about what makes Terre Haute tick. The activity kicks-off a website project in the Professional Writing II class featuring in-depth stories, videos and photos. The “pro-Terre Haute website,” Riley said, intends to show what’s unique about Terre Haute and why it is a good place to live.


Panelists Candace Minster, garden manager at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, Richard Payonk, executive director of United Way of the Wabash Valley, and David Haynes, president of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

During the question and answer portion of the event, sophomore professional writing major Macy Dorman, a Greene County native, asked how the panelists connect with the Terre Haute community. After the event, she said, “I learned a lot about audiences that we need to reach and about the charities in Terre Haute.” The activity opened her eyes to different perspectives; she gained insight about life in Terre Haute, she said. Through it, she got ideas for content for the website, she added.

Student-centered academic innovation is a key part of the SMWC experience. Class activities like this not only give students opportunities for hands-on learning but also encourage civic engagement. The students’ academic and personal growth are at the center of the College’s mission.

Riley said the website project was inspired by a similar website created for Indianapolis, www.nomeancity.com, which aims to show the Indiana capital as a friendly and welcoming place. While the intent is the same for the Terre Haute website, it is a project that will also bring its creators the benefits of learning an emerging writing field: web writing.

The project will help students build their clips, so they can apply for internships and jobs, Riley said. Perhaps equally important, Riley said the project teaches them about website literacy. By building this website from the ground up, they will gain the knowledge and confidence, he said.