Why major in writing?
Even if your eventual career isn't writing per se, expanding your ability to write concisely and fluently provides an invaluable set of skills that can be used to speed you along in virtually any career path: the law, teaching, internet and multimedia activity, business, health care and many others. The ability to write well is increasingly valued as fewer and fewer college graduates in our visual and Twitter bound culture know how to write anything of length and complexity.
Some of the skills of a writing major acquires: persistence, imagination, the ability to analyze an issue and make sense of it, the ability to communicate that sense, the ability to explain and argue effectively, resourcefulness, the ability to detect flaws in arguments and address them, the ability to know how to accept and mold criticism to make a more effective product, the ability to be creative, flexibility, and confidence.
More specifically, the undergraduate Professional Writing program gives form to the contradictory fact of life about writers in American society: They are both specialists and generalists. People who make their living (or some part of it) by writing today find themselves frequently crossing writing genres even as they are called upon to specialize in some specific genre. Business writers may find they are sometimes asked to do PR or may do it freelance; poets won't make a living writing poetry, but they might through teaching, or marketing, or journalism.
Courses within the Professional Writing major are mixed and matched so that they both contribute to the specific writing profession the student is aiming toward, and demonstrate the interrelation of one type of writing with another. This is particularly important in an era when the boundaries between writing genres are breaking down. To take just one example from journalism, news stories these days are much closer in presentation techniques to creative writing and advertising. It is easy enough to bemoan this fact, but we think it is more important to teach writers how to write creative nonfiction in an ethically and professionally sound way, understanding both the advantages of a creative approach in terms of reader interest, and the dangers of allowing the creative form to falsify and distort the reality they report. Similarly, poets may need to learn advertising.
The Professional Writing faculty (who are themselves professional writers) believe strongly that we want to train writers to take a professional attitude and to see themselves as professionals.
Courses in the Major are workshops of various kinds: some focus on student writing and hands-on learning with substantial writing projects; others train skills such as copyediting; others invite students to learn by imitating and finding inspiration from texts produced by accomplished writers in many genres.
The Undergraduate Curriculum
Organization of the Undergraduate Program
THE CORE (12 SH): A core of four Craft of Writing workshops calls upon students to imitate models of professional writing in many genres, to understand the creative process, to grapple with the relationship between form and insight, and through writing and reading to enter directly into the conversation between and among writers over the centuries. In these workshops, texts will be used as models, prompts, and inspiration for student writing projects. Much like student painters are asked to imitate the Masters, we will be asking our students to write in the context of the models and exemplars presented in these courses. It is through this kind of rigorous attention to craft that student writers will find inspiration for their own innovations.
GENRE WORKSHOPS (14 SH): In addition to the four core Craft of Writing workshops, students in the B.A. in Professional Writing options will take a series of workshops that will help to focus students' writing within a particular genre (e.g., journalism, fiction, or public relations writing) that align with the five different options. Here students specialize and hone their skills in particular writing genres.
UPPER LEVEL REQUIRED COURSES (16 SH): The upper level required courses, including the capstone thesis project course, reflect our dedication to the principle that every graduate should leave our program with important intellectual and practical knowledge such as how to operate in an editorial environment; an understanding of libel; familiarity with publication design and development; a basic understanding and ability to apply the linguistic and semantic approach to language; and the ability to edit and copyedit manuscripts.
MENU COURSES (6 SH): The category of Menu Courses is a new addition to our program sheet. These are advanced multi-genre courses that emphasize the cross-genre practices usually involved in a writer's life. In this category, students will take two courses from a menu of courses that will be rotated to allow for a great variety of topics and approaches. Here is where imagination meets research, and flexibility meets the demands of assembling the elements of the writing process.