Following the split into Professional and Creative concentrations in the mid-1990s, nearly a decade passed until a newly hired creative writing professor proposed some significant curricular changes that reflected what he saw as more general shifts in his discipline. He agreed with our earlier move of insisting creative writing students take a technical writing course, as well as courses in the theory of both literary criticism and rhetoric. But he saw several deficits in the concentration as well. “To be at least coherent,” asserts Balzhiser and McLeod, “a writing major should have a gateway/foundations course that introduces students to the discipline, a capstone course or experience that helps students pull together and demonstrate what they have learned at the end of their course of study, a series of required courses that are in or related to the discipline …, and a stated set of learning outcomes for students that provides a rationale for the courses required” (418-19). While the professional concentration had a clear set of learning outcomes and a recognizable capstone experience, the creative concentration did not, and neither concentration had a recognizable introductory course.
Our new faculty member proposed and won approval for the following changes in the creative concentration: A new course entitled Introduction to Creative Writing would serve as a prerequisite for courses in writing Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction. (The latter reflected a change in nomenclature in the field, replacing an earlier course entitled “Autobiographical Writing.”) Moreover, the revised curriculum had a clear set of capstone experiences, including the opportunity to complete a senior writing project, a required course entitled Advanced Research Writing (the same capstone course required by the Professional concentration), and submission of a creative writing portfolio to qualify for graduation. Creative Writing faculty members also developed a set of eight learning outcomes for the program; the senior portfolios would serve as assessments of whether the program was meeting those outcomes. The portfolios would also provide, it was thought, a stronger case for students aspiring to Master of Fine Arts programs. The Advanced Research Writing course would require a major research project of students in both concentrations, and also provide experience in editing and production through direct responsibility for an annual publication of writing by first-year composition students submitted by their professors.
Abetted by these changes, our Creative Writing concentration rapidly became our most heavily enrolled undergraduate program. The Professional concentration’s faculty knew they had to make similar changes. While it might be argued that the concentration had more coherence than that of the earlier version of Creative Writing, there was no clear introductory course. In addition to the three language courses mentioned in the last posting (Creative Writing now only required one), the course in literary theory, and the literature courses, Professional students had to take courses entitled Composition and Rhetoric, Technical and Scientific Writing, Introduction to Creative Writing, Advanced Technical and Scientific Writing, and Advanced Research Writing (the capstone course). They also had a choice between two courses: Advertising Copywriting and Business and Administrative Writing. A six-hour internship was required, but no portfolio.
In the fall of 2007, after much deliberation, the Professional Writing faculty decided to make several changes that would create a clearer introduction to the program and strengthen the capstone experience. One technical writing course was dropped, and two courses--Introduction to Professional Writing and Advanced Professional Writing--absorbed the course in Business and Administrative Writing. (Creative students would no longer have to take technical writing but the Introduction to Professional Writing instead.) All students in the concentration would now have to take the Advertising Copywriting course and, like the Creative students, they would have to submit a portfolio to qualify for graduation. Those portfolios would, again, serve as one assessment of the effectiveness of the program.
Our Professional Writing concentration now closely resembles the “professional/rhetorical writing major” Balzhiser and McLeod outline in a table of introductory, capstone, and other required courses (420-21). But as other discussion postings in this blog suggest, we realize there is still much more reflection to do if we hope to truly prepare our students for the writing tasks and challenges they will encounter once they receive their baccalaureate. This blog is one form of that reflection, and its usefulness depends to a large extent on the observations, suggestions, and shared experiences of its visitors and readers.
Balzhiser, Deborah and Susan H. McLeod. “The Undergraduate Writing Major: What is It? What
Should It Be?” College Composition and Communication. 61.3 (2010): 415-33. Print.