Elon University will soon institute the Writing Excellence Initiative to help students achieve a high standard of written communication in their coursework and beyond.
The initiative to enhance the writing curriculum throughout departments was developed under the Quality Enhancement Plan and aims to help students gain expertise in writing, inquiry and community engagement.
“I think it’s easy for people across the university to see that writing is an important tool,” said Paula Patch, English lecturer and college writing program coordinator. “In the classroom, it’s a tool for learning and it’s also a tool for assessment.”
Having strong writing skills will also be important for students in their endeavors after graduation, Patch said.
“We hope that students will use writing to somehow make an impact on the world,” Patch said. “That means writing a letter to the editor, or writing a grant proposal to help solve a problem in their community. It could be that a student goes on to work in public policy, and because they are able to write well, their statements will have a widespread impact.”
To achieve the goals set forth by the Writing Excellence Initiative, the plan calls for professors to find more ways to incorporate writing into their curriculum, such as substituting a multiple choice test for an essay exam, Patch said.
Professors of all disciplines will receive support and instruction to help them master their own written communication skills.
“Faculty and staff will have opportunities to further develop their own writing, and that will make them more able and interested in supporting their students as they write,” Patch said.
The Writing Center will play an important role in the initiative, and its staff will receive training to offer expanded services to students and faculty. These services will include multimedia writing, and support for writing students do outside of class, according to Paul Anderson, director of writing across the university.
“Lots of students will be doing writing on their own, whether that’s creative writing or writing related to issues in their own communities,” Anderson said. “We want to celebrate that and support it.”
The Writing Excellence Initiative may alter the way courses are taught at Elon, but there will be no new course or graduation requirements resulting from it, according to Anderson.
“The approach in regard to academics is to have students working in their majors with writing throughout their four years in ways that intentionally and deliberately build their skills as they move from the intro course to the capstone, or culminating course,” Anderson said.
But the plan is still subject to alteration, and Anderson is eager to receive feedback from students and staff, he said. By visiting the Writing Initiative’s website, students can post their ideas about the plan or find out who they can contact with their suggestions.
“I want Elon alumni to say one of the most valuable things they got from the university was writing,” Anderson said. “When employers and grad schools talk about Elon, I want them to say one of the more remarkable things about our students is how well they write.”