Faculty support from across campus is crucial to the success of the new Interdisciplinary Writing Certificate Program for undergraduates launched last semester, according to its director Elizabeth Davis.
“We’re going to need to develop more writing-intensive courses to offer discipline-specific programs that emphasize writing to all students who would like to obtain the certificate,” said Davis, hired in August to get the certificate program off the ground. “Faculty will play a big part in this in the next several years.”
Approved by University Council in spring 2008, the Writing Certificate Program is the latest, and perhaps most significant, of several steps the university is taking to provide students in all colleges and fields the opportunity to develop and demonstrate their written communication skills.
The 2005 Report of the Task Force on General Education and Student Learning strongly endorsed the incorporation of “significant writing assignments into more courses across the university so that students are exposed to rigorous writing experiences throughout their undergraduate career.”
But the task force expressed concern-based on data from the 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement-that many UGA undergraduates are not required to write a substantial paper after completing introductory composition courses.
When the survey was re-administered in 2005, little had changed in terms of writing opportunities for UGA students, and a related faculty survey found that nearly half of the respondents did not ask students to write papers longer than five pages.
“The survey results made it clear that while both faculty and students consider writing one of the most important skills in the classroom and after graduation, our students do less writing than their peers at comparable institutions,” said Jere Morehead, vice president for instruction.
Morehead and Del Dunn, former vice president for instruction, subsequently formed a Writing Task Force to propose ideas to address the issue and began providing financial resources to support some of the task force’s
recommendations, such as establishing a Writing Center on South Campus and piloting a Writing Fellows Program.
Davis has been busy getting word out about the program to faculty, advisers and students via a Web site (www.ctl.uga.edu/writing_certificate/) and other means. She also meets regularly with the 2008-09 Writing Fellows to discuss the most effective ways to teach and respond to student writing. The WFP is now in its second year, and faculty selected as fellows each receive a stipend of $1,000 to subsidize projects aimed at constructing courses or initiatives to support student writing at UGA. The fellows will present their projects during a writing symposium this spring.
This year’s Writing Fellows are Ron Butchart, elementary and social studies education; Ashley Calabria and Shelley Cannady, environmental design; Erika Hermanowicz, classics; Su-I Hou, public health; Tracie Jenkins, entomology research; Nicole Lazar, statistics; Kathy Roulston, lifelong education, administration and policy; and Betsy Uhl, veterinary medicine.
“Students in the Writing Certificate Program tailor their coursework to their field of study, so it is crucial that faculty from many disciplines get involved in the program,” Davis said. “I want to encourage faculty to contact me for more information on how to get a course designated writing intensive or for ideas about how to work more writing assignments into classes.”
The Franklin College of Arts and Sciences gives its faculty the opportunity to be involved in the college’s Writing Intensive Program and trains discipline-
specific graduate students to serve as teaching assistants in WIP courses. The WIP web site (www.wip.uga.edu/) lists courses and includes faculty
“Representatives from the Franklin College played a key role in the campus-wide committee that did the initial planning for the Writing Certificate Program,” Morehead said. “But other units also contributed, including the Honors Program, the Division of Academic Enhancement and the Center for Teaching and Learning. The goal is to extend the Writing Certificate Program across the full range of academic disciplines at the university. We hope to have the program fully functional within the next five years.”