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Writing designated courses explained by IWP director

By Matthew Wojtechko

As students have register for classes, they may come across courses marked as “writing designated.”

If you see this, it does not mean that the course is necessarily writing intensive, explained Sara Lindey, director of the Interdisciplinary Writing Program (IWP) and associate professor of English.

Faculty voluntarily choose to make their classes be writing designated, Lindey said, given that they meet certain criteria. The criteria include the requirements that 20 percent or more of graded work is writing, the “six principles of good writing,” as developed by the IWP, are used, and the professors attend writing-instruction workshops.

“I wish I could tell you exactly what to expect, but each [professor] is able to do what they would like to do to use writing to help students learn,” Lindey said.

Writing designated courses have been offered since 1993, but only last August, Lindey and associate professor of psychology Devin Fava began a longitudinal assessment of writing designated courses’ effectiveness. About 175 freshmen wrote a timed essay and are planned to do the same again their senior year, with portfolios of authentic writing from classes being collected along the way.

“We’ll have several data collections from which we can put together a more complete picture of what helps student become more expert writers,” Lindey said.

Lindey explained that students of all disciplines should learn writing because it bolsters “critical thinking acumen” and because “all professions use writing in various capacities.”

One professor who teaches writing designated courses, Michael Urick, associate professor of business administration, said that written communication is crucial in business.

“If you can’t write an effective email that can communicate an idea clearly, you’re not going to be able to communicate with that person who is around the world from you or in the next state,” he said.

Urick said that if his students do not realize this importance now, they will do so when they enter the workforce.

When he was an accounting student at Saint Vincent, Urick said he took writing classes along with his English minor.

“I recognized that, hey, numbers are one thing, but I have to be able to communicate those numbers,” he said.

Urick said the classes he taught at the University of Cincinnati featured writing assignments, so when he came to Saint Vincent, teaching classes as “writing designed” was a “no-brainer.”

“I feel like if you can’t communicate via writing, then we’re doing our students a disservice,” he said.

The professors who teach writing designated courses are supported by the Interdisciplinary Writing Program, which was founded in 1990 by non-English professors who discussed how to create and grade writing compositions, according to a document provided by Lindey. Collaborating with the English Department, the program produced the “Six Principles of Good Writing” seminars for professors and writing designated courses.

The Six Principles are purpose, organization, coherence, support, clarity and insight.

This document from 2005 notes that 10 to 20 writing-designated courses are offered each semester, but Julia Snyder, English Department administrative assistant, noted that over the last four semesters, 50, 104, 64, and 87 have been offered, respectively.

Lindey, who has been the director of the IWP for almost two years, says her position has been enjoyable despite being a lot of work.

“It puts me in contact with a lot of faculty. It’s really rewarding to be able to see people and work together for the common good,” Lindey said. “I feel like it’s a way I can make meaningful change and help cheerlead and support our faculty as they try to do their best by our students.”

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