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OU Writing Program awarded national Certificate of Excellence
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
OU Writing Program awarded national Certificate of Excellence

CCCC Writing Program Certificate of Excellence

The first year writing program at Oakland University was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the national organization for college writing programs. To be eligible for this award, programs must be able to demonstrate that:
  • The program imaginatively addresses the needs and opportunities of its students, instructors, institution, and locale.
  • The program offers exemplary ongoing professional development for faculty of all ranks, including adjunct/contingent faculty.
  • The program treats contingent faculty respectfully, humanely, and professionally.
  • The program uses current best practices in the field.
  • The program administrator (chair, director, coordinator, etc.) has academic credentials in writing.
  • The program uses effective, ongoing assessment.
  • The program uses effective placement procedures.
  • Class size is appropriate.
  • The program models diversity and/or serves diverse communities.
In addition, the program 
  • has conducted research that serves similar programs at other institutions;
  • exhibits coherence in terms of disciplinary expectations;
  • exhibits some distinctive feature(s) in the student and/or faculty experience;
  • uses practices and materials that lead to desirable learning outcomes;
  • provides valuable and valued community service;
  • has established strategic alliances with campus units and/or initiatives.
Since becoming an independent Department of Writing and Rhetoric in 2008, our first-year writing program has continued our long tradition of excellence in the teaching of writing and rhetoric, improved the working conditions and opportunities for our first-year writing faculty, and assessed and further developed our writing curriculum. Over the last four years we have also:
  • received more than $65,000 in university funds to support assessment, curriculum development, and professional development, including $10,000 in summer 2012 to revise our WRT 102: Basic Writing curriculum to better address the university’s most at-risk student population;
  • increased our program’s visibility on campus;
  • expanded professional development opportunities for our full-time and part-time faculty;
  • revised our classes to focus on civic engagement and new media composition;
  • assessed and made revisions to our required first-year course, WRT 160, Composition II;
  • assessed and revised our WRT 104, Supervised Study course;
  • developed and published a Guide to First-Year Writing at Oakland University for use in all of our first-year writing classes;
  • established observation and review procedures for contract faculty teaching in the program;
  • created positions for both a director and an associate director for the program; and
  • established a First-Year Writing Committee to advise the director and associate director on program-related issues.
The Department of Writing and Rhetoric offers first-year writing classes that focus on helping students to develop the rhetorical skills, composing processes, and information literacies necessary for writing in the 21st century. The first-year curriculum strives for engaged classroom communities where students are introduced to rhetorical strategies for writing. Social constructivist and rhetorical theories inform our process-oriented, 4–credit-hour courses. An emphasis on revision, rhetorical understanding, and collaborative work shapes our approach to first-year writing, and our students engage in projects that require community/civic engagement, new media composing, and writing in the academic disciplines.

A more thorough version of our writing program’s history has been documented in Wallis Andersen’s chapter in What We Are Becoming: Developments in Undergraduate Writing Majors (Giberson and Moriarty, eds). Because Oakland University was established in 1957 to be the honors college for Michigan State University, the university chose not to offer first-year writing classes until the 1970s, when the school broke from Michigan State University to form its own university. At that time, writing was taught out of the Department of Learning Skills and later out of a separate Rhetoric Program, which fused with Communication and Journalism in the early 1980s to form a new department. Then in 2008, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Ron Sudol (a rhetoric-composition scholar) separated the rhetoric program to form a new, independent Department of Writing and Rhetoric. At the same time, the university approved the institution of our major and minor in Writing and Rhetoric.

The writing program’s practices and administration are informed by rhetorical and social constructivist theory. We value peer response and revision as central practices necessary for all writers. We also value reflective and analytical practices in the classroom as a way to aid our students in transferring the knowledge, processes, and skills they learn in our classes to their other work in the university and beyond. Our program recognizes the changing nature of writing in a digital age, and our faculty on all levels have been trained to teach digital composing and visual rhetoric. Because we live in an information-rich age, our faculty also instruct students in plagiarism prevention strategies, copyright and fair use, and the ethical treatment of human research subjects. Because we recognize that our classes serve academic communities beyond our own, we teach the use of two academic styles in our first-year writing courses. Students in WRT 102 are introduced to basic MLA citation practices, students in WRT 150 compose their papers using MLA style, and students in WRT 160 learn APA style. In teaching academic styles, we focus our instruction on the epistemic values, research methods, and assumptions about knowledge construction that are inherent to different citation systems. In other words, we focus our instruction on the reasons these styles exist and take their varied forms rather than on the mechanics, minutiae, and idiosyncrasies of their implementation.

CCCC will announce the award in CCC, on the Website, at the annual meeting, and on appropriate listservs. Winners will also be recognized at the annual Awards Session at CCCC in Las Vegas. At that time, the program will be presented with a certificate, as well as a letter of commendation. 


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