Elon University has made a commitment to “make writing a signature experience of every Elon student’s education” by establishing their community-wide QEP. In its implementation stage, it is called the Writing Excellence Initiative (WEI). Elon’s Director of Writing Across the University, Dr. Paula Rosinski, describes the QEP as an institution-wide project geared toward faculty, staff, and students.
“Our task is inclusive: to enhance the teaching and learning of all academic, professional and co-curricular writing of all students, faculty and staff,” says Dr. Rosinski.
Although the objectives of the Writing Excellence Initiative are overarching, the approach intentionally sets broad goals for departments and does not prescribe how those goals can be met. Elon acknowledges that each department, discipline, and program is unique and has its own disciplinary practice, so honoring those experts and their decisions allows infinite flexibility.
That being said, the WEI focuses on enhancing three different categories of writing: writing to learn, writing in a discipline/profession, and writing as a citizen. It is the hope of the university that the mastery of these three facets of writing will prepare students—undergraduate and graduate—to be excellent writers. According to the Writing Excellence Initiative, writing to learn will prepare Elon students to use writing to analyze information, understand new content, and generate knowledge. Writing in a discipline/profession, then, focuses on using writing to develop and communicate ideas effectively to readers within the context of his or her field of study, as well as outside of school. Finally, writing as a citizen will prepare Elon graduates to “communicate effectively with other members of his or her communities on issues of local, regional, or global significance.”
This preparation process begins in Elon’s Writing Center and through the Writing Across the University Program (WAU). With expanded hours, a new central location on the first floor of Belk Library, and opened satellite locations, the Writing Center has a growing presence on Elon’s campus. Similarly, WAU, though in its early stages, is making improvements throughout Elon’s academic departments, the Core Curriculum, and the Division of Student Life. The WAU currently supports faculty development in the best practices of writing pedagogy through a Summer Writing Institute, Pedagogy Enhancement Grants, Writing Research Grants, Writing Center Fellows, Anonymous Assignment Feedback from Writing Center Consultants, and group, department, program, and individual consultations.
“The process of working through the WEI means that faculty are devoting time to discussing with each other the role of writing in their disciplines, writing outcomes for their disciplines, writing pedagogies to pilot, [and] their curricula maps,” says Dr. Rosinski. This campus-encompassing approach has proved to result in one of the most powerful benefits: the conversations about writing that are taking place among teaching faculty/staff and between teachers and students. As Dr. Rosinski explains “These are conversations that are happening not only in faculty development workshops, but in small group conversations among colleagues, in department meetings, in casual conversation in cafes, in classrooms.”
The facilitation of these conversations is also aided by one of the most unique facets of Elon’s WEI: the Writing Fellows program. Though still in its pilot stage, the ultimate goal of the program is to assign fellows to work with Elon professors across all disciplines in order to communicate standards for writing pedagogy, shape writing-intensive assignments, and work with students one-on-one. That this program has both academic and professional benefits, and aids both students and professors, makes it truly unique to Elon.
What is also unique about Elon’s WEI is that it’s not just about academic writing in the majors, but about student life and the general education classes, too. The Core Curriculum contributes to the WEI by “refin(ing) its courses to provide additional instruction and support for steadily developing undergraduate students’ abilities to write as citizens” (elon.edu).
Although the Writing Excellence Initiative is still in its implementation process, the attitude toward enhancing writing on the Elon campus has already become one of willingness and appreciation. “The community as a whole is very invested in our Writing Excellence Initiative,” says Paula. “Which means that I get to spend my time and energy on working with faculty and staff to develop appropriate writing outcomes and engaging writing assignments, prompts and situations.”
Jordan Stanley is currently a junior at Elon University. She is studying English with concentrations in Professional Writing & Rhetoric and Creative Writing, and works both in the Elon Writing Center and as a Writing Fellow.