Undergraduate Writing Programs in Liberal Arts Colleges

deadline for submissions: 
June 8, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
College of Charleston
contact email: 

Dear colleagues,

Heather Lang and I are reaching out to writing studies faculty at liberal arts colleges to form a possible roundtable for the Association of Rhetoric and Writing Studies 2018 Annual Conference. The goal of this roundtable is to better represent the status of rhetoric and writing at the undergraduate level (beyond the first year) at liberal arts colleges.

Below you will find a draft of our proposal. We are asking for interested participants to send in 50-word summaries of your contributions by June 8th. That will give us a week to collaborate with participants and finalize the proposal before the June 15th deadline.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Heather (langh@susqu.edu) or me (craigjw1@cofc.edu).

Undergraduate Writing Programs in Liberal Arts Colleges

Among the 5500 college in the United States, about 1500 of them are liberal arts colleges. As Jill Gladstein and Dara Regaignon have noted, small liberal arts colleges have historically functioned--and continue to function--as writing-rich institutional types where a commitment to writing instruction across the curriculum is part of the ethos and identity of the institution. Put another way, rhetoric has had a home and continues to have a home at liberal arts colleges, but more often than not, that institutional home is somewhat amorphous, not necessarily bound to a distinct program and administrative structure. Likewise, rhetoric and writing are often only taught early in the liberal arts curriculum to satisfy general education requirements. These institutional realities are, however, changing given the rise of undergraduate programs in writing studies. Across the country, writing studies programs and courses are showing up in a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary programs (emphases, concentrations, majors, minors, tracks) in a range of departmental configurations both inside English departments and in standalone Writing departments. Despite this emergence of undergraduate writing programs, rhetoric and writing majors at small liberal arts colleges have thus far gone relatively unexamined. For instance, among the eighteen profiles published in Gibberson, Nugent, Ostergaard’s 2015 edited collection, two were liberal arts colleges; both were medium-sized (~5000 students) and almost 20 years-old in their current configurations.

As these profiles on St. Edwards and on Elon have noted, starting and sustaining writing majors at liberal arts colleges comes with a unique set of challenges despite the realities that rhetoric and writing are and always have been a fixture of the liberal arts education.

To more fully account for the experiences of writing studies professionals at liberal arts institutions, we propose a roundtable discussion that addresses these unique challenges by providing insight into LACs--whether small, medium, or large--and the ways in which rhetoric and composition program have, or have not, been successfully integrated into liberal arts curricula and missions.

We are currently seeking five additional participants to join the conversation. Each participant will have 5-7 minutes to share their insights prior to discussion and q&a. If you are interested in participating, please send a 50-word summary of your contribution to the conversation to Jacob Craig (craigjw1@cofc.edu) and Heather Lang (langh@susqu.edu). In imagining the shape your contribution might take, feel free to reappropriate any of the questions provided in the Association of Rhetoric and Writing Studies Annual Conference CFP (https://www.rhetoricandwriting.org/2018-arws-conference) for your institution and the LAC institutional type.