Writing concentration introduced

Photo courtesy of statnews.com | Students are now able to major in English with a concentration in writing. The new major will give students the flexibility to take classes in areas that interest them such as journalism, writing for social media or creative writing. Niamh O’Leary says this change is in response to student input.

After years of gradual development and feedback from students, faculty, families and alumni, the English major with writing concentration has been unveiled. Unlike the traditional English major, which is literature-based—focusing on the analysis and interpretation of various texts—the English major with writing concentration instead focuses more on professional writing. Writing Program Director and assistant professor Dr. Renea Frey said professional writing is the skill English alumni felt they needed in order to excel in the environments they currently work in.

“English majors are kind of known for their writing skills, their reading skills, that they can communicate, and this really sort of taps into that need,” Frey said.

When conversation about a writing concentration first began to develop, the writing minor became available to students. Dr. Niamh J. O’Leary, associate English professor and director of the First-Year Seminar program had the opportunity to watch the minor’s growth.

“Over the last several years since (the writing minor’s) creation, the enrollment in it has ballooned,” O’Leary said. “Clearly that’s something students want: more writing education.”

Frey recalled her account of X-Day last year, when she was meeting with perspective students and families about the English program.

“Several parents asked, ‘Well do you have a writing major? Can my child major in writing?’” Frey said. “I had to keep saying, ‘Not yet, but we’re looking into it now.’”
According to a pamphlet advertising the new English major with writing concentration, a 2016 Forbes article states that many of the highest-paying professions that attract English majors include “important skills in writing and communication.”

“If we think about even in digital media platforms, we have email, we have online websites, we have press releases, we have all of this stuff that is writing based,” Frey said. She added that this is just one example of how companies searching for new hires are attracted to writing skills.

An additional benefit to the concentration is that it can be customized to the student’s professional needs.

“If the student is interested in creative writing, they can take all of their courses in creative writing,” Frey said. “Or if they’re interested in going into journalism, or writing for social media or online writing, they can kind of pick and choose which courses they take to customize in those ways.”

While the faculty’s hopes for the new concentration are high, there has been concern about the move. Unlike other universities that have larger student populations and, thus, have the space for two or more different English major programs, this fall semester’s English senior seminar contains only 10 students.

When asked about this issue, Frey said that the goal is not to split up the major “but to give the students who major in English more options so they can focus more on literature, focus more on writing, but to keep it together as an overlapping program.” Frey feels that providing this flexibility for students will draw more students into picking up the English major with writing concentration as either a second major or a switch from another.

“It’s kind of a multi-faceted approach to a vitally important skill, and it’s something students are telling us they want, so I’m excited,” O’Leary said.

Frey agreed, feeling it will serve “in ways that will help (students) get the job they want, help them toward the career path that they’re looking forward to… I think that this concentration is designed really specifically with that in mind.”

By: Soondos Mulla-Ossman ~Copy Editor~