English department creates new writing minor at Norwich

The English department has set in motion plans for a new program at Norwich.

Professors Sean Prentiss and Daelyn Luedtke have created a new set of standards to incorporate a writing minor within the English department.

No matter where they might be applied, communication and writing are valuable skills. At Norwich, with the implementation of this new minor, future engineers, law enforcement personnel, writers and many other majors will be able to gain skills to make them more well-rounded students.

Prentiss and Luedtke of the English department are the co-creators of this new minor. “Prof. Prentiss and I both really believe in the importance of writing, especially in the 21st century where we really live our lives in writing,” Luedtke said. “We write more than we ever have before, our social lives are online and our professional lives are online.”

The minor is the same as any other minor on campus in the concept of earning it.

“The writing minor is brand new this past year, it’s a six-class minor, so 18 credits,” Prentiss explained. “You are required to take two classes which are advanced composition and intro to creative writing.”

The addition of new English professors over recent years has been a part of a concerted effort to build up writing instruction, according to Prof. Kathleen McDonald, who is chair of the Department of English and Communications.

“Our biggest challenge was resources,” Luedtke said, “we have a writing minor, but only two professors whose background is specifically in writing.”

Getting enrollment for the minor was not only an issue of faculty allocation but also with getting students to sign up.

“It is difficult to recruit people from different programs because their curriculum is so full. There has been a lot of interest in the course,” Luedtke said, adding “people need to fill out the actual paperwork.”

The importance of writing skills are underestimated with students and it is a valuable skill, the professors contend.

“A writing minor proves itself beyond a English degree and its implications, and a degree from Norwich,” explained Prof. Jonathon Walters, a professor of English.

“It reiterates the holder of the minor is able to use language, read well, write well and effectively communicate,” Walters said, “which will translate into job expertise and skills in the practical world. On a personal level, we should try to improve our oral communicative skills and written skills as well.”

Luedtke supported the benefits of a writing minor, noting “Employers are looking for connective writing skills, it does look good for grad school and also law school.”

Any field of study can benefit from learning the art of writing.

“Those in the hard sciences and technical fields have to communicate,” Walters said. “At some point an engineer has to communicate and sell his product or write up a review of the project.”

In any job or career, people must be able to communicate effectively in order to be successful in their field, argue Prentiss and McDonald.

“One of the main areas employers are concerned with is the inability for people to write,” McDonald said, “coming out of some of the top schools of the country and yet when they get out, employers look at the written product.” In addition, she said, “We live in an Internet world, you may have co-workers that you never physically meet. You respond and interact with each other completely online. If you can’t write or put an idea together, your colleagues are going to think you’re an idiot.”

Sometimes the product of students’ writing doesn’t reflect well on the top schools that they have attended, according to McDonald.

“When you look at major businesses, and look at a computer security major and an engineer,” Prentiss said, “the most valued skill that they can have is writing.”

The minor will be helpful because of its ability to supplement varied skills. Whether a student is an accomplished architect or engineer, this minor only makes that person better, according to Prentiss.

“IBM did a survey and it looked at the most important skill that a person could have to become an executive,” Prentiss continued.

“The bottom third of workers in a company are the worst writers, and the top third in terms of pay are the best writers,” according to Prentiss.

Writing is skill just like anything else: It needs to be learned and to be practiced, and students may be cautious to try the minor if it is not one of their specialties.

“Everybody thinks of writing as, ‘I have to sit down and write something’,” McDonald said, “but it’s actually a skill, and it’s something the more you do, the better you get.”

“We want you to understand both rhetorical writing and creative writing,” Prentiss continued. “The point of this minor is not to work on your strengths, but it’s to work on your weaknesses.”


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