Revolution Lullabye

November 9, 2010

Royer and Gilles, The Origins of a Department of Academic, Creative, and Professional Writing

Royer, Daniel J., and Roger Gilles. “The Origins of a Department of Academic, Creative, and Professional Writing.” A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Ed. Peggy O’Neill, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. 21-37. Print.

The authors explain how an independent department of academic, creative, and professional writing was created at Grand Valley State University in 1999. The move towards creating a stand-alone department was a decision made within the larger, literature-centered English department: after a composition specialist was hired in the early 1990s to administer the program, more and more tenure-track faculty in composition and rhetoric were added, the first-year writing curriculum was revamped, and the composition program won supporters across campus and in the administration. Royer and Gilles argue that much of the desire to create an independent program arose from a question of values: the rhetoric and composition faculty wanted to teach –and were willing to teach multiple sections of composition – in a community that valued the teaching of writing instead of in one that thought of it, as the authors write, as “cleaning the toilet” (23). The new department was created around two ideas: 1. that that those with PhD s in rhetoric and composition are trained to teach more than just the required first-year course, so the department developed an undergraduate major to create the vertical curriculum needed for faculty to teach upper-division electives and 2. that teaching first-year writing was a valued part of every person’s teaching responsibility. Royer and Gilles argue that placing rhetoric and composition in a separate department allows the discipline to be taught alongside and with other liberal arts and sciences rather than being placed underneath them, as preparation and support for other fields’ specialized study.

Quotes and Notes

“The point was about the value of composition within the academic unit. If the department reluctantly valued composition at the rate of one course a year, then to teach three or four courses a year would be a way of devaluing oneself and one’s work vis-à-vis what the departmental community claims, in practice, is important” (28).

Important point that connects to Syracuse: that GVSU hired its first rhet/comp specialist in 1990, around the same time that many other institutions in the country did (22). The thought was “simply to hire one or two composition specialists who could direct the program and keep the other faculty abreast of the latest developments in the field” (22).

Benefits of independence: focus on the discipline (at GVSU – academic, professional, creative writing); valuing of the teaching of academic writing, open lines of communication with other departments instead of being inside English, hiring and budget (and #s of major students) goes directly to the writing program instead of being administered through English.

Staffed some courses with postdoc fellows.

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