We hosted a group of 7 faculty from Soka University
in Japan, giving them a presentation about what we do here in WAC. They came with great questions about developing programs and generally about how instructors in various disciplines can incorporate writing into their courses. They very graciously gave us several gifts, including a collection of University Addresses by their founder, Daisaku Ikeda
, A New Humanism
. I've taken a look at some of the essays--I'd like to write about a few at some point in honor of their visit, perhaps next week.
Several of them will be joining us today for our workshop, The Press Release: Read All About It!
. Denney Hall 311 at 1-2 PM--Pizza will be served! I've already gotten phone calls from folks interested in attending. We should have a good group!
I had the opportunity this weekend to visit my alma mater, the State University of New York at Geneseo
, and speak with two of my mentors there, Ron Herzman
and Bill Cook
. They told me about a Writing Across the Curriculum program that had been adopted several years ago.
The model was a course that had been a part of the college honors curriculum for several years--a critical reading course that involved intensive reading and writing for 20 students, led by any of the astounding teaching faculty at the college. INTD 105
is now required of every Geneseo student in their freshman year, and is taught by faculty across the college. For those of you not familiar with Geneseo, it is a relatively small (5000) liberal arts college just south of Rochester, NY that is on its way to becoming the honors college in the SUNY system. The cornerstone of the general education core is a two course Humanities sequence, founded on a "Great Works" curriculum (which in its own way is a WAC course, taught by faculty throughout the college--for some students, it used to be the only course that involved writing of some kind).
I fondly remember taking Honors Critical Reading with Dr. Cook during my sophmore year. Although he is a medieval historian, he focused the class on African-American historical texts--Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. Dubois. He guided us through the texts, and we wrote a number of critical response papers throughout the quarter. The highlight of which was a civil rights history tour of Rochester (a prominent home for the abolitionist movement), led by an ancestor of W. E. B. Dubois and capped off with a soul food dinner at one of the city's historic AME churches. To take such a class with this truly wonderful professor was an astounding experience (he and Dr. Herzman won the first
teaching award from the Medieval Academy of America, and Dr. Cook recently finished second in a nationwide teaching competition). It certainly was one of those classes at Geneseo that I consciously remember as having focused my reading, writing and critical thinking skills (another was Prof. Maria Lima's "Practical Criticism" class my first year...a story for another time). Dr. Cook told me that he sometimes teaches these same texts in INTD 105; he also teaches a class on De Toquville's Democracy in America
Dr. Herzman seemed pleased with the development of the new WAC course at the college--it is taught widely across the college by professors from almost every discipline, and he is noticing a distinct improvement in the writing of his students in core courses taken later in the curriculum. Geneseo's "Great Books" approach to WAC might seem a bit old fashioned to some, focused as it is on a very traditional form of the liberal arts. I can't imagine such a program working at Ohio State for a lot of reasons. But, I can't imagine anything more suitable for Geneseo. My ideal image for interdisciplinary work and the liberal arts was shaped by what I experienced during my Undergraduate years: a math professor and an English professor teaching a Dante course, a physics professor teaching a history of scientific theories of light. What makes programs like these work is the collaborative spirit at Geneseo, as well as the devotion of the faculty to teaching and to the liberal arts foundation of the curriculum.
It was interesting to hear about the development of this course after I had graduated--and I'm curious about what brought about this course. It seems very much tied to the assessment and outcome-based initiatives SUNY implemented under the direction of Governor Pataki. Ohio State is facing very similar pressures, and it will be interesting to see what sort of WAC program develops from our own local needs and interests.