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The English department now offers a writing minor in addition to a writing concentration within the English major.

In addition to the requisite first-year writing seminar and composition classes, students pursuing the writing minor or concentration take five writing courses from a broad spectrum of offerings, including creative writing, journalism, and such non-fiction genres as life writing, travel writing, and science writing, taught by publishing writers who are also skilled mentors. Other courses include screenwriting, play writing, and electronic writing. Among the English department’s 18 faculty positions, five are dedicated to writing.

Internships are available with newspapers, magazines, advertising and public relations agencies, and television stations. The department also sponsors poetry competitions, poetry and fiction readings, and workshops with visiting writers.

“There has been a growing demand from students for more writing courses that aren’t focused on writing about literature, as most of our traditional courses do,” said Bianca Falbo, assistant professor of English and assistant director of the College Writing Program. “There is an expectation in the professional world that students need to be able to write in many rhetorical situations.”

Suzanne Westfall, professor and head of English, adds that while teaching students to read and write about 17th century authors has great value, colleges need to shape their writing programs to meet the needs of students who aren’t going to become college professors.

“In the late 20th century, people started understanding that reading, writing, and language in general at the collegiate level are much more far reaching that just reading Shakespeare,” she says. “People wanted to start talking about how language and culture and communities connect, so our department started accepting this mission as its charge. The temperature was up and in response to the growing student interest — which is one of the things we try to listen to — we started offering the writing program.”

The diversity of writing program offerings will help students understand that writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, Falbo says.

“Nearly all of these classes will help students in the type of coursework they’re studying because it’s a reflection of that work,” she explains. “They will get the writing experience through both practical and theoretical training. This raises awareness that whatever the job is, they will be writing in a certain context to a certain audience that has certain expectations.”

That approach bolsters Lafayette’s identity as broad-based, liberal arts institution.

“We are trying very hard to put liberal arts on the front burner and I think this fits with the College’s main interest in foregrounding the liberal arts,” Westfall says. “This new program and other multidisciplinary things we’re developing on campus are further putting together the sciences and liberal arts.”

Categorized in: Academic News, Creative Writing, The Arts