U.S. News & World Report has nationally ranked George Mason University’s Writing Across the Curriculum Program for the 13th year in a row.
Mason is one of the 11 American colleges and universities listed in the ranking. Some notable schools listed along with Mason include Brown University, Harvard University and Princeton University.
Mason is also one of the four public universities in the list along with Clemson University, University of California and Washington State University
According to the Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program, Michele LaFrance, the criteria for this ranking is to see how much writing students are doing in the program and how much support faculty provides to the students.
LaFrance said that Mason has its undergraduate students of all majors take at least three writing intensive courses for their degree. This is compared to other universities that require one or two of these courses. Students are also required to take Communication 100 or 101 to practice public speaking.
According to LaFrance, there are a total of 78 writing intensive courses at Mason.
“We’re one part of what we would call a vertical curriculum. Students come in and take [English] 101, then they take [English] 302…and then their writing intensive course,” LaFrance said. “So then writing happens in multiple levels and multiple ways across the curriculum for the students.”
Mason Honors College students take Honors 110, which combines the requirements for English 101 and 302.
“Students are expected to essentially write extensively in all the different levels of their degree process, to write in many different context, and to be thinking what it means to write in these different contexts and to really write specifically for the profession they’re imagining they’re going to enter,” LaFrance said.
LaFrance said that these classes are important because employers want to hire students with strong writing skills. She used a quote popular from MIT to explain.
“The engineers who can’t write, work for the engineers who can,” LaFrance said.
Mason faculty members are also working on their own writing skills. According to LaFrance, starting this semester every Friday morning there is a faculty-writing group. Faculty from all colleges can attend and one-on-one help is also offered.
“We come together and write about, sometimes talk, about how hard writing is,” LaFrance said. “Talking to other writers when a piece is in progress is a really important piece for a lot of people.”
LaFrance said that the Mason faculty is never finished improving the program.
“Having a conversation with faculty on how to teach writing, how to work with student writers in really effective ways, that’s kind of a lifelong conversation,” LaFrance said. “We’re never done learning how to teach, just like we’re never done as writers.”
According to LaFrance, the recent university budget cuts will not affect the program.
“So far, no. That’s because Mason is continuing to recognize the importance, not just of this recognition, but it’s also important internally,” LaFrance said. “People really value the structure. This is a real campus-wide commitment to student writers.”
One goal for the program is to try to keep the culture of writing visible on campus, LaFrance said. This semester Mason started a blog called Thewritingcampus.com. There are currently around 20 followers.
“We’re always interested in having students blog for us about their experiences in classes or their experiences with writing assignments,” LaFrance said. “We are developing a national readership.”
Photo Credit: Claire Cecil