Writing initiative prepares students for academic, career success

A newly created rigorous first-year writing program at UW-Eau Claire is receiving national recognition for its innovation and effectiveness in helping students develop the strong communication skills employers say they value in new college graduates.

UW-Eau Claire first-year writing class

Shevaun Watson teaches a course in the Blugold Seminar in Critical Reading and Writing program.

The Blugold Seminar in Critical Reading and Writing — designed to ensure that every student is prepared for the reading, writing and researching demands of college and beyond — has received the Writing Program Certificate of Excellence from the national Conference on College Composition and Communication organization. The UW-Eau Claire program will be honored by the CCCC during its March meeting.

“We have transformed an outdated English composition course into a modern and relevant first-year writing program,” Carmen Manning, chair of the English department, said of the Blugold Seminar initiative. “This was not a tinkering; we completely changed the way we support our students as they develop effective reading, writing and research skills that they will carry with them into classes in their major and eventually into the workplace.”

With 114 class sections serving more than 2,000 first-year students each year, the Blugold Seminar is a high-impact program that touches nearly every student who steps foot on campus, Manning said, noting that students must take a first-year writing class to meet revised university writing requirements.

Revamping the first-year writing program was possible because of the Blugold Commitment, a student-supported differential tuition that helps fund programs and experiences that preserve and enhance the distinctive UW-Eau Claire educational experience.

Through the Blugold Commitment, UW-Eau Claire students have invested more than $1.2 million — $308,000 a year for four years — into the writing initiative, making it one of the university’s largest Blugold Commitment projects.

These monies, coupled with ongoing university support provided through the English department, allowed the university to hire additional faculty and academic staff to teach first-year writing courses, provide incentives and professional development to faculty teaching the writing classes, establish a variety of writing support services for students to ensure their success in the classes, and work with faculty and departments across campus to better incorporate and assess student writing in their curriculum and classes.