UW-Eau Claire's unique Blugold Seminar prepares students for success

| Samantha West

More than 73 percent of employers seek candidates with strong written communication skills, according to the Job Outlook 2015 survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, and UW-Eau Claire’s first-year writing program strives to meet those needs and more.

The Blugold Seminar in Critical Reading and Writing — designed to ensure that every student is prepared for the reading, writing and research demands of college and beyond — is an innovative, award-winning program that is producing positive results.

“We transformed an outdated English composition course into a modern and relevant first-year writing program, completely changing the way we support our students as they develop effective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,” said Dr. Carmen Manning, former chair of the English department and dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences.

In 2014, the Blugold Seminar received the Writing Program Certificate of Excellence from the national Conference on College Composition and Communication for its innovation and effectiveness in helping students develop the strong communication skills employers say they value in new college graduates.

Two years later the program is still a success.

“Our assessment data, feedback from students and input from our campus collaborators show that the curriculum is working and that the WRIT courses are meeting the needs of students,” said Dr. Erica Benson, chair of the English department.

As the program builds students’ critical reading, writing and research skills, Benson said this not only leads to further growth for students in all of their classes but also contributes to success in their high-impact educational experiences such as collaborative undergraduate research, global and domestic cultural immersion and internships.

“The Blugold Seminar in critical reading and writing further functions as a crucial form of foundational support for student success at UW-Eau Claire,” Benson said. “Both retention and four-year graduation are further supported by the inquiry-based seminar style that offers all new Blugolds close interaction with skilled faculty and by the fact that all students needing to meet the university writing requirement are enrolled in credit-bearing courses.”

In addition, Benson notes that the first-year writing program continues to innovate.

“Since the Blugold Seminar premiered, we have begun offering research-intensive sections, which more explicitly develop research and inquiry skills and more fully involve McIntyre Library faculty in teaching higher-level information literacy concepts and working one-on-one with students on their individual projects,” Benson said.

Although the Blugold Seminar is housed in the English department, it relies on strong collaborations with many units on campus, including: the Center for Writing Excellence, to support the writing process and the development of writing skills; McIntyre Library, to help with the development of information literary skills; Learning and Technology Services, to help with building digital literacy skills and with assessment of student portfolios; and the English as a Second Language Program, to better meet the needs of second-language learners.

Another recent development in the program is new collaborations with other departments, Benson said.

“We offer a WRIT 116 course for communication sciences and disorders majors; we collaborate with the College of Nursing bundling WRIT 116 with NRSG 105, and we are working with the Institute for Health Sciences offering both a bundle WRIT 116 and IDIS 187 and special WRIT 114, 116 and 118 sections for students interested in health professions.”

Photo caption: Student writing assistants David Kocik and Brenna Daley collaborate in the Center for Writing Excellence.