The program prompts students to become creative, imaginative, and expressive writers and designers who are able to work with a wide range of documents and in a variety of workplaces. The curriculum is designed so that students can creatively combine required and elective courses in order to tailor the major to their interests or prepare them for particular careers.
To complete a BA in PW, students complete University general education requirements, College of Arts and Letters requirements, and the PW major requirements: 4 core courses, 3 track courses, 3 elective PW courses, and the senior capstone course.
Four Core Courses
WRA 202 Introduction to Professional Writing
As a prerequisite for all other PW courses, this class is designed to introduce students to writing for the workplace. It familiarizes them with documents common in the field of professional writing, and with a range of rhetorical strategies.
WRA 210 Introduction to Web Authoring
In a world in which writing is delivered through a variety of electronic devices, writers must understand the fundamentals of web development for various audiences and situations. in this course, students learn the basics of writing for the web, including how to build and maintain websites and write HTML and CSS. Students also gain practical experience in information architecture and usability testing.
WRA 260 Rhetoric, Persuasion, and Culture
In this course, students become culturally and rhetorically sensitive to how communications practices differ across groups, organizations, people, and locations. Students learn that their audience informs their purpose, and their purpose informs the goals and decisions they make as writers.
WRA 360 Visual Rhetoric/Document Design
The goal of this document design course is to teach students how to analyze considering audience, purpose, and context, and to create rhetorically sound documents—including flyers, brochures, posters, reports, and much more.
Three Courses in One of Three Tracks
Track 1: Digital and Technical Writing
WRA 320 Technical Writing
Technology is everywhere. (Think of smart phones, ATMs , fitness trackers, bomb-disposal robots, even Keurig coffee makers.) The purpose of technical communication is to help people do things with technology. Good technical communicators help people to work with sophisticated tools, and to understand and make decisions about technological issues. In WRA 320, students learn to create artifacts that help people do things with technology–artifacts such as feasibility reports, technical proposals, and tutorials.
WRA 415 Digital Rhetoric
Digital rhetoricians are always in conversation with new technologies, techniques, policies, and experts. Your ability to learn, locate resources, evaluate tools, and share information online is a vital skill. This course focuses on the social, political, economic, and ethical dimensions in which people participate in digital spaces. We explore various genres, including social media tools, websites, mobile apps, and applications, and learn about participatory culture. Students will create professional identities, learn how to assess digital genres, and trace activity across the social web.
One of the following 2 courses:
410 Advanced Web Authoring
WRA 420 Content Strategy
Thinking strategically about digital content is a key skill for content writers. In this class students will learn how to manage content in across digital spaces. We will learn how to align content strategies to organization goals, assess the communication needs of an organization and their audiences, create style guides for digital content, and understand the theory and practices associated with creating flexible, dynamic information structures that deliver information to participants where and when they need it.
Track 2: Communities and Cultures (a.k.a. Writing for Nonprofits)
WRA 330 Writing and Research in Communities and Cultures
In WRA 330, students are situated as writers/communicators doing research in the field. Drawing on students’ past work in more traditional academic research, the class focuses on research methods and practices for engaging communities and crafting communication that draws on a rich range of data (from surveys, interviews, persona development, and more) attentive to the cultural dynamics of their audiences.
WRA 331 Writing in the Public Interest
This course engages students in analyzing, understanding, and building communication strategy in a nonprofit context. Students explore the rhetorical practices and moves made by different organizations across the different texts they produce (from position statements to PSAs hosted on social media sites), and hone their skills in shaping effective, persuasive communication written for, within, and on behalf of nonprofit organizations.
WRA 453 Grant and Proposal Writing
Proposing and grant seeking are important—often vital—activities in a variety of fields and work settings. Creating a winning proposal, however, involves much more than adhering to a simple format or even making a persuasive case in a proposal. It also involves coordinating oral genres like phone calls and meetings, informal and interpersonal written genres like memos and letters, and a flood of forms, supporting documentation, budget statements, and plans. Students learn the concepts and practice the skills associated with creating and coordinating all of these types of documents, gaining hands-on experience preparing proposals. They also learn how to identify and select funding sources, as well as how to evaluate an RFP to formulate a proposal strategy.
Track 3: Editing and Publishing
WRA 370 Introduction to Grammar and Style
This course introduces students to practices and theories of editing. We begin with an intensive study of grammar by focusing on ways to understand what’s happening in a sentence, on developing fluency in speaking to authors and to editors about syntax and grammar, and on developing a rich repertoire of tools to consult about language issues. We complete several small editing projects, in class, collaboratively, and individually.
WRA 480 and 481 Publication Management I and II
These two courses introduce the many and varied tasks necessary to produce a monthly publication: ing Magazine and The Offbeat. Throughout the semester, students work in teams to write, revise, copyedit, and design a full-length publication. These courses expose students to the trials and tribulations of working as a group to manage production processes and experience all the roles associated with editing and publishing. In addition to all the production tasks involved in producing each magazine, students will delve deeper into issues in publishing, with attention to developmental editing, theories and practices of editing in various contexts, marketing, the histories of publishing technologies, and current trends.
WRA 455 Portfolio Seminar
All seniors are expected to submit a digital portfolio for review prior to graduation. This course guides students in compiling a large publication—the portfolio and all accompanying documents—and revising them for a new audience in the professional worlds which they seek to enter.
Three Professional Writing Electives
Choose from any of the above track courses or from the following. Advisors may approve a writing or design course from ENG, GSAH, RCAH, ADV, STA, or JRN as a substitution for one of these 3 courses.
WRA 225 Introduction to Multimedia Writing
This course introduces students to video production. Students are asked to apply their rhetorical skills to developing various video projects, such as video resumes, promotional videos, and short documentaries. Through the projects, students learn the basics of cinematography, sound, lighting, interviewing, editing, and distribution.
WRA 308 Invention in Professional Writing
Invention is a rhetorical canon related to imagining, brainstorming, and creating—coming up with ideas. Invention happens across writing processes and projects, and happens in different ways (e.g., through research, through drafting, by seeking inspiration). This course engages students in exploring and experimenting with different invention strategies to deploy across a range of writing contexts.
WRA 341 Nature, Environmental, and Travel Writing
This is a writing- and reading-intensive course focused on nature writing, place-based writing, and travel writing. We read, discuss, and write pieces which engage the environmental imagination, shaped by the wide variety of human relationships with places.
WRA 395 Writing Center Theory and Practice
In this course, students examine the techniques of consulting writing, as well as the various theories that undergird consulting. This course prepares students to consult with writers in The Writing Center, as well as other tutoring spaces across campuses, age levels, and in the community. The course focuses on both the practical and theoretical components of writing center work and how these methods can be applied across settings. Specific topics include collaborative learning, approaches to consultations, consultant roles, the role of grammar instruction, consulting strategies for a variety of students, the use of computers in the writing center, composition and learning theories that influence writing center work, and resource development. We also hope you will leave this course feeling as though you can apply much (if not most or all) of what you learn to your future courses and plans in the professional or academic world.
WRA 425 Advance Multimedia Writing
Students propose, pursue, and produce one audio-visual project that they develop over the entire semester. The content of the course will be managing the ethical and material resources required of this work: for example, how to conduct and share interviews responsibly; how to balance concerns for sound and lighting with the need to capture footage on the fly; how to plan for and manage multi-camera shoots; and how to work with outside collaborators—such as composers—to create materials that contribute to the director’s intentions for the final product.
WRA 482 Information and Interaction Design
In Information & Interaction design, students work on collaborative projects to design effective, integrated, experiences for users. Our aim is to transform (for the better!) the way people do things in their everyday lives at work, in their homes, and in other social settings. Students conduct activity analysis to observe and analyze everyday practices, use object-oriented modeling techniques to represent and plan transformations to those practices, and do UI prototyping to specify implementation plans.
Completed concurrently with a professional writing internship, WRA 493 allows students simultaneously to develop new skills and awareness within a professional work place, and to step aside from those professional experiences to reflect on them from the context of theories and concepts learned in courses in the PW curriculum.