The first-year curriculum consists of two courses, WR101 Introduction to College Writing and WR121 Research Writing, which are required for all Emerson undergraduates. These courses provide a year-long investigation of the production and circulation of writing, and the possibilities of rhetorical agency. As General Education requirements, these courses encourage students to develop a repertoire of rhetorical strategies with which to approach many genres of writing, from the academic to the public, to employ these strategies in whatever writing situations may arise in students’ time at Emerson and beyond, and to gain critical understanding of the uses and limits of writing in relation to other media of communication.

Our curriculum is dynamic and responsive, developed to reflect the particular majors, enthusiasms, and needs of Emerson students. Our faculty bring broad experience and expertise as writers, scholars, performers, and teachers who share the passions of our students, and the majority of the textbooks we assign have been written or edited by Writing Studies Program faculty based on what has been successful in the Emerson classroom. We are always working to refine what we do to keep students engaged, excited, and challenged in WR101 and WR121.

The two-semester sequence reflects these goals by moving from WR101, with an emphasis on working closely with texts, the nature of academic writing as a conversation to which students add their own voices, and the essay as a varied genre of intellectual inquiry, to WR121, with an emphasis on public writing, genre as a writer’s choice in response to specific rhetorical situations, and the multimodal possibilities of composition and research. Both courses emphasize intensive and constructive peer review and revision, meaningful collaboration, and audience awareness as it relates to any text’s particular goals.

We also offer some specialized sections of WR101/WR121 for eligible students. One is a translingual section in which students can write in multiple languages as they prefer. The other is an enhanced version of WR101/WR121 for students seeking a more rigorous academic challenge. Each of these sections is a full-year course, so students build a longer relationship with each other and their instructor, and each is offered by application only. Incoming students are invited to apply the summer before they arrive at Emerson. We also offer an opt-in section for International Students which includes partnership with consultants from the college Writing Center, for those seeking more direct, ongoing support.

Linking Classes to Community

Writing Studies Program faculty often work with the Elma Lewis Center to connect their classes to community organizations and projects on campus, in Boston, or beyond. This offers students opportunities to use the written and rhetorical skills honed in WR101 and WR121 to directly support the community and its members. These collaborations vary with the goals of each class and instructor, but include such projects as producing a book with a nonprofit arts organization, advocating for changes on campus, supporting the efforts of young artists in Colombia and creating opportunities for them to bring their work to the United States, producing texts and campaigns alongside Boston-based environmental organizations, and tutoring in Boston high schools.

Showcasing Student Work

The Writing Studies Program’s attention to how writing is produced, circulates, and takes on worldly consequence is evident in the publication of student writing in class magazines, online anthologies, and other forms. We also conclude each academic year with an annual showcase of student work, co-sponsored by Iwasaki Library at Emerson, which features projects and presentations prepared by students in WR121. This is an opportunity for Emerson first-year students to show their creativity, commitment, and scholarship to the community at large with collections of writing, class magazines, videos, websites, posters, comics, and more, and to collectively mark the end of their first year on campus.