You might be an absolute genius, but if you don't know how to communicate effectively, being smart won't do you much good. That's where the Writing and Rhetoric Program at Hobart and William Smith can help. Available as an individual major, the program offers small, workshop-style classes and emphasizes the development and integration of thinking, reading, and writing skills.
In every course, no matter what the topic, writing is approached as both art and craft. Students refine their talent for analysis and argument, learn to express their own ideas in highly creative ways, sharpen their sense of audience, and pay close attention to the details of grammar and style. Whether you plan to attend law school or become a computer scientist, a biochemist or a social worker, strong writing ability is important to your success. The Writing and Rhetoric Program offers careful, individual attention to your growth as a writer.
Students in the program may take their experience one step further by qualifying for the Writing Colleagues Program. This program prepares student mentors to help with the teaching of writing and reading. Writing colleagues act as conduits between professors and fellow students; they help professors brainstorm ideas for classroom activities and meet with students to discuss their writing and critical reading abilities.
Students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges can choose from a variety of Writing and Rhetoric courses in order to strengthen their writing skills. Whether the course is an introductory section of WRRH 100, an intermediate course at the 200-level, or more advanced study at the 300- or 400-level, two primary curricular guidelines are shared by all Writing and Rhetoric faculty as they prepare their courses: 1) writing can be used as a way of learning as well as a means of communication, and 2) learning to write quality, formal texts happens through a process rather than through the one-time production of a single draft.
Though specific reading and writing assignments vary in every writing course and become more complex as the course level changes, a common emphasis across course levels is the principle that writing can be used as a way of learning as well as a means of communication. When writing is presented as a way of learning, students use writing in order to discover, examine, and test their ideas about reading assignments, class discussions, lectures, and essay topics. Such writing is usually informal, can take a variety of forms (invention techniques, reading logs, response papers, class journals, and so on), and represents the kind of active thinking and critical engagement with course material that helps students prepare for more formal writing tasks. Writing to learn becomes a vehicle for figuring out and refining what we think before we communicate publicly to others. When writing is practiced as a means of communication, students are required to consider the more demanding constraints of public discourse.
All Writing and Rhetoric courses, then, share in common the idea that there is a relationship between writing to learn and writing to communicate. Our second common curricular guideline is that learning to write quality, formal texts happens through a process rather than through the one-time production of a single draft. Invention activities help generate ideas, multiple drafts stress revision and structure as well as editing and polishing of texts, and techniques to understand the demands of audience and purpose connect to form and content: all are important elements to the curricular guideline that values writing as process.
When students enroll in a WRRH 100 section, therefore, they are expected to develop an understanding of and ability to use this dynamic relationship between writing as a means to learn and a mode of communication and to do so through the practical application of writing as process. WRRH 100 introduces academic literacy practices in terms of these two curricular guidelines. These practices are then extended in more sophisticated and complex ways within upper-level writing courses. Courses from the 200-level upwards, in other words, build on and apply the curricular guidelines introduced in WRRH 100.
With these two primary curricular guidelines at their core, then, all writing courses at Hobart and William Smith share these common practices:
Some students may have the ability to begin writing practice in a 200-level WRRH course or higher. Others may be better served by starting with the WRRH 100 course. Considering a student’s application materials or successful completion of the First Year Seminar will help determine the appropriate choice of course level. After observing a student’s performance and level of ability, the academic adviser is in the best position to help the student decide upon a starting point.