In this first “Director’s Message” for the new website, I’d like to foreground the “s” in Writing Programs. The plural may seem misleading to those who don’t know us well. After all, we are a single unit and our faculty share a common mission. Yet, since 1982, we’ve been Programs. I’m accenting that now because the plural is perhaps more appropriate than ever. Writing Programs encompasses much. Our core responsibilities (the “program” part if you wish) are defined by system wide and campus requirements: we teach the courses that satisfy those requirements. That’s a big task by itself. UCLA welcomes roughly 5,900 new undergraduates each year—nearly all will enroll in at least one of our courses. Since it’s a linguistically diverse group, the needs we address are complex and layered. And there are also international graduate students who arrive needing help with oral or written work.
But we are a teaching and learning service that extends value beyond this core of essential courses. For example, by training and mentoring TAs from departments across campus we enrich the teaching of writing in courses that are not our own. We consult with faculty from departments across campus in the development of upper level discipline specific writing courses. We run a vibrant Undergraduate Writing Center (UWC) that partners with Powell Library and Residential Life to offer nearly 9,000 one hour appointments a year. In addition, in service to the larger UCLA community, we mount a summer workshop for high school students that enrolls students from throughout the Los Angeles area, some of whom enroll through a scholarship program we administer that widens our outreach. Through this workshop and the scholarship program we help public high schools build a college culture among students whose parents never had an opportunity to even consider a college education. We also offer special courses to international students who seek an orientation to American college life or who wish to build their English language skills. We administer an undergraduate essay prize for outstanding work in the humanities. We consult with the School of Engineering about the teaching of writing. Ultimately, the plural on “programs” speaks to the complexity and centrality of writing to the educational experience writ large. For that reason, future director’s messages will necessarily address the multiplicity of our role.
Director, Writing Programs