New department prepares students for changing nature of writing

Members of the Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies Department
Friday, February 14, 2020

UNC Charlotte has launched the Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies Department, the first academic department of its kind in the Carolinas. The new department brings together curriculum and resources that prepare students to be analytical readers of digital and print texts, critical thinkers about information sources and engaged citizens capable of communicating effectively to diverse audiences in a variety of contexts.

The department will offer interactive courses from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and seek partnerships with the College of Computing and Informatics to widen students’ understanding of human computing, communication, and analytics. Students will develop advanced writing, information literacy and problem-solving skills as they develop and interact with emerging digital media. A proposed bachelor of arts degree in writing, rhetoric and digital studies, is expected to be approved.

“The proposed new degree and undergraduate program were developed in response to student and faculty feedback as well as workforce data that shows the growing need across disciplines for advanced critical thinking and writing skills,” said Joan Lorden, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at UNC Charlotte. “Through its emphasis on global contexts, culture and accessibility as well as its foundational writing and digital media focus, students will enter the workforce prepared to help solve real communication problems in communities.”

The Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Media Department also houses the Writing Resources Center and the First-Year Writing Program and the currently available minor in Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies.

According to Joan Mullin, the department’s chair, faculty members fully committed to one academic unit and who possess a singular focus on the research and teaching of writing studies are among the department’s strengths.  

“Through diverse courses, students will learn to navigate known, new and emerging writing situations and media,” Mullin said. They will study online writing, universal design and digital composing, contemporary rhetorical theory, multimodal design, human and computer interaction, information security and privacy, and other related topics.

“Writing is difficult,” she continued. “Despite what some people may think, you don't learn writing in elementary, middle or high school, and then stop learning. Audiences, contexts, purposes and tools continually shift, and we all have to learn to shift with them. Writing is more than a matter of learning grammar only, or learning a template, such as the five-paragraph theme, or just following directions. In reality, the field of writing utilizes research in cognition, gender, space, design or mobility, for example, to investigate how these might help us understand the barriers to writing and reading effectively.”

 The UNC Board of Governors has approved the new Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies, and the degree proposal is under review by the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools for accreditation.