Skip navigation
University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

English Department

English Specializations:

American Studies

Creative Writing

Professional & Technical Writing

Study and Practice of Writing

How To Declare

American Studies Specialization

The letter of Specialization in American Studies offers a concentration that enables students to shape an interdisciplinary course of study around unresolved social and intellectual issues in American Culture -- e.g., questions of race, class, gender, and ethnicity.


A Letter of Specialization is conferred on students who successfully complete the following program of courses:

Students must complete a minimum of six courses with a minimum grade of 'C', of which one must be a thesis, senior seminar, or internship. Student may take only two courses at the 200-level (not including English 279); all others must be at the 300-level or above.

1) English 279, Introduction to American Studies

2) One or two courses in American literature within the English Department.

3) Two or three additional courses in American culture from at least two other departments

4) One of the following: a thesis; a senior seminar in American Studies; an internship.

To view a list of pre-approved courses or for more information, contact Professor Ronald Welburn, 479 Bartlett,

Creative Writing Specialization

The Department's Creative Writing Specialization aims to provide inspiration and support for committed writers and to offer serious instruction in craft. Classes usually include readings in one or more literary genres and workshop review of students' writing.

A Letter of Specialization is conferred on students who successfully complete the following program of courses.

Students must complete a minimum of five courses with a minimum grade of a "B" in English 354 and a minimum grade of a "C" in all others.

If approved, studnets may substitute appropriate courses at UMass and the other four colleges (Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst and Hampshire) for the optional courses listed below. Pre-approval msut be given by our faculty advisors, Randall Knoper, or Janis Greve,, 252 Bartlett Hall. We recommend that you make an appointment with one of them by calling (413) 545-0388.

Required Courses:

1) English 354: Creative Writing: Introduction

2) English 355: Creative Writing Fiction or English 356: Creative Writing Poetry.

3) Three writing electives: English 355* or 356*, 254, 297, 350, 352, 391J, 450 or by invitation: two semester Thesis Project (ENGL 496 Ind Study or ENGL 499Y-499P Honors Project): ________
*Student may repeat this courses once with a new professor as a way of fulfilling their five courses.

Please note that to add English 355 or English 356, students must have completed English 354 or 354H with a grade of a "B" or better and receive consent fro instructors by submitting a portfolio of work. Please contact the English Department for more information.

Optional Courses: one English 297: Experimental Writing Workshop (offered each spring semester through the Writing Program), one Nonfiction writing course such as English 350 Expository Writing, English 352 Article Writing, English 291J Creative Nonfiction, or English 450 Advanced Expository Writing.

NOTE: Selected students of high promise will be asked to complete their Specialization through a two semester Thesis Project (English 496 Independent Study or English 499Y-499P Honors Project). These students will work individually with one or two faculty members over the course of a year, intensifying their writing practice and producing substantial senior thesis.

Professional Writing and Technical Communication (PWTC) Specialization

The letter of specialization in professional writing and technical communication provides practice in professional research and editing, grant writing, software and hardware documentation, report writing and business communications; it supplies hands-on training in a range of industry-standard software.


A Letter of Specialization is conferred on students who successfully complete the following program of courses:

Students in the program take five courses: ENGL 379: Technical Writing, ENGL 380: Intermediate Professional Writing, ENGL 381 Advanced Technical Writing I, ENGL 382: Advanced Technical Writing II, and ENGL 391C: Advanced Software.

Although the entire program may be completed during a single academic year, students are encouraged to spread the work over their junior and senior years. Students intending to complete the program should note that 379 and 380 (offered only in fall semester) are prerequisites for 381, 382 and 391C (offered only in spring semester), and plan accordingly.

Successful completion of English 382, one of the required courses for this specialization path, satisfies the Integrative Experience General Education requirement for English majors. Three of these courses count as upper-level elective for the English major; two count as general education credit. The program places a number of its students in "junior-level" writing and editing positions, through internships and co-ops. Since 1990, program graduates have enjoyed nearly 100 percent employment in writing and editing.

For further information, contact Professor David Toomey, 481 Bartlett Hall, (413) 545-5519, See also the program website at

Study and Practice of Writing (SPOW)

The letter of specialization in the Study and Practice of Writing (SPOW) prepares students to rhetorically analyze, effectively participate in, and critically reflect on writing experiences across disciplines, professional workplaces, and community and civic environments.
Students in this specialization can expect to -

  • develop rhetorical and writing-related skills and habits of mind that support effective and ethical communication in the twenty-first century; and
  • gain and apply historical knowledge about writing and rhetoric.

Students in the program must complete a minimum of five (5) courses, as outlined below, with a minimum grade of a C.


At least one (1) Public/Civic writing course.


Required: English 379: Introduction to Professional Writing


At least one (1) Theories of writing


At least two (2) Writing electives from the A,B, or C categories. An internship in writing or publishing may count toward one of these electives.


Technology: At least one of the courses must have a writing technologies designation.

Contact information

For more information or for approval of other courses that may be accepted for the requirements, contact one of the specialization advisors:

David Toomey, 481 Bartlett Hall, (413) 545-5519,

Donna LeCourt, 257 Bartlett Hall, (413) 545-6597,

Janine Solberg, 210A Bartlett Hall,

For more information on this letter of specialization, please visit our website.

How To Declare A


When a student has completed the coursework required for their specialization or are in the process of completing it in their spring semester, they complete a "Declaration of Specialization" form, which can be obtained at the English Undergraduate office located at 252 Bartlett. Once the form is completed, their requirements confirmed and fulfilled, they will be awarded and mailed a Letter of Specialization in the summer.