The UMass Amherst Writing Program empowers student writers to examine the intersections of writing, language, and power and learn the rhetorical flexibility needed for their academic, professional, public, and personal lives.
Since 1982, UMass Amherst’s award-winning writing program has been an independent academic unit serving the entire campus community. Through research-based curricular design, our courses empower student writers to examine the intersections of writing, language, and power; practice writing in a variety of media and contexts; learn the rhetorical flexibility needed for their academic, professional, public, and personal lives; and make connections between rhetorical choice and social consequence, raising their critical awareness of the power of writing to effect social change.
We carry out this mission in five ways:
- Teaching undergraduate writers in Englwrit 112: College Writing and Englwrit 111: Writing, Identity, and Power.
- Training and mentoring graduate student writing teachers.
- Supporting writers from across campus at the UMass Amherst Writing Center.
- Supporting instructors from across campus teaching in the Junior Year Writing Program.
- Acting as a central resource for writing education on campus.
To be a leader, on and off campus, in integrating the teaching, learning, and research of rhetorically-aware and socially-just writing.
Our values shape a writing program that is
1. Research informed
Actively using scholarly findings from decades of research in writing and rhetorical studies to inform curriculum, pedagogy, teacher education, and program assessment.
- Research-based and assessment-driven curricular design.
- Ongoing professional development in writing pedagogy, research, and theory that shapes instructor expertise.
- Programmatic change driven by student, teacher, and mentor reflection.
- Collaborative and contributive knowledge-making by students and instructors.
2. Socially just
Enacting an asset-based approach to writing education that honors, sustains, and grows student writers’ diverse language and literacy practices.
- Examination of the intersections of writing, language, and power.
- Writing projects relevant to students’ academic, professional, public, and personal lives.
- Inclusive pedagogies and curricula that support and sustain culturally and linguistically diverse writers.
- Curriculum that connects personal, creative, and critical composition practices.
- Arts-informed writing that is future-oriented, imagining writing’s range of social effects.
3. Rhetorically aware
Foregrounding connections between rhetorical choice and audience impact, raising critical awareness of the power of writing to effect social change.
- Ongoing student reflection on the process of making composing choices.
- Development of effective composing processes to use in future writing contexts.
- Writing projects in a variety of media and contexts.
- Writing projects in which students explore complicated ideas and discover new ones.
- Circulation of writing among a variety of audiences and contexts.
- Writing, teaching, and learning that foregrounds rhetorical flexibility by crossing conventional borders of argumentation, language use, and genre.
Our Commitment to Equity and Inclusion in Writing
The Writing Program upholds UMass Amherst’s commitment to “policies that promote inclusiveness, social justice, and respect” and supports UMass Amherst’s responsibility “to provide access and opportunities for all people, while demonstrating our commitment to inclusion of historically underrepresented groups.” Together with our wider campus community, we believe that diversity of all kinds “is integral to academic excellence and that our students, faculty, and staff should reflect the diverse world in which we live.” Our program thus commits to fostering classrooms where writers feel respected, challenged, and able to give voice to the ways that writing can matter in the world. The Writing Program upholds this responsibility by
- Valuing and intentionally sustaining the linguistically and culturally diverse writing of our students and colleagues;
- Teaching small classes that offer teacher and peer engagements that cultivate intellectual discovery through writing;
- Actively engaging the ways that language, identity, privilege, and power intersect in our curriculum, writing pedagogy, and teacher training;
- Enacting anti-racist approaches to assignment design, teacher feedback, and program placement; and
- Using equity and inclusivity to guide program hiring, teaching assignments, and service opportunities.
As a program, we believe that writing is a vital tool for examining, navigating, and challenging the power structures that shape our experiences, inside the classroom and beyond.