Fredonia launches new BA in Writing

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Assistant Professor Michael Sheehan explains how writers can develop complex and compelling characters with students in the Advanced Fiction Workshop.

SUNY Fredonia’s English Department is launching an innovative BA in Writing this fall that combines critical, professional, and creative writing in a single undergraduate program that provides strong career-readiness skills for students.

The new degree is rooted in the health and vibrancy of the department’s two minors, creative writing and professional writing, explained chair and associate professor KimMarie Cole, “and is also a long-term plan looking to the future, based on what we know employers want and what students want. It was the culmination of a lot of work with a lot of input from a lot of people.

“We designed the major to serve as a second major that would complement English majors, communication majors, and other on-campus programs.” – Assistant Professor Michael Sheehan

Academic credential information from SUNY campuses as well as other public and private universities has been integrated into a unique writing curriculum developed by a multi-year English Department working group. It combines elements of the BA in English and minors in Creative Writing and Professional Writing. Finding ways to expand writing offerings was also identified as an opportunity for the department in its latest external review, Dr. Cole noted.

The new degree is a special niche for more well-rounded writers, noted Associate Professor Bruce Simon, who was the department chair during the degree’s development.

“What makes our program distinctive is how we blend professional and creative writing; some programs (at other schools) are all in creative writing or have professional writing areas and a separate rhetoric and composition area,” Dr. Simon explained.

“We’ve seen steady growth and strong student interest in both writing minors, so that’s what really prompted the major,” added Assistant Professor Michael Sheehan, who chaired the task force. “We saw students come to us for (more) writing (options), and we felt we could expand what we offered to better serve what they were interested in,” Sheehan added.

The 39-credit degree requirements include five core courses covering the 200, 300, and 400 levels. A new course, Introduction to the Writing Professions, has been added and courses in Screenwriting, Technical Writing, sportswriting and slam poetry have been or will be piloted and considered permanent classes, Cole explained.

Students who pursued minors in creative writing or professional writing are likely well on their way to the new major, Sheehan said.

“We have a number of teachers in the English department with dual expertise, which means they are experts in literature and experts in writing, experts in teaching English and creative writing, c So it’s an opportunity to tap into the full range of expertise of our faculty,” said Cole.

The program may also be of interest to students wishing to pursue a second major.

“We designed the major to serve as a second major that would complement English majors, communications majors, and other on-campus programs,” Sheehan said. “We tried to keep it small so students could do both degrees.”

Cole is excited to see a few students already switching majors for the BA Writing program since it was officially approved by SUNY and the New York State Department of Education in April. With these approvals in hand, the department can work with admissions staff to promote BA writing to prospective students in the new admissions cycle.

According to the department’s website, the BA in Writing connects creative craft and career preparation, as students develop their storytelling skills as both fiction writers and professional communicators. Identified career opportunities include author, creative director, journalist, teacher, lawyer, and librarian, among others.

The new program also incorporates students’ existing experiences in programs affiliated with the Department of English, including [email protected], the Mary Louise White Visiting Writers Series established through the Fredonia College Foundation, Trident Undergraduate Literary Magazine, and Writers ‘Ring, to increase student engagement and opportunities for applied or active learning.

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