Writing major offers versatility to students in all programs

Madeline Bruce, Features Editor

Last month, Gannon University’s Board of Trustees approved the English department’s proposal for a new writing major, set to be added to Gannon’s list of academic majors for the 2021-2022 school year.
The major will take the place of the current professional writing track in the English major and will benefit students better than the current track, Shreelina Ghosh, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the English department who spearheaded the proposal of the major, said.
“It will allow the students to explore writing beyond the idea of English and literature,” she said.
In a way, the major is an expansion of the current professional writing track under the English major. It creates the ability for students to tailor the major to the type of writing they’re interested in, and not just creative writing, either. Students who are interested in a number of fields, including those in STEM majors, can take on a writing major, as well.
“It allows students to tailor their electives to what kind of writing they’re interested in,” Lauren Garskie, Ph.D., one of the three professors in the English department who proposed the major, said. “They’re able to dual major and have an emphasis on writing, as well as the field they’re interested in when they graduate.”
The writing discipline is expected to be met with growth in the next 10 years, and a need is already being seen for job applicants who know how to write well, along with being knowledgeable in their chosen field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, jobs that are related to writing are expected to grow by 11% over the span of 10 years.
The major will create the opportunity for this exploration by lessening the number of literature-based courses that students are required to take as a part of their major courses. The writing major will focus on communication through the written word, both in text-based and non-text-based disciplines. The interdisciplinary nature of the major is emphasized by both Ghosh and Ann Bomberger, Ph.D., a third professor who proposed the major.
“We wanted to create a major that students could do as a double major if they were interested in it,” Bomberger said. “Some students might go in different directions with it.”
According to Garskie, there is a need for this major among students on campus. Writing is becoming a more in-demand skill for employers, and no matter what industry students go into, having a degree in writing, as well as their specific industry, will open more doors.
“I think there really is an interest among students about writing and the value of writing here,” Garskie said. “I think it will really meet a need at Gannon and a need that we see overall to be strong writers in whatever kind of writing you want to do.”
This increase in demand for good writers in a variety of industries has caused a need for people to be able to communicate effectively through writing and other facets. Writing and communication can be found in all industries, from the health sciences, to engineering, to business. It’s not just limited to professions that are commonly associated with writing, like copy writing, academia and journalism.
“We write now more than ever,” Garskie said. “We’re constantly communicating through writing. You have to be able to graduate and have that strong communication skill, essentially.
“I don’t care what major you are, you’re writing and you’re probably writing a lot. It might not be in the form of a paper, but you’re writing a lot of things, and writing comes in a lot of forms.”
Still, despite this clear need for good writing skills in every career field, a question was posed at the beginning of the proposal process, Ghosh said.
“I think the first kind of bump in the road for us was the question, ‘Is writing a real discipline?’,” she said. “We had to convince people outside of the discipline that writing studies is a major discipline with huge professional potential, and that someone who is an undergrad in writing can do wonderful things. They can become professional writers in many different fields.”
According to Bomberger, the writing major will allow students to grow in their communication skills, which are important at any job a student might acquire in the future.
“Having the tools to write clearly and quickly is important in almost any profession,” she said.
Ghosh also emphasized the versatility of a major focused solely on writing, as opposed to journalism, English or communications.
“Even when you say writing, it doesn’t always have to mean the written text,” she said. “It is performance and writing. If someone is into filmmaking, then the visuals are the writing.
“By calling it a writing major, we are opening it up to the information-based writing approach in journalism, the literary-based writing in English, and all of these exciting venues like performative writing or writing through material cultures. We are opening it up to so many other possibilities other than the written word or text-based word.”
Ghosh said she sees people learning about the importance and versatility of writing as the new major is implemented.
“I see people who are interested in teaching in a school, pursuing graduate studies or entering professional fields seeing the worth in writing as either a text or non-text-based mediator of information or communication strategy,” she said.
Overall, the implementation of the writing major will create an opportunity for students to develop their writing skills in a variety of ways, increase their marketability when it comes to the job market and become better writers.
“I want students to leave Gannon being strong writers and for professionals to look to Gannon to produce great writers,” Garskie said. “And I think the writing major can do that.”


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