Where words speak volumes

College welcomes new department devoted to the study of writing
Writing Studies

The youngest department at the University of Miami, now in its inaugural semester, already knows hundreds of thousands of words—and some of the very best ways to use them. Upon approval by the University Senate last November and ratification by the Board of Trustees in February, the College of Arts & SciencesDepartment of Writing Studies officially replaced Classics as the College’s youngest department.

“Writing Studies is more than just writing,” says Joanna Johnson, associate professor of writing studies. “We think of it as more of a ‘metadiscipline,’ a place to think about the study of writing, writ large. It’s a process that is vital for students in all academic disciplines.”

The 2021-22 academic year proved to be the right time for Writing Studies, previously housed in the Department of English, to become its own department as well as holding the curricular staples known as freshman writing courses, the new department recognizes national trends in the field of rhetoric and composition, which distinguishes the study of writing from the study of literature.

“Our classrooms are deeply interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial,” says new faculty member Associate Professor Benjamin Lauren. “Students practice writing in multiple modalities and forms and are doing some really innovative work.”

Assisting the Entire UM Community
Writing Studies is the hub of the University’s three writing centers, located at the Richter Library Learning Commons in Coral Gables, an array of advanced writing studies designed to help the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science, and the Miller School of Medicine.

Department faculty work not only with students, but with colleagues in sister academic units seeking to improve their ability to meet exacting writing and editorial standards for research articles and grants.

“The writing projects I have completed thus far challenged me to think creatively when conceptualizing topic ideas,” says freshman Abigail Huie, who is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology. “They have strengthened my ability to express my experiences in the first person to make my writing more memorable.

“I believe that every student can benefit from this course, which fosters self-discovery through frequent reflection,” Huie adds. “Through these activities, combined with peer review sessions, we learn valuable communication skills that are essential beyond the classroom.”