What is a SWW? The SWWs are faculty-led workshops for first-year students. They enhance and supplement the writing instruction students receive from other classes during their transition to college. They also help students reflect on their writing practices, connect them with other resources on campus such as the MAX Center and the Library, and thus boost students’ overall ability to study effectively in college. Faculty members teaching the SWW come from a variety of departments and disciplines on campus.

SWWs meet for one hour once a week throughout the semester. The course carries one credit and is offered on a pass/fail basis. Macalester offers 10 sections of the course in the fall term and, when necessary, one or two sections in the spring term. Each section is typically limited to 10 students.

What are class periods like? All the sections of the SWW follow a common curriculum. Each session is designed as a hands-on, active learning experience. Typically, a SWW class period gives students an opportunity to work on writing assignments from their regular courses. At the same time, each session provides students with practical strategies for generating ideas, developing arguments, organizing paragraphs, revising, editing, and other aspects of the writing process. The students are also introduced to the campus Write Well video collection as a way to both enhance their understanding of writing-related concepts and to give them a sense of why faculty from all corners of the campus care about writing.

Students who participated in the last three years found it easy to include a section of the SWW in their schedules. Those students who did not participate due to concerns about time later reported that they did have extra time and wished they had taken the course. Sections are offered at various times throughout the week to accommodate most student and faculty schedules.

How are students selected? Academic Programs invites students to participate based on several pieces of information: a student writing sample; data from admissions; recommendations from First-Year Course instructors, and students’ own assessment of their writing skills.

How are students registered for the workshop? First-year students sign up for the SWW during their regular enrollment process over the summer. Based on the information that Academic Programs receives regarding students’ writing preparation, some individuals receive additional invitations to consider joining the course. Finally, students’ academic advisors recommend students for the class. Participation is voluntary but, once registered, a student cannot drop or withdraw without the approval of Academic Programs.

Who designed the SWW curriculum? The curriculum of the SWW has been a collaborative work in progress. In 2011 Professors Erik Larson (Sociology) and Serie Center Director Adrienne Christiansen designed the original curriculum with input from Professors Karl Wirth (Geology) and Chris Wells (Environmental Studies). Since then, the syllabus has undergone changes based on feedback from the students and the instructors of the course. The most recent, Fall 2015, iteration of the course plan was designed by Professor Bridgetta Abel in coordination with the Writing Director, Zornitsa Keremidchieva.

For more information: Contact, Director of Writing, via email or phone: 651-696-6637.