In the early 1990s, ECU began the process of creating a Writing Across the Curriculum program in order to support student writers beyond their shared experience in first-year writing/composition courses. While students would typically take two writing-focused courses in the English department during their first year, there was often a paucity of writing instruction happening in students’ major courses. For nearly 50 years, research on writing had shown us that writers improve through consistent practice and regular feedback. In order to provide students with the writing instruction and support they needed to be success with written communication, ECU established a requirement for 12-credit hours of Writing Intensive course, at least 6 of which should be part of students’ upper-division course work in their junior and senior years as undergraduates.
Because of that requirement, ECU also created the University Writing Program to oversee and support the program. For nearly 25 years, the UWP has provided regular professional development for faculty teaching writing across the curriculum. Additionally, through the creation and development of the University Writing Center, we have worked to ensure that students (and faculty) also have one-on-one support with their writing. In 2013, as part of ECU’s first Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), an essential part of re-accreditation for the university, we were able to build the current University Writing Center, taking student support from barely 2,000 individual consulting sessions each academic year to nearly 10,000 such sessions, on average. Through ongoing, strategic professional development for faculty, staff, and students, the UWP’s Writing Across the Curriculum program and the University Writing Center continue to engage the ECU community in exciting and high-quality discussions about effective writing. We’re excited for our next 25 years to be as impressive as our first!
What is a “QEP”?
As early as 2010, ECU administration began talking to faculty and staff around campus about the need to plan and implement a QEP as part of our then-pending re-accreditation project. QEP stands for “Quality Enhancement Plan.” In short, a QEP is a plan to implement and assess a focused set of initiatives designed to improve student learning across the university. While a QEP is a required element of university accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), it is more than a hoop to jump through or a way for an outside agency to check up on the university: it is an opportunity to strengthen the educational experiences of ECU students because it focuses on improving the future. For more information about what a QEP is, visit the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges website at http://sacscoc.org.
When a call went out across campus in 2011 for possible QEP projects, Wendy Sharer, Will Banks, and Michelle Eble saw an obvious need at ECU to provide better structural and ongoing support for student writing and for faculty as discipline-based writing instructors. After multiple drafts and revisions, and after presenting their plan alongside three others at an open campus forum, ECU faculty, staff, and students voted overwhelmingly to support a writing-focused QEP. In 2013, ECU began its Quality Enhancement Plan, “Write Where You Belong,” a multi-faceted, multi-year project to integrate, align, and reinforce writing instruction for students from the day that they begin their first classes at ECU to the day that they complete their degrees and transition into the workplace or advanced study.
When they realized that for nearly 20 years the “writing center” had actually been only a small table that moved every few years — from a classroom, to a small office in a little-used campus building, to the lobby of Joyner Library — ECU leadership cobbled together funds to build a real writing center, a space were more than one or two students per hour could come to talk about their writing and get quality feedback and support. By the time the ECU’s QEP “Write Where You Belong” began in earnest, we were also opening the current University Writing Center, a central hub on campus for writing and writing instruction.
In addition to the UWC, ECU also made several big changes to help our students become stronger writers. These changes have included
- A revised Writing Foundations curriculum that established a new, sophomore-level composition course to support students’ transition into writing in their chosen majors.
- A Writing Mentors program that has embedded high-quality student writing consultants in writing-intensive (WI) courses across the curriculum.
- A faculty Writing Liaisons program continues to enrich communication about writing expectations and the needs of student writers across campus.
- Additional professional development opportunities for faculty to explore writing in their disciplines and expand their strategies for helping student writers.
- A University Writing Portfolio, linked to WI courses, that has encouraged students to develop an awareness of how their writing changes and evolves during their time at ECU.
- A new website that continues to provide writing-related resources for students, faculty, advisors, and community members.