By: Judah Stiefel  | 

Writing-Intensive Courses Made Mandatory for New Students

A new writing-intensive course requirement will be added for students who have joined the school in the past year, including those who attended the post-Pesach program. The writing-intensive initiative will not add a class to the YU core requirement but rather will require students to take one core course which will be taught with a writing-focused orientation. These classes will be available within many of the core disciplines.

The courses will be designed to improve students’ critical reading and writing skills. “How writing works within each discipline will be specifically framed,” said Dean Jacobson, who is heading this writing-intensive initiative along with Professor Leisl Schwabe, Lecturer in English. The classes will also aim to further students’ writing skills beyond what they gained from First Year Writing. Professor Schwabe said, “Writing needed to be foundational. It allows students to learn, re-learn, and evaluate. A student equipped with the ability to read and write has the power to grow on his or her own.”

This writing-intensive course initiative is actually not new. When the current core structure was formulated there was a dual writing requirement of First Year Writing and an intensive seminar on writing within distinct disciplines. However, with YU’s financial troubles came troubles for the writing department as the department lost funding for writing lecturers. The administration decided against the importing of part-time professors, and the writing seminar was scrapped.

Upgrading the core is a big deal. Despite questions aimed towards the structure of the core, the Yeshiva College core curriculum is in line with national standards for liberal arts colleges. “The current core was built by years of dialogue,” says Professor Schwabe. Now that the school is finally able to re-implement writing-focused courses, the core is providing students with a wholesome basis in liberal arts education. The writing-intensive course is intended to enhance students’ abilities to harness the knowledge they’ve attained from various courses and subjects and apply it.

The instructors for these writing-intensive courses were chosen on a volunteer basis. Examples of just a few of the available classes are Professor Aaron Koller’s History of the Alphabet, Professor Lauren Fitzgerald’s class titled Global, the class Jews in Medieval Spain, and Professor Paul Glassman’s class titled Modernist Impulse.

The classes will not only focus on the subject matter involved but also the nuances and styles of the writing of that discipline. They will answer questions such as, how does writing affect the evolution of this field? How has each discipline affected the writing that accompanies it? What can students learn about this writing style that they can use to improve their own writing both stylistically and qualitatively? The assignments in these courses will mainly take the form of papers, essays, and participation in online forums.

Professor Schwabe said that not all Yeshiva College classes were designed to be writing-intensive because that there is a balance to be maintained between the information of the subject matter and the writing focus. Nonetheless, it’s beneficial for students approach teachers and engage them in writing nuances related to their material.

Dean Jacobson wants students to understand that, “anyone who can write well always has an advantage.” This applies to the professional, cultural, and academic fields and to our own daily lives. Reading can be a key that opens up a world of knowledge, and it is important for students to be able to access this. Likewise, writing is a medium through which students can share their own thoughts and ideas.