By: Avigail Greenberg  | 

Sy Syms School of Business to Replace First-Year Writing Requirement

Sy Syms School of Business (SSSB) will be replacing the standard first-year writing requirement — First Year Writing (FYWR) for Wilf Campus and English Composition for Beren Campus — with two of its own sequential courses, which will take effect in the fall. 

In the past, SSSB students have taken both the standard writing requirement and SSSB’s Business Communications. Now, the system has been redesigned so that SSSB students will focus on strengthening skills in business writing, presentations and professionalism, according to SSSB Dean Noam Wasserman. 

Wasserman said that the adjustment was made due to student requests over the last few years and in an effort to strengthen business communication skills. It has been spearheaded by Head of Business Communications Prof. Marc Spear and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Selma Botman, with input from SSSB faculty and alumni, he added.  

“We are replacing FYWR (and English Composition) with the new Sy Syms course in order to improve the students’ business-writing skills, incorporate the lessons we’ve learned from the existing BCOM course, and add the professionalism and life skills prioritized for us by alumni and students,” Wasserman told The Commentator. 

Once this is implemented, the current FYWR course will still be offered for another semester for current students who already took FYWR or English Composition. 

Professors in the Yeshiva College (YC) English Department have voiced disappointment regarding this change, saying that the first-year writing requirements provided all students in YC, Stern College for Women (SCW) and SSSB with a shared experience in which they can learn from their peers and meet other students in their greater YU class, building a community. 

“We feel that having YC and Syms students together in FYWR is beneficial to both groups of students, and that the more the undergraduate students from different academic programs can interact and learn from each other, the better,” Prof. Rachel Mesch and Director of Writing at YC Professor Liesl Schwabe, who oversees FYWR, wrote in an email to The Commentator. The two noted that they were “disappointed” to learn about the course’s replacement.

They shared that YU’s FYWR program was crafted “in accordance with national standards” to serve all students with a broad area of focus. “Our course seeks to help students understand that writing is always contextual: how we write, the kinds of language & evidence we use, are dependent on context,” they wrote. “The more students understand this, the more equipped they become to ask necessary questions of themselves and their writing.” 

Mesch and Schwabe also explained that the FYWR classes give students the ability to take skills from one discipline and apply them to another and an understanding of how writing impacts thinking. They believe it crafts students into critical thinkers and sharpens analytical skills. “We believe these skills are important for all students, regardless of major or area of expertise,” they said. 

English professors from SCW were contacted by The Commentator, but they declined to comment, citing their lack of involvement in this change. 

Some SSSB students are unsure what this change will look and feel differently about how it will play out. “Personally, Business Communications was a very important class for me because it helped me face the fears of public speaking, especially because I am an international student,” shared Reouven Elharar (SSSB ‘23), who is from Morocco. He added that “it would be a bad idea to change or cancel it at all.”

Isaac Shapiro (SSSB ‘24) shared that FYWR and Business Communications were classes he really enjoyed. “I’m hopeful for [the change],” he said, noting that he is unsure what this new change will look like. “The way it was before, I really enjoyed it. First Year Writing taught me a lot of writing techniques and Business Communications taught me a lot of speaking techniques.”

Abigail Lerman (SSSB ‘22), SSSB’s Beren student council president, hopes that the change will work in students’ favor. “I hope that the new requirements ensure that all Syms students have the ability to effectively articulate and communicate their thoughts and ideas in writing,” she said, “as future employers will expect this skill set of all new hires, regardless of their major or position.”

Photo Caption: Sy Syms School of Business, Beren Campus

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University