Excellence in Upper-Level Writing 2016/2017
Ask any professional, business person, or employer about one of the most important qualifications for college-educated workers, and the answer will be nearly universal: the ability to write well. The Upper-Level Writing Requirement (ULWR) was established to enable undergraduates in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts to develop their capacities as writers. Originally designed in 1978 to help students “understand and communicate effectively the central concepts, approaches, and materials of their discipline,” the ULWR supports a slightly different goal in today’s more interdisciplinary context. A significant percentage of students now have more than one major or fulfill the ULWR outside of their majors. Likewise, many faculty members are increasingly concerned with preparing students to write for various professional and public audiences as well as for discipline-based ones. However, whether students fulfill the ULWR within or outside of their majors or write for audiences within or outside of the academy, they are held to the same standards of effective writing.
This collection demonstrates the continuing value of the ULWR. Courses like the ones in which students produced these essays create contexts where students meet the expectations of the ULWR and can push beyond them to an even more impressive level of accomplishment. While the specifics of what counts as evidence and how one makes a convincing argument vary across the essays included here, each one embodies qualities that mark effective writing. The authors deal with a wide variety of topics, but in every case they combine deep understanding of a specific area with excellent prose. They take risks and adhere to conventions; they synthesize complex ideas and provide rich detail; they exert intellectual independence and respect disciplinary conventions, from creative nonfiction in the humanities to empirical research in the sciences.
We have been honoring students for outstanding writing in ULWR courses since 2010, but since 2014, thanks to a generous gift from the Granader Family, the prizes are more substantial. We are grateful to the Granaders for choosing to recognize student writing in this way. This collection is another form of recognition for the award-winning students. By publishing this student writing both online and in hard copy we make it available as a model and as a source of inspiration for others.
Talented and committed as they are, these students represented here did not become award-winners entirely on their own. Each of them benefited from well-designed assignments, careful reading, and suggestions for revision from the instructors who nominated them. The instructors’ introductions for each selection provide a window into student learning as well as into the specific dimensions of each student’s achievements.