About the Writing Program


Megan O'Neill, Director
Leigh Ann Dunning, Associate Director

Welcome to the Stetson University Writing Program, where the goal is to help students develop into the writers we want Stetson University's graduates to be: thoughtful in consideration of multiple viewpoints, aware of differences and similarities in outlook, grounded in solid research, and authentic in voice.

The Writing Program supports writing instruction and student learning across the University, primarily through the WE courses offered in the General Education writing-intensive First-Year Seminars and Junior Seminars. By encouraging a writing-rich academic environment throughout the core curriculum, the Writing Program fosters the development of essential writing and thinking skills, including purpose, clarity, focus, disciplinary awareness, and an individual and engaging voice.

To support students in their efforts, the Stetson University Writing Center offers hours every week during the academic semesters (fall, spring and summer). This tutoring lab is one of the most popular on campus: tutors offer assistance and guidance during all phases of a writing project. Work on your lab reports, your case studies and your literature analyses! Tutors are available for you; just visit the website to make an appointment.

Check out the 2020 edition of our newsletter!

We Belong: Celebrating the Diversity of our Languages


To our faculty colleagues and all members of our campus community at Stetson University,

The faculty of the Writing Program acknowledges that writing instruction in English is bound to formations of power, privilege, and identity. As writing instructors, scholars, and program administrators, we are often expected to teach and evaluate writing in ways that give prestige to dominant, “unraced” dialects of English – while limiting non-dominant, raced, cultural, and regional Englishes to home language status. We recognize that these expectations and practices are not compatible with a commitment to antiracist teaching practices in writing instruction.

Dominant dialects go by many names in the American academy, including Standard American English (SAE), Edited American English (EAE), or even English for Academic Purposes (EAP). And a pervasive, erroneous and harmful attitude across disciplines, fields, and the general public is that mastery of these dialects is a marker of intelligence, education level, richness of ideas, worth and even goodness. This attitude is often coupled with the misguided belief that wielding dominant dialects gives students greater access to discourses of power while shielding them from racial and linguistic discrimination. But deep-seated bias does not disappear when confronted with a privileged tongue, nor are metaphorical seats at a table guaranteed when systems are set in place to bar access to the front door. These barriers are set most sturdily against Black, Indigenous and bodies of color.

Writing that does not follow a dominant standard is no less rhetorically powerful, and good writing is not determined by grammatical soundness—as evidenced by our own language practices and the volumes of theory, empirical research, and creative genres that fill our lives. Good writing is based on good ideas; it is audience-driven and contextual. Conventions, much like audiences and contexts, are fluid and discipline-specific.

Scholars across writing studies have debunked the myth that a dominant dialect has more validity than the many dialects that students bring with them to the classroom. And yet, the colonial violence of educators demanding that students conform to a standard over the “dialects of their nurture, or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style” (SRTOL, 1974) persists. In a community of scholars, the appellation of “standard” to a particular dialect should provoke the questions of who has historically set this standard, by what mechanisms this standard has come to exist, who does this standard privilege, who has access, and who is left or kept out.

Therefore, the faculty of the Writing Program will make our commitments to antiracist teaching and assessment practices actionable by:

  • intervening in support of Black Lives and Black Language and against racism in the classroom, campus community, profession, and beyond
  • examining how our teaching practices enable or confront normalized whiteness
  • foregrounding praise over deficit and emphasizing labor, effort, investment, originality, and depth over superficial textual features
  • routinely revisiting these commitments, critically interrogating how well we have honored them, and ceaselessly working toward self-improvement, advocacy, and ally-ship with our most vulnerable students.

Finally, we affirm that Black Lives Matter, we demand Black Linguistic Justice, we affirm the Students’ Right to Their Own Language, and we urge our faculty colleagues to do the same.

We stand ready to assist. Check the resources available here. And reach out to us for more.

In solidarity,

Megan O'Neill, Writing Program Director

Leigh Ann Dunning, Writing Center Director

David Johnson, primary author of this statement and Assistant Director of the Writing Center

History of the Program

Stetson University's Writing Program has undergone significant changes in response to student needs, institutional development and national "best practice" standards and expectations. In 1999, the Writing requirement was a two-course sequence of "required English." Since 1999, the Writing Program has

  • expanded to support efforts at writing across the curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business Administration and the School of Music
  • instituted a wide-ranging and far-seeing assessment initiative with impressive early results
  • helped raise awareness within the campus community of the critical place of written communication in the teaching and learning process

As a result of innovative assessment methods and impressive, confirmed results in our writing-intensive courses, in Fall 2016 Stetson University will implement a new writing requirement: a combination of four writing-enhanced courses, taken across General Education and disciplinary or elective areas. Each of these courses incorporates a rich variety of writing and learning experiences to help students continually develop their skills at written communication. A full description of our innovative general education, writing enhanced curriculum is available on the general education requirements page.

The Writing Program also includes the Writing Center at Stetson, an influential, personalized space where students can seek guidance and assistance from trained peer tutors drawn from all of our disciplines. In one-on-one sessions, students and tutors work together to build stronger skills at interpreting an assignment, crafting and revising the work and responding to professor expectations while developing as independent, self-guided thinkers and writers.

Success of the Program

Each student, parent, and teacher wants to be sure our writing and writing-intensive courses benefit our community of learners. We know that the more mindful we are about incorporating writing experiences, the better our students learn their material and polish their critical thinking and writing abilities.

Measuring Success

To know whether or not the Writing Program is successful, we measure various elements of our curriculum to find out how well our students are learning. See what we learned from the Fall 2009 General Education Writing Assessment. Stetson University, through the work of the General Education Assessment Committee, won the 2011 Exemplary Program Award from the Association for General and Liberal Studies (A.G.L.S.). The award was given for the outstanding work of the General Education Assessment Committee on establishing outcomes and testing them in the first wide-scale writing assessment (fall 2009). The A.G.L.S. serves colleges and universities by fostering strong general education programs. The details of this award, including criteria and application rubric, are available online.

The results of the 2013-2014 General Education assessment confirmed the findings we saw in the 2009 assessment: 80% of the sampled students in our writing-intensive FSEM and JSEM courses met the outcome goals. We capitalized on this demonstrated, confirmed success by implementing a writing requirement that exposes all our students to four of the most writing-intensive, learning-rich courses on campus: the learning in FSEMs, JSEMs, and other WE courses.

Curriculum and Change

In December 2016, the DeLand campus voted (77-19 in favor!) to change the writing requirement to a sequenced, multilayered expectation that allows students to learn about writing in general education courses as well as in disciplinary and elective courses. Because we know from decades of research in the field that humans learn how to write incrementally, by exposure to new expectations and by coaching and feedback on how to meet new challenges, we have programmed a plan to provide students with a series of challenges and the tools to adapt their skills to each new experience. 

At the same time, the Writing Program is working with the Information Literacy library faculty to ensure that students taking writing-enhanced courses get plenty of opportunities to work with "information"--when it's needed, how to ensure it's accurate, how to incorporate it, when to ask for help, where to find it, and how to document it. We want each writing-enhanced course, including FSEM and JSEM, to help students to understand some element of information literacy. That's the way we graduate students who have excellent writing and critical thinking skills, and those skills are what employers need more than anything else.

Stetson's Writing Program: National Involvement

Stetson University as a small liberal arts college (SLAC) participates in a number of professional conferences, where we detail research done here, share projects with other SLACs, and work to advance and showcase our students and our university.

Along with frequent presentations at conferences like the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA), the National Conference on Peer Tutoring and Writing (NCPTW), and the International Writing Centers Association (IWAC), Stetson has also hosted a national conference. In January 2018, Stetson hosted the 11th Annual Meeting of the Small Liberal Arts College Writing Program Administrators Consortium (SLAC-WPA), a gathering of over 40 writing program professionals. SLAC 2018 was a great success!