A university-wide Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Initiative was launched this year at OCAD U following a year-long needs assessment and consultation process aimed at developing a comprehensive strategy to improve student writing outcomes. The initiative, which was approved by Senate in May 2013, facilitates the integration of writing throughout all undergraduate programs at OCAD U to support student academic success and foster a writing culture at the university that values and enriches the studio and professional practice of both students and faculty.
As part of the initiative, three faculty members have been appointed as Writing in the Disciplines Fellows. They are Assistant Professor Catherine Black in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Assistant Professor Nicole Collins in the Faculty of Art, and Assistant Professor Saskia van Kampen in the Faculty of Design. These roles, funded through the Vice-President, Academic office, are to be on-going and annual in nature.
The role of the Fellows is to guide WAC implementation, inform resource and curriculum development to integrate writing into disciplinary contexts and build support for the WAC initiative within their Faculties. In addition to doing Faculty-specific work, they are excited about the cross-Faculty engagement that the initiative is fostering.
“Teaching critical and creative writing in this academic context, I constantly see the natural connections between writing practice and the work students do in studio,” said Black. “I’m very enthusiastic about nurturing the development of a writing culture at OCAD U, and I feel this is an opportunity to reinforce for our students the value of writing in an art and design education.”
“Writing, which is an integral part of a professional studio practice, can be intimidating for visual thinkers and makers,” said Collins. “Journaling, note-taking, reading responses, titles, statements, proposals, CV and website maintenance, press releases, curatorial essays, reviews of other artists work: ALL of these contribute to the development and dissemination of my visual art practice. I want my students to have the same fluency and ability to communicate in as many ways as possible.”
“I am excited to represent the Design faculty in this initiative,” said van Kampen. “For me writing is a way to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Writing becomes a means for research that informs what I make. I hope to instill this practice in my students in order to help them articulate their intent and give words to their practice.”
In a recent message sent to their respective Faculties, the Fellows noted the Writing & Learning Centre’s work in preparing an instructors’ toolkit to share writing ideas and experiences, and asked their colleagues to consider the many ways of incorporating low- and no-stakes writing activities into courses. Some examples include freewriting, creative responses, reflection exercises, descriptive writing, research, brainstorming, lists, and generative wordplay.