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About the Program

The Penn State Program in Writing and Rhetoric has a long history of high-quality writing instruction and teacher preparation. Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the program has demonstrated a commitment to understanding composition as a rhetorical art—one that can be taught and practiced in many ways, but always best with attention to foundational rhetorical concepts. A central part of Penn State education, the Program in Writing and Rhetoric reaches every student—without exception—through its two-part writing sequence. The first portion of the sequence focuses on Rhetoric and Composition and prepares students for college-level writing; the second portion of the sequence allows students to choose from one of five advanced Rhetoric and Writing electives, each with a unique disciplinary focus (Writing in the Social Sciences, Writing in the Humanities, Technical Writing, Business Writing, and Honors Writing in the Humanities). As a result, every Penn State student receives grounding in rhetorical principles that they can leverage as producers and consumers of writing in their personal, professional, and civic lives.

The program's rhetorically based approach has allowed it to respond creatively to changing rhetorical situations for learning and teaching. The program has, over the years, confirmed its commitment to process-oriented pedagogy by supporting the entire Penn State community with one-on-one undergraduate tutoring and by pioneering graduate writing consultation with the Penn State Graduate Writing Center. A more recent focus on digitally enhanced practices for teaching writing has resulted in instructors who teach in technology-enhanced classrooms and who meaningfully integrate digital composition and teaching strategies into their teaching portfolios. The program also supports a variety of interdisciplinary efforts, especially the cross-listed, sequenced Rhetoric and Civic Life course, which allows students in the College of Liberal Arts and in the Schreyer Honors College to cultivate an appreciation for communication as a written and spoken art that takes on special public significance in the digital age.

At the heart of the Penn State composition program is a dedicated, tenure-track faculty who represent some of the most prominent scholars and professional leaders in Rhetoric and Composition studies. The program in composition is organized to best tap the varied perspectives and experiences of this faculty, several of whom have authored respected textbooks and other professional pedagogical materials, while enabling vigorous and supportive teacher preparation for a large department of graduate students and lecturers. Careful and ongoing teacher support has long been the preferred method for ensuring programmatic success and, in turn, successful students. For these reasons, the Rhetoric and Writing Program plays an integral role for the Department of English, the College of Liberal Arts, and the entire Pennsylvania State University.

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