Writing at NIU - NIU - Writing Across the Curriculum

Writing at NIU

Writing at NIU

How do universities develop WAC programs? The process takes years and is subject to starts and stops.

This webpage provides an abbreviated history of Writing Across the Curriculum at NIU. Several key documents detail that history (see links in right column). The history and attached documents may be especially useful to other programs seeking a consultant-evaluator visit from the Council of Writing Program Administrators.

A Brief Historical Summary

Prior to 1989: A course, ENGL 250: Practical Writing, draws students from many programs & departments, indicating interest in cross-disciplinary writing instruction beyond First-Year Composition. 

1989: English department submits Program Improvement & Expansion Grant to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) to establish writing center (WC) & WAC program at NIU

1990: First WAC coordinator hired. Proposal for writing center goes to NIU's Vice President & Provost; proposal accepted. Staff for WC trained. WC opens in Reavis Hall 316, English department.

1991: Tutor-training course established. Peer tutors added to WC staff. WAC lectures funded. WC serves 300+ students.

1992: English department proposes establishing writing-intensive courses in General Education to Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) Curriculum Committee. 25% departments approve, 50% don't respond.

1993: First WAC coordinator resigns following unfavorable tenure review. WC continues to operate with staff of two writing instructors & a small group of peer tutors.

1994English department establishes computer classrooms for First-Year Composition students. WC funds reduced.

1995: Second WAC coordinator hired, 50% appointment English, 50% CLAS. Faculty workshops resume. WC funds increased to hire instructors, English graduate instructors, & peer tutors.

1996: GAs from English & other departments (e.g., Psychology, History) train as writing consultants. WAC grants for faculty established. Website developed. WAC joins "Strategic Alliance," a $5 million National Science Foundation project to introduce Rockford Public School District #205 to new teaching methods in technology, science, math, and cross-curricular writing.

1997: NIU's General Education Committee endorses proposal for writing-intensive courses, stops short of setting upper-level baccalaureate writing requirement. Second WAC coordinator resigns.

1998: English instructor supervises WC & GA writing consultants.  Memo from English department to Associate Dean of CLAS summarizes problems & successes of WAC to date. WC continues to conduct ± 1,200 sessions for 300+ students.

1999Third WAC coordinator hired, 50/50% appointment. Workshops resume. WAC Advisory Committee assembled. Work begins on a university writing center (UWC) to serve all of NIU. Graduate course in WAC taught. Self-study for CWPA consultant-evaluator visit initiated. WC conducts 1,244 sessions for 382 students.

2000: CWPA consultant-evaluators visit in November. Academic Planning Committee approves request for new service unit. UWC space identified in basement of Stevenson Towers South. Blueprint for Project Order #1000 drawn up. Provost submits request to IBHE. WC conducts 1,353 sessions for 479 students.

2001: IBHE approves $195,000 for UWC, added to P.I.E. funds of $99,000. Stevenson Towers South remodeled. Associate UWC director hired. WAC Advisory awards School of Nursing $3000 grant to redesign portfolio assessment. Involvement in NSF project at RSD #205 resumes. Course to train peer tutors begins. WAC/UWC website redesigned. WC conducts 3,800 sessions for 1,401 students. Annual faculty workshop, "Design a Writing-Enhanced Course," begins.

2002: National job search for full-time UWC director. State recisions abort search. WAC coordinator appointed as UWC director. CLAS allocates $125,000, one-time expense for UWC technology. Vice Provost of Academic Planning & Development allocates $20,000 for UWC furniture. Nursing awarded second $3,000 grant for portfolio development. Full-time Supportive Professional Staff position & secretary added to UWC staff. UWC opens & conducts 5,602 sessions for 1,948 students.

2003: 10 First-Year Composition classes scheduled per semester in UWC classroom, serving 460 freshmen yearly. Second SPS position added to UWC staff. 30 peer tutors on staff. NSF project concludes. WAC grants discontinued. Faculty stipends begin for participants in annual workshop. UWC conducts 6,354 sessions for 2,235 students.

2004Dean of CLAS assigns WAC coordinator to $5 million Project REAL in RSD #205, sponsored by Teacher Quality Enhancement grant from U.S. Dept. of Ed. Coordinator resigns directorship of UWC. Associate director becomes director. UWC conducts 7,714 sessions for 2,995 students.

2005: WAC coordinator begins to teach per semester onsite course, ILAS 480: Teaching Writing in Your Subject Area at Jefferson High School, RSD #205. Independent studies begin for graduate students interested in writing center theory & practice. CLAS provides UWC with partial replacement of technology. UWC conducts 7,052 sessions for 2,434 students.

2006: Onsite WAC at RSD #205 continues. CLAS establishes computer classroom in Jefferson HS library. WAC coordinator & Director of First-Year Composition begin 3-year participation in National Coalition on Electronic Portfolio Research (NCEPR). UWC loses hiring line for one SPS position. UWC limits sessions to 30 minutes & conducts 11,547 sessions for 2,891 students.

2007Onsite WAC at RSD #205 continues. Participation in NCEPR continues. WAC coordinator granted fall-semester sabbatical. 2-year portfolio research project begins with Jefferson HS faculty. Coordinator consults with Rock Valley College faculty & Humanities Dean on how to establish a writing center. New annual workshop begins for NIU faculty--"Write Well, Publish More." UWC conducts 10,467 sessions for 2,553 students.

2008: Portfolio research at Jefferson HS. "Concept paper" drafted to support development of upper-level writing program in response to NIU call for strategic initiatives. UWC conducts 9,390 sessions for 2,065 students.

2009: WAC coordinator appointed as temporary director of First-Year Composition (FYC). Program-wide portfolio assessment implemented in FYC. Portfolio research project with cross-curricular faculty concludes at Jefferson HS. Concept paper for upper-level writing program accepted as part of NIU Vision 20/20 Project. UWC conducts 9,787 sessions for 2,140 students. 

2010: Implementation of Vision 20/20 Project delayed. Summer workshops held for RSD #205, sponsored by IBHE grant in Promoting Achievement through Literacy Skills (PALS). FYC publication Y-1 Writes begins. Onsite WAC course resumes at RSD #205. UWC conducts 10,666 sessions for 2.522 students, including students writing in Spanish.

2011: Vision 20/20 Project implemented. Faculty participants in "Writing-Enhanced" workshop to earn additional stipend to submit set of student papers to University Writing Project for assessment. Summer workshops & WAC courses continue at RSD #205. Year-long research study with Jefferson HS science teachers begins. ENGL 629: WAC Theory and Practice offered to train GAs to teach revised ENGL 250 syllabus. Adapted VALUES rubric applied to initial assessment of ENGL 250 portfolios. UWC conducts 10,716 sessions for 2,570 students. 

2012: Vision 20/20 Project continues. Portfolio research study with Jefferson HS science teachers concludes. WAC coordinator appointed as Undergraduate Studies director in English. Assessment of ENGL 250 portfolios continues. UWC loses second SPS position. UWC conducts 11,802 sessions for 2,442 students, including students writing in Economics.

2013: Vision 20/20 funding ends. UWC funds for staff reduced. Pilot study begins, with NIU faculty applying adapted VALUES rubric to class sets of student papers. ENGL 250 revised as ENGL 350: Writing Across the Curriculum; submitted to General Education Committee as proposed gen ed course. Task Force on Progressive Learning in Undergraduate Studies (PLUS) examines role that WAC/UWC can play. Badly degraded technology in UWC replaced after 8-year wait. UWC conducts 11,144 sessions for 2,260 students.

2014: PLUS Task Force invites WAC and UWC to submit proposal to establish writing-infused course for each year of NIU Baccalaureate experience. ENGL 629 offered a second time to prepare more GAs to teach ENGL 350. UWC conducts 10,135 sessions for 2,014 students.