Baylor’s Professional Writing major will undergo changes

Mothers talk about their favorite books at the Bravo Medical Magnet High School literature club on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Baylor’s professional writing program will get a facelift this fall, with changes to the program’s name and course requirements.

“There are a lot of strengths about the professional writing program,” said Dr. Lisa Shaver, associate professor of professional writing. “It’s a very versatile major. Students can use it in a lot of different ways, even if you don’t go into a field that’s primarily writing.”

The professional writing major is one of three majors within the English department. The other two majors are English language and literature, and linguistics. Shaver said the professional writing major was established in the mid-1980s and had not been significantly updated since then, even though courses were taught differently.

“The change was really to make it even more writing intensive ,and, also, to make it more explicit,” Shaver said. “We tried to make our course titles more explicit to show the type of writing and the skills that you would learn in those courses.”

In addition to more descriptive course names, several special topics classes will become regular courses. Additionally, the name of the major will change from “professional writing” to “professional writing and rhetoric.”

As suggested by the name, Shaver said the professional writing and rhetoric major will have a stronger theoretical basis in rhetorical concepts. The updated major will also place more emphasis on students’ writing and research skills.

“They’ll be more well-rounded,” Shaver said. “This will allow students who are interested either in going into careers in publishing, technical writing, healthcare writing — whatever field they’re interested in — to do that, as well as students who are interested in going to law school or graduate school.”

Shaver said professional writing majors experienced the transition will not be affected by these changes, but they may have the opportunity to take new courses if they would like.

“They’re adding new courses, which is going to add different styles of writing to the major,” said Dallas-Fort Worth senior Amanda Walker. “One of the courses is editing and publishing, and I know a lot of people who go into the professional writing major, that’s what they want to do. So they’re starting a class that will highlight that and give people the skills to do that so when they graduate they can go into the publishing industry.”

Current professional writing majors have also been brought into the transitional process. Students in Dr. Michael DePalma’s professional writing classes analyzed ways for the major to be more appealing to students.

“From the start of revising the major, we considered student perspectives because we wanted to understand what students are most interested in learning in relation to course materials,” DePalma said. “We’re also interested in thinking about how we can best prepare our majors for the job market.”

Shaver said that there are currently about 50 professional writing majors, which allows professors to know all the students in the major.

“Our classes are really small, so there’s a lot of individual attention and hands-on learning with faculty,” DePalma said. “We get to know our students really well and develop relationships with them.”

Shaver hopes that these upcoming changes will make the major more understandable to prospective students.

“We think there’s an opportunity that there would be more students interested in this major if they knew about it,” Shaver said. “I think this curriculum makes it more transparent what professional writing is, what we’re teaching in professional writing.”