Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
First-Year Writing
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Welcome to First-Year Writing at MSU   

The First-Year Writing Program at MSU (FYW) puts learners at the center of learning. Our mission is to help learners acquire the moves, strategies, and dispositions that will allow them to continue to develop as writers and producers of knowledge beyond first-year writing. This goal is realized through a shared curriculum of writing experiences that ask students to set their own learning goals by way of a variety of informed reflective writing activities.

The FYW curriculum is driven by three acts critical to learning by way of academic writing: inquiry, discovery, and communication.

  • inquiry: a recursive process of posing, following, and addressing questions.
  • discovery: learning--that is, making new knowledge through processes of inquiry.
  • communication: purposeful engagement of the self and others through the products of inquiry and discovery.

The first-year writing curriculum invites students to put their prior knowledge in relation to new understandings of rhetoric, literacy, and culture. Inquiry is central to the curriculum, which moves students from reflection on experience to analysis of cultural and institutional values and discourses, to inquiry into rhetorical production. Whether or not it is named as an explicit topic in writing classes, culture is an idea that is surfaced, named, and referenced through writing and learning to write. A primary aim of the course is for students to develop productive understandings of their own goals as learners. FYW classes prepare students to reflect on their learning as they move through course projects in order to set informed goals for their continued development as writers, students, and professionals.

The following principles are foundational to our learning goals for FYW:

  1. For writers, inquiry, discovery, and communication are related and recursive acts. These acts help writers track how they create and convey knowledge both to others and to themselves.
  2. Learners of writing have useful prior knowledge and capacities. In fact, experience is central in learning to write: it is both a source of knowledge and a subject for inquiry.
  3. Writers benefit from working with others.
  4. The practices, values, and effects of writing are variously situated in individuals and in communities and cultures.
  5. Culture is important both in learning to write, and in assessing how writing works in the world.
  6. Because writers develop over a lifetime, informed self-reflection on both the processes and products of writing experiences is critical for assessing strengths and setting goals for continuing development.

Our goal is to help each student develop transferable knowledge of rhetoric and writing practices. Consequently, our courses shift their emphasis from evaluating students’ mastery of producing genre-based writing (e.g, “the research paper”) or specific content knowledge, to building and assessing capacities for continued growth and production.

We believe that the work of learning about writing is necessarily unfinished when FYW is completed, and that students will leave with transferable knowledge that will deliver continued learning throughout their college careers and beyond. The first-year writing experience at MSU does not strive to predict or replicate every possible writing task or genre that students may encounter in their educational or professional lives. Instead, it aims to develop each student’s capacity to understand and adapt to new writing situations.

We're glad you're here. Welcome to First-Year Writing at MSU!
Bump Halbritter, Director of First-Year Writing
Joyce Meier, Assistant Director of FYW
Bree Gannon, FYW Research Assistant