New writing certificate open to all majors


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The University of Iowa has a reputation as a prestigious writing school.

But now students in such disciplines as engineering and biology will be able to reap the benefits.

This year, the UI created a new writing center and a certificate in writing, which any undergraduate student — regardless of major — can pursue.

"Iowa is the only university that can offer what we offer," said Daniel Khalastchi, assistant director of the undergraduate writing certificate program.

UI alumna Marilyn Y. Magid made a $1 million donation in honor of her late husband, Frank N. Magid, to help begin the new Magid Undergraduate Writing Center.

The Iowa Writers' Workshop is largely responsible for giving the UI a reputation as a writing school. Famous writers such as Flannery O'Connor, Raymond Carver, T.C. Boyle, and Jane Smiley all attended the UI's graduate writing program.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences leaders say they've been planning the new center — an idea of Associate Dean Helena Dettmer — for about a year, and the project was given a boost by Magid's donation.

"We developed the idea with the Magid family," Liberal Arts Dean Linda Maxson said. "[They] always felt that writing was the most critical part of one's education."

Students pursuing the certificate take 20 semester hours of coursework, including a capstone course to develop an online portfolio of work.

"If we create this center and create an umbrella, we can give students that are already interested in something, you can still leave with a writing certificate," Khalastchi said.

There is no major requirement for the program; all majors are able to obtain the certificate.

"We want people across majors to realize how important writing is," Khalastchi said. "We think if we can get a bunch of people from different academic backgrounds in the same room, we can learn more about ourselves. The goal is that we don't want to scare anybody away."

Khalastchi said the administrators of the center want all students to recognize how useful a certificate in writing can be and how it can help them in finding a job.

Students are already participating in the program.

"I was either going to be a literature major or business major," said UI sophomore Benjamin Lederer, who decided on business and will now try to get the new certificate. "It's a good way to go to make your application [for a job] different, and it sounds simple enough that you ought to [get the certificate]."

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