UAH newest degree program addresses growing demand for professional writers

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UAH’s new Bachelor of Arts in writing will launch this fall and will include five concentration areas for students interested in the major to choose from.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Last fall The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) introduced its brand-new theatre major. Now the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is pleased to announce the addition of another exciting degree program: the Bachelor of Arts in writing.

"This interdisciplinary program is a unique collaboration between the Department of Communication Arts and the Department of English," says Dr. Ryan Weber, assistant professor of English and the director of UAH's business and technical writing program. "By utilizing the strengths of these two departments in terms of both faculty members and course offerings, we're now able to serve students in a way we haven't been able to before."

After completing the core courses required, students within the major will have the option to focus on one of five concentration areas:

  • Technical & Professional Writing : Designed for students pursuing careers in technical writing, technical editing, and proposal writing, this concentration includes courses on technical writing and professional practices for technical writing careers. It also requires that the student complete an internship before graduation.
  • Creative Writing : Designed for students interested in pursuing writing and publishing careers and Master of Fine Arts programs, this concentration includes courses on literature, poetry, and fiction and creative nonfiction writing.
  • Media Writing : Designed for students interested in careers in print and web journalism, this concentration includes courses on advertising, new media writing, and rhetoric. It also requires that the student complete an internship before graduation.
  • Rhetoric & Composition : Designed for students who want a foundation in rhetorical theory and practice to apply toward graduate studies, writing careers, or education and legal professions, this concentration includes courses in rhetorical theory, literary criticism, and legal argument.
  • Public Relations : Designed for students pursuing careers in public relations and corporate communication, this concentration includes courses in journalism, public relations writing, and public relations campaigns. It also requires that the student complete an internship before graduation.

A customized concentration can also be created from available courses within the major should the existing concentrations fail to meet a student's specific career objectives. "Marketing writing would be an example of that," says Dr. Weber. "In consultation with their advisor, the student could take a combination of technical writing classes, creative nonfiction writing classes, rhetoric classes, and public relations classes to get the skills he or she needs for that profession."

By utilizing the strengths of these two departments in terms of both faculty members and course offerings, we’re now able to serve students in a way we haven’t been able to before.

Dr. Ryan Weber
Assistant professor of English

In addition to Dr. Weber, the following faculty members will teach courses in the program: Dr. Diana Bell, Dr. Susan Friedman, Dr. Alanna Frost, Dr. Clarke Rountree, Dr. Eletra Gilchrist-Petty, Dr. Pavica Sheldon, Ms. Sinceree Gunn, Dr. Joy Robinson, Ms. Diane Singer, and Ms. Anna Weber. All students in the program will also take electives, an introductory writing course, and a two-hour capstone course. The latter requires students to compile a professional portfolio with significant revisions of pieces written throughout his or her academic career that can be shared with prospective employers.

At present, UAH is one of only a handful of universities in the state to offer a writing major - and the only one to offer such a wide variety of concentrations. "We fill a unique niche," says Dr. Weber. Yet there's no doubt the demand is there. "We have a lot of current students who are interested in making a career out of writing, while the surveys we did of local high school students and teachers indicated that there is a great deal of enthusiasm for careers in creative writing, journalism, print and web writing, and social media consulting."

And that demand goes both ways, he adds. A 2014 U.S. Department of Labor survey shows that writing-related job openings in Huntsville - and beyond - are on the rise, with technical writers pulling in the highest median salaries locally. "It's a misunderstanding that we want to dispel, that being a writer means having little to no income," says Dr. Weber. "There are all kinds of opportunities, from being a professor or the director of a writing center to curating online communities or managing a corporation's social media campaigns."

The new major will make its debut this fall, with the projected number of graduates to rise to two dozen over the next five years. "The English and Communication Arts Departments are very proud to launch this new major," says Dr. Weber. "We can't wait to help students develop exciting careers in writing!"

 

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