By Cassandra Sottile
Elm Staff Writer
Washington College English majors now have an opportunity to grow closer as a community due to the addition of a junior seminar.
Starting in the fall 2018 semester, the English department will offer the new course. It will be a four-credit class co-taught by Dr. Kim Andrews and Dr. Courtney Rydel, assistant professors of English.
“We conducted research and compared our department to other majors on campus that have a comparable seminar. We also formally surveyed graduating seniors and found there was a desire and need for common conversation to take place to help students put things together that was not done up to this point,” said Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Dr. Sean Meehan, who led the discussion group for the formation of the seminar.
There will be two sections of the course listed at the same times—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. It is scheduled at a time when no other English courses are being taught, which will allow other faculty in the English department to visit the class to speak about their research.
“We want to help the students engage with events going on in the semester and within the department. It provides a time for everyone to talk just as English majors on discipline-based methods for writing,” Dr. Meehan said.
The English major courses are dispersed throughout campus, and the closest thing an English major has to a central building is the Rose O’Neill Literary House, which sometimes holds classes in addition to other literary events. With this seminar, a “home” will be created for majors to get to know each other, new ideas, and other ways of thinking.
“The seminar will allow a conversation to happen in a productive and unique way to enrich students’ backgrounds and what they will continue to do in the major,” Dr. Rydel said.
The central motivation of the course is to bring the majors together. It is strongly recommended for rising juniors to take, but in the coming academic year it will be required. Rising seniors are also allowed to take it. According to Dr. Meehan, the junior seminar takes the place of an elective and is not an additional course to the major workload.
“We [the faculty] felt the time was ripe for majors to benefit from coming together in a course that all juniors will take to form a community to focus on why we love literary studies and how to engage in it at the moment to promote a love of literature,” Dr. Rydel said.
Junior year is the time to start taking more advanced classes and begin thinking about the Senior Capstone Experience, which is why the seminar is targeting junior year students. It will prepare students for other courses as well as guide them in the beginning stages of their research processes for the SCE.
“The course was conceived around the idea of cultivating community within the major and department. Faculty will be invited into the course to share their research and give advice on programs. We are striving for collaboration within our department but across others as well,” Dr. Meehan said.
There will be a common text for the course, but it will not be a writing intensive course, or focused on a single period, genre, or discipline. Students will learn to read and respond to texts and write critically about them at an advanced level. Students will also have access to information about internships and career readiness, and will have to attend Literary House events to engage in the opportunities for literature and writing on campus.
“We recognize that we have a strong community of writing on campus for a school our size, but it is dispersed and not just housed within our department. We hope to expose students to a variety of people and have conversations that will bring our community together a little more,” Dr. Meehan said.
According to Dr. Kate Moncrief, chair of the English department, the course will only be offered in the fall semesters, so that students who wish to study abroad can do so in the spring.
“I am so excited to have this opportunity to work with so many of our colleagues and bring them and their expertise into the classroom. It is a unique opportunity to know the majors better, and to get to know Professor Andrews better,” Dr. Rydel said.