Scripps Debuts First Writing And Rhetoric Major At 5Cs

Graphic by Elodie Arbogast

5C students can now major or minor in writing and rhetoric, thanks to a new Scripps College program that “focuses on persuasion in nonfiction prose genres, the study of which is crucial to communication across national, cultural, and ideological borders,” according to Scripps’ website.

While English departments at Scripps, Pomona College, and Pitzer College already have creative writing concentrations, they do not extend to nonfiction writing and rhetoric.

Courses that count for the new writing and rhetoric major come from four of the 5Cs, and include “Writing about Justice in Politics” at Pomona, “Writing Center Theory & Praxis” at Pitzer, and “Creative Nonfiction” and “Writing for Non-Profit Institutions” at Scripps.

The writing and rhetoric major, with eight required courses and a thesis, is designed to work either as a standalone major or as a dual major and to complement other fields of study, according to Kimberly Drake, an associate professor of writing and chair of the writing program.

“Someone could do an academic thesis [in a discipline other than writing and rhetoric] and then use that same subject and write a popular article or subset of articles on it and just really reframe it and rethink it,” Drake said.

Drake, who arrived at Scripps in 2005, developed the idea for writing and rhetoric over her years of working as a professor and talking to faculty and students about their interests.

Drake has been actively designing the writing and rhetoric major the past two years. She collaborated with writing center staff from across the 5Cs and with Glenn Simshaw, an assistant professor of writing and director of the Scripps Writing Center.

Manya Singh SC ’19 wrote in an email to TSL that she assisted Drake in researching writing programs at other colleges and universities.

There was “a long process of discussion and thinking about courses that would make a particular kind of major” and then getting permission to use those courses, Drake said.

Meanwhile, Scripps students were already majoring in writing through the self-designed major option, which allowed them to individually petition for a writing major.

Drake worked with many of those students, whose experiences demonstrated that Scripps students could major in writing and “graduate and get jobs,” Drake said.

Bridgette Ramirez SC ’17 was one such student. She self-designed a major in creative writing with a nonfiction emphasis at Scripps and now works full-time as a marketing and editorial assistant for a nonprofit theatre and part-time as a grant writer for an education nonprofit.

To complete her writing major, Ramirez needed the signature of every professor whose course would be counted toward her major.

“I didn’t get all my materials and signatures sorted out for my self-designed major petition until fall semester senior year,” Ramirez wrote in an email to TSL. “Thankfully, once professors gave permission to count their classes for a writing major, no one had to get their permission again.  So I laid the groundwork for which classes other students could take for a writing major without worrying about permission slips.”

Ramirez wrote that her self-designed major, a predecessor of the writing and rhetoric program, was designed to “give practice in other forms of writing, help students to develop their artistry, and teach them how to give and receive writing critiques through consistent peer editing.”

Drake described the writing and rhetoric major as an interdisciplinary program with aspects of fine arts and aspects of humanities majors.

She said the idea for the major encountered resistance from faculty who considered writing to be outside the realm of the liberal arts. But Drake considers writing and rhetoric to be a good addition to a liberal arts curriculum.

“Getting back to the idea of discourse, persuasion, the art of writing, those things seem to me to be liberal arts,” Drake said.

The program was created “to satisfy the student demand that routinely happened, that I actually think seems really important in this day and age especially, to think about nonfiction writing and the work it does and the art of it,” Drake said.

Currently, three Scripps students have declared majors in writing and rhetoric, according to Drake.

Talia Bromberg SC ’20 plans to join their ranks.

“[Writing and rhetoric] allows me to explore political writing, fiction writing, grant writing, and so on,” Bromberg wrote. “Ultimately, I just want to be able to have a keen understanding of effective forms of expression so that I can best communicate and persuade regardless of what field I end up in.”