The University Record, April 8, 1997

U receives nearly $5 million
to launch new Writing Center

By Deborah Gilbert
News and Information Services

The ability to write clearly and effectively is an important skill that employers often say is missing in college graduates. A pledge of nearly $5 million from University of Michigan alumnus John W. Sweetland to launch an innovative new writing center in College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LS&A) will help to change that. The Center will be named in honor of Sweetland's late wife, Gayle, who was an award-winning writer and the editor and publisher of U. Magazine.

The Gayle Morris Sweetland Writing Center is a critical component of the U-M's ongoing Undergraduate Initiative to enhance the undergraduate learning experience, according to LS&A Dean Edie N. Goldenberg. "Just as LS&A's new introductory chemistry and calculus courses have become models for other colleges and universities, we expect that, through the Writing Center, we will develop a writing program that will become a national model. On behalf of the many students and faculty who will benefit from the Center, I would like to express my deep appreciation for John Sweetland's generous gift," she added.

"The Writing Center is a most fitting tribute to my wife, Gayle. She was the best business writer I ever met. And, as publisher and editor of U. Magazine, she featured the work of hundreds of student journalists, photographers and artists," Sweetland said.

Sweetland and his wife have been longtime supporters of the University, having pledged more than $8.5 million to the Department of Economics in support of three endowed chairs and a number of fellowships for graduate and undergraduate students.

The Writing Center will operate at several levels. Competitively selected faculty and graduate students from every LS&A division, chosen for their commitment to undergraduate teaching and writing, will participate in the Center's writing seminar. In the seminar, they will critique current approaches to teaching writing, explore the most advanced pedagogical research and technology on teaching writing, and then develop new, writing-intensive courses that will work in their particular disciplines, whether it is biology, physics, psychology, history or literature.

"The students will then be able to take a composition course within their areas of concentration. We know that students learn to write most effectively when they are heavily invested in the topic," Goldenberg explained.

The Center also will incorporate the ongoing activities of the English Composition Board and the Introductory Composition Board, and the Writing Workshop, which provides immediate guidance to students who are writing papers. It also will award faculty for excellence in teaching and students for excellence in writing at the introductory and upper-class composition levels.

In support of the Center's mission, the College also has approved a reduction in the size of composition classes in order to enhance and individualize instruction for undergraduates.

Michigan's longstanding leadership in the field of instructional technology will be an asset to the development of the Writing Center. "We expect to capitalize on U-M's existing knowledge and expertise in this field," Goldenberg said. "New instructional software provides models that can be adapted to various disciplines, but faculty need help in learning to use them effectively. The Writing Center will provide this important support."

The Center also will participate in the University's current high school outreach programs, she said. "Through a combination of campus conferences, computer networking and outreach programs in the Detroit schools, we can share our expertise and our expectations with high schools whose students eventually become LS&A students."