BY DAVID NOSTRAND
SC STAFF WRITER
Starting in 2014, ESU will offer a new Master of Arts in Professional and New Media Writing program. Professor William Broun and the English department have worked on and off for over nine years to bring the program to realization.
Although ESU has offered master level courses for English before, this program is the first full master level option for students to earn an M.A. in English. When the English department set out to create a master’s program, the professors chose to develop one geared towards professional writing.
“We’re thinking about workforce development in Pennsylvania, and trying to develop our troubled economy in a way that is responsive to what, research shows, is a big area of job growth, especially technical writing,” Broun said.
Because the program took such a long time to develop, it will need to attract applicants to justify the costs of its long-gestating creation. Broun anticipates an initial demand from ESU graduates looking to jump right into graduate level classes, but the sustainability of the program will require a long term strategy. For this, the department built the program to attract workers and students looking to upgrade their careers by advancing their credentials.
As with most graduate level coursework, the classes offered in this program will be much more advanced than undergraduate classes. In developing advanced courses, Broun said one of the department’s goals was to create an “emphasis on research methods and scholarly research in professional writing.” He added, “For example, we don’t have a class that specifically deals with editing in the undergraduate track, but there will be an advanced editing and copyediting course in the master’s program.”
Broun estimates that completion of the program will take about two or three years, assuming a student takes on the standard course load. ESU’s program will require 30 credits to finish, which is a smaller number than comparable programs at nearby schools, like Temple and Drexel. Four courses are mandatory (Seminar in Professional Writing Styles and Approaches, Introduction to Professional Writing Research Methods, Advanced Grammar and Copyediting, and The Professional Document), while students can then choose from nine different electives to earn the necessary credits for graduation.
A common element of graduate school is the opportunity for paid positions as teaching assistants, but that won’t be an option for ESU’s program. “PASSHE [Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education] doesn’t have that. It’s not an ESU or a program thing,” Broun said.
To make up for this weakness, the program will employ graduate assistants, who will be assigned to different positions around the university. Although all the details aren’t worked out yet, Broun sees other financial opportunities for students in the future.
When selecting somebody to lead the new program, the department wanted an individual with both teaching and work experience. Broun knew that finding somebody who had interesting professional experience and academic credentialing wouldn’t be easy, especially since, “Finding staff members who are capable of teaching at the graduate level is extremely difficult because somebody who has advanced skills in teaching technical writing can get a really great corporate job that would pay more than they would get from teaching,” he said.
Since the program is brand new, the search committee was able to garner interest from experienced people who may not have been interested in coming into an established program. The chance to lead and shape the future of the program served as an attractant for potential candidates. Because of this, Broun believes that he and the rest of the English department selected a superb person to coordinate the program’s continued development. This person is Dr. Holly Wells, who will lead the MA program for the foreseeable future.
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