WIC Program Beginnings

One of the oldest writing across the curriculum (WAC) programs in the U.S., the Writing Intensive Curriculum (WIC) program at OSU began with the 1987 revision of the OSU Baccalaureate Core. Then-Provost Graham Spanier wanted to support writing programs, and the writing faculty agreed that some version of WAC should be included in the new Bacc Core. The Faculty Senate voted to approve WIC in 1989.

As a result of their vote, the Faculty Senate adopted five criteria for WIC courses. These criteria state that writing intensive courses shall:

  • Use student writing as a significant approach to learning
  • Base a significant part of the grade on evaluation of writing
  • Focus on content related to the major discipline and be taught by faculty knowledgeable about that discipline
  • Discuss writing issues pertinent to that discipline, as such issues apply both academically and professionally
  • Be upper division

Funds for the WIC program were appropriated by the end of the 1988-1989 academic year. Lisa Ede served as acting Director from 1989 until 1990, while a national search took place. She secured an office space for the WIC program and brought renowned composition scholars to speak on campus, including Peter Elbow and Andrea Lunsford.

Lex Runciman was hired as the first WIC Director in 1990. As WIC was initiated in the 1990-1991 academic year, all students graduating during or after 1994 were required to take one upper-division writing course in their major. The WIC course approval process began in 1991-1992. In addition to working on course approvals, Runciman began offering workshops on teaching writing for faculty, administering WIC Department Development Grants to help departments improve their WIC courses, and publishing the quarterly WIC newsletter, Teaching with Writing

Together, Runciman and Jon Olson, acting WIC Director from 1992-1993, developed the Faculty Seminar, which prepares faculty to teach WIC courses. From the beginning, the seminar focused on promoting teaching with formative (informal), minimally graded writing, writing-to-learn, and process-based pedagogies that encourage revision.

Sustaining WIC

In 1993, Vicki Tolar Burton became the next WIC Director and was tasked with ensuring that each major had at least one WIC course by the spring of 1994. Every unit met that goal, contributing to a total of 117 WIC courses. This number increased to 125 by the tenth anniversary of the WIC program in 1999, after more than 240 faculty had completed the Faculty Seminar.

According to Burton, the WIC program’s initial and enduring strength emerges from its approval by the Faculty Senate as a requirement “of students in every major, to be taught by faculty in the major.” WIC has also been successful because it has dedicated financial support, collaborates with faculty, and is directed by someone with disciplinary expertise. These features have made WIC a model both for other programs at OSU and for WAC programs nationwide.

In addition to continuing Faculty Seminar, other events and workshops, couse proposal reviews, and the newsletter, Burton contributed to many new initiatives during her almost 30 years as WIC Director. In 2005, the WIC program collaborated with the Writing Center on the nationally recognized film Writing Across Borders. The film, which won an international documentary award, features international students talking about writing in their home countries and at OSU.

In 2006, WIC began offering the Culture of Writing Awards to recognize students for excellent writing in the disciplines. The Culture of Writing Awards embody what Burton refers to as the WIC program’s “grassroots” character: “The experts in the majors, the faculty in the majors, identify and recognize their top writers,” and “it is up to each unit how that happens.” The Culture of Writing Awards not only celebrate student writers, but they also encourage faculty to articulate what aspects of writing are valued in their fields. To date, 379 total students have received Culture of Writing Awards.

A revision of the Bacc Core in 2011 brought with it new learning outcomes for WIC courses, which are still in use today. These outcomes task WIC courses with helping students:

  • Develop and articulate content knowledge and critical thinking in the discipline through frequent practice of informal and formal writing
  • Demonstrate knowledge/understanding of audience expectations, genres, and conventions appropriate to communicating in the discipline
  • Demonstrate the ability to compose a document of at least 2000 words through multiple aspects of writing, including brainstorming, drafting, using sources appropriately, and revising comprehensively after receiving feedback on a draft

WIC Today

During Burton’s tenure, WIC continued to grow with the university. As enrollment more than doubled from 1993 to today, and as many new majors were added, WIC has helped departments develop new WIC courses and use writing to teach content in non-WIC courses.

The WIC team has expanded, too. After almost 10 years of sustaining WIC by herself on a half-time appointment, Burton secured funding for a graduate assistant to help with course reviews and the newsletter. The graduate assistant position is not only “a great experience for grad students,” Burton explains, but also “an opportunity to mentor folks in our field.” Now, in addition to the director and graduate assistant, WIC benefits from the work of an operations manager, multiple graduate interns, and an undergraduate assistant.

Shortly after she retired in 2019, Burton was named as a Distinguished Fellow of the Association for Writing Across the Curriculum.

Under the direction of Sarah Tinker Perrault, who became WIC Director in 2020, WIC continues to support faculty in developing WIC courses and in teaching writing in the disciplines. Today, there are more than 150 WIC courses offered at OSU.