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John Jay College’s First Year Composition Program Selected as National Model of Excellence

The John Jay College Writing Program has been awarded a certificate of excellence by the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), the most influential national organization in the field of composition and rhetoric. CCCC recognized the college’s first-year composition program for its consistent delivery of excellent, high quality education in writing, rhetoric and composition, particularly because it “models diversity and/or serves diverse communities” and because the program implements the theory driven literacy practices in the field.

With this award, the John Jay College Writing Program is now ranked among elite writing programs such as those at University of South Florida, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Tennessee, programs that have received the CCCC excellence award in previous years.

“This is spectacular news,” President Jeremy Travis said.  “We should all be proud to be associated with the faculty -- Mark McBeth and Tim McCormack -- who have created this exemplary program, the academic leaders -- Jane Bowers and Anne Lopes -- who have nurtured it and the faculty of the English Department, led by Allison Pease, who years ago envisioned the day when John Jay would be nationally recognized for its high quality composition programs.”

Seven years ago, Associate Professor Mark McBeth designed and implemented the now nationally touted, award-winning program for freshmen students that consists of the ENGW 100, ENG 101 and ENG 201 courses.  The current program director, Assistant Professor Tim McCormack has sustained the ongoing development as well as a full assessment of the program during the last three years.

“Mark McBeth’s curricular design is innovative and imaginative…and Tim McCormack has worked hard to mentor and train part-time and full-time faculty so that we provide a consistent learning experience,” said Professor Allison Pease, chair of the English Department.  The English department offers close to 200 sections of writing each academic year, serving close to 2,000 students per semester.

In the CCCC letter announcing the award, Malea Powell, the CCCC chair wrote, “The Officers and members of CCCC are delighted at the quality of programs that have earned the Excellence designation, and we are optimistic about the direction this program can provide to the field.” The committee cited the program for imaginatively addressing the needs and opportunities of its students, instructors, institution, and locale, and for its exemplary work with ongoing professional development for faculty of all ranks, including adjunct/contingent faculty.

According to McCormack, the Curriculum design works because of its overlapping structure that enables students to repeat processes and practices as they move up from one course to another.

“We won the award because of the heavy emphasis on rhetoric and writing across the curriculum which prepares students to move beyond standard essay writing,” he said. The writing program stresses a portfolio driven curriculum that has students develop drafts and final versions of their work, and teaches them to reflect on their writing processes and learning.

McBeth explains that this complex combination of skill sets requires a comprehensive pedagogical approach that is continually reassessed.

“In designing and constantly reviewing the types of writing curriculum we offer students in our program, we want to ensure that every student no matter in what section they enroll will receive a reasonably equitable college writing experience--thus, creating an equal opportunity writing program,” McBeth said.

“This is truly a College award and an English Department award,” McCormack said.  “Everyone contributed to this, especially the creative and innovative faculty in our writing classes, the Writing Center that offers curriculum and tutoring support, and the First-Year Experience office that has helped us with the Learning Communities and other literacy-based programs.

McCormack concluded, “John Jay is a great place to have good ideas because they are encouraged and enabled by the administration.”