STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State students, faculty and administrators agree: Professionals should write well, no matter what their discipline.
The university community is embracing a new culture, "Maroon & Write," which emphasizes the importance of writing, whether as part of education or as part of career. The initiative incorporates writing-to-learn strategies in university coursework, especially in classes not characteristically focused on writing.
Based on feedback from a group of forestry majors participating in a pilot writing-to-learn course during the fall 2013 semester, Maroon & Write enhanced their learning.
Professor Stephen Grado's forest resources survey class included several writing-to-learn strategies. Short, ungraded "freewrites" allowed students to respond to prompts in class, and they also kept journals exploring topics in assigned reading. For the first time, writing a formal essay was required.
"At first, I looked at all the writing as being annoying, but as we got into it, I learned so much more about my field," said senior Kelsey L. Nicholas of Marion, Ill. "It was so much more than grammar and syntax; it's about being able to write and communicate effectively."
Freshman Davis C. Pigg of Starkville said his learning was enhanced by researching and writing about what he studied.
"Writing more does help you learn," he said. "I liked having to go out and search for answers on my own. To get and retain the information when you look it up, you have to write it down.
"It's a very different way of learning, but I think it's very effective."
Mccuitson E. Wilson of Mount Juliet, Tenn., also a freshman, said he learned more because, instead of listening to lectures, he had to research topics and write about them.
"Instead of listening to someone else talk, I had to do it myself," Wilson said. "When you listen, you don't always learn. Writing adds a different aspect to the course; it adds to the learning experience."
Grado has taught the forest resources class for many years, and he said he plans to continue using Maroon & Write strategies during fall 2014 classes.
"I look at what these students learned, and they definitely knew more than the students who took the course without writing-to-learn," Grado said. "There was a lot of enjoyment; they really started to write a lot better than they had before."
Maroon & Write is MSU's quality enhancement plan, which will play a critical role in reaffirming accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, said accreditation liaison Tim Chamblee.
Also the director of MSU's Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, Chamblee ensures the Maroon & Write initiative adheres to the principles of accreditation, he said.
"We have students writing in English classes as freshmen and not writing again until their senior year," Chamblee said. "We need to reinforce writing skills during all the time that leads up to the degree. Writing is something that's got to be practiced, and regardless of what people's careers are, they must have writing skills."
Chamblee said Maroon & Write was launched with the MSU administration's full support. During the 2011-12 academic year, the university community participated in a series of campus listening sessions organized by MSU leaders. The team then developed "Maroon & Write" to improve student learning through writing, regardless of the academic major or year in school.
"You will use writing to learn things your entire life," Chamblee said. "It's not for one class; it's to provide a life skill of how to learn. To have a successful career, you need to have good writing communication skills."
For more about MSU's Maroon & Write initiative, visit http://qep.msstate.edu/,Facebook at http://facebook.com/QEPMSU, or Twitter @MSUQEP.
See http://www.msstate.edu to learn more about MSU.