Program Description

UNL’s Composition and Rhetoric program invites students, from first-year to graduate, to study writing, rhetoric and literacy as practices of social engagement and transformation.  Through engaging, student-centered pedagogies, we invite our students to:

  • make writing the center of their study, defining their own purposes for projects in academic, personal, digital, and cultural contexts;
  • examine how language practices intersect with culture and identity, including class, race, sexuality, gender, religion, and geographic location, and how writing, in turn, shapes and transforms culture;
  • explore the teaching of writing in a program committed to developing writing teachers, from K-12 to college;
  • participate in the shared work of writing across educational levels; our undergraduate program often mixes community members and university students; our graduate program benefits from the lively interplay between local teachers, doctoral researchers, and university faculty.

Our program is guided by the following core principles:

Writing is a meaningful, purposeful practice.
We believe that the strongest writing comes from writers who are invested in and passionate about their projects. For this reason, we regularly invite students to develop their own purposes for composing. We view writing as crucial not only during one’s college or graduate career, but also as a practice we hope our students will cultivate throughout their lives, both personal and professional.

Writing, reading, and teaching are transformative processes.
The practices of writing, reading, and teaching allow us to create knowledge with others, engage new perspectives, rethink our own, and, ultimately, to discover new possibilities for understanding, analyzing, and acting in the world.

Responsible, ethical inquiry and argument can occur only in contexts where individual and cultural differences are respectfully and seriously engaged.
We are committed to fostering sites of learning that encourage students to recognize the complexity and richness of human difference (according to language, gender, sexuality, race, class, ability, religion, politics) as they read and compose texts and engage in dialogue with one another. We abide by a programmatic commitment to diversity that is expressed in this statement: (link to diversity statement).

How we define “good writing” is shaped by culture and dependent upon context.
Because what counts as “good” or appropriate writing is an ideal created by culture, we work with students to analyze how such conventions are socially constructed and how they shape our understanding and practice of writing, argument, and literacy practices.  As we move into an increasingly digital world that requires new literacies, we also aim to develop students’ facilities with reading and composing in online genres and/or in text, sound, image, and video.

Writing and the teaching of writing are collaborative processes.
At all levels of the UNL composition program, writers and teachers work together to create effective texts for a variety of communities and purposes.  In our classes, writers routinely share writing in small groups, and often create writing together.  Our teachers develop their classes and assignments in collaboration with other teachers (often across grade levels).  Our program’s many research projects involve joint inquiry and collaborative research teams.

Reflection is key to both writing and learning.
Students in our courses will regularly be asked to reflect on their choices as writers. This practice helps writers understand their own processes and helps readers provide more useful response. Reflection is also a key component of revision; as we understand the choices we’ve made, we can begin to imagine new ways of creating and shaping texts.



Joy Ritchie

Joy Ritchie, emeriti faculty, with Ginny Crisco (standing) Christine Stewart-Nunez, and Eric Turley. Photo by Brett Hampton.