A writing-intensive curriculum is helping a growing number of graduates from DePaul University’s School for New Learning (SNL) strengthen their writing skills and even parlay them into careers as writers, playwrights and authors.
And while SNL has long been committed to writing across the curriculum, in recent years it has strengthened its focus by establishing a writing program and hiring full-time writing instructors to further help students and faculty members.
Tailored for adult learners, SNL incorporates writing in all its courses, not just writing-focused ones, a practice known as “writing across the curriculum,” said Michelle Navarre Cleary, SNL writing coordinator and an assistant professor.
“SNL is by its very nature extremely writing-intensive, and that helps students hone their writing skills,” Navarre Cleary said. “It really pushes them to experiment with different writing forms and processes.
SNL graduate Mark Wolverton (B.A. ’01) agreed. “SNL provided me with invaluable educational and professional opportunities that allowed me to build upon a rather unconventional and varied background and develop my talents and skills to forge a brand-new career path,” he said. Wolverton has written three books; scripts produced for radio, film and television; and had his plays presented in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere. His latest book is “A Life in Twilight: The Final Years of J. Robert Oppenheimer” (St. Martin’s Press, 2008). He also writes for national magazines, including Air & Space Smithsonian, American Heritage of Invention & Technology, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science and Sky & Telescope. “SNL is the perfect place to find yourself and realize your full potential both personally and professionally,” Wolverton said.
Other notable SNL graduates with writing careers include:
● Mark A. Bryan (B.A. ’86), an internationally recognized expert in creativity and innovation and author of five best-selling books. He is best known for his self-help books, including “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” which he co-authored with Julia Cameron. “It was my admission to Northwestern and eventually to Harvard that made me realize just how well SNL prepares its students,” Bryan said. “They managed to teach me enough to get into a first-tier graduate school despite my struggle when I started.”
● Penny Pollack (B.A. ’07), dining editor at Chicago Magazine, who co-authored with Jeff Ruby the book “Everybody Loves Pizza: The Deep Dish on America’s Favorite Food” (Emmis Books, 2005). “My mentors at SNL helped me hone my critical thinking skills. They gave me a new way to think about what I was learning and how to view things through different lenses,” Pollack said.
● Robert Knight (M.A. ’96), whose latest book, “Journalistic Writing: Building the Skills, Honing the Craft” (Marion Street Press), debuted April 27 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Knight was a professional writer before coming to SNL, but said, “SNL forever broadened the palette that I work from. It taught me to think more clearly and deeply than I ever have about philosophy, leadership and a world view.” He added, “I feel that I gained an extra layer of humanity – and humility. The more I get of one, the more I seem to need of the other.” Knight has worked as a writer and/or editor at United Press International and Chicago’s famed City News Bureau. He has written freelance articles for more than 40 publications and news services, including Christian Science Monitor, Reuters and The Washington Post. He is also author of “The Craft of Clarity” (Iowa State Press, 1998).
● Marion S. Orem (B.A. ’81), a digital storyteller and author of “Women Who RV and Their Kindred Spirits” (Authentic Voices Productions LLC, 2007). “Almost 30 years later, my DePaul degree still serves as the foundation for an ongoing Web-based portfolio of writing.”
● Leslie Fox (M.A. ’93), who self-published a book on Bowens Family Theory, a theory of human behavior applied to leadership and change management, based on her SNL graduate work. “In DePaul’s writing-intensive program, I was encouraged to present my ideas to the wider business community by publishing articles and papers, which challenged me to sharpen my written communication skills,” said Fox, CEO of Care Communications Inc., a national health information management consulting firm. “Eventually, that experience led me to publish a book on leadership.” Fox is the author of numerous articles, papers and publications, including “The Art of Change Management to Lead Successful Projects.” Currently, she is co-author of the “Hands-On Help” column that appears monthly in ADVANCE for Health Information Professionals.
Navarre Cleary came to SNL in 2005 with the task of significantly strengthening support for both students and faculty in the improvement of student writing. Under her leadership, SNL has created a writing program, hired two new full-time writing instructors in fall 2009, offers an individualized writing workshop, provides help with a website and offers additional writing support at DePaul’s Loop and suburban campuses.
“SNL is light-years ahead of other schools that have been working on writing across the curriculum and writing in the disciplines initiatives and trying to get students to do more writing in more classes besides just the writing classes,” she said. “It’s clear through research that students develop as really strong writers by writing in all kinds of different situations, learning how to move from one context to another and continuously working on their writing.
“Many of our students came to SNL because they know when they leave here they’ll be strong writers,” Navarre Cleary said. “They don’t necessarily come in as strong writers, but they know they need writing skills for whatever it is they want to do. They want to be immersed in an environment in which they’re going to be writing all the time. They want to be pushed.”