Calderwood Seminars Expansion Program

Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing Expansion Schools

A Far Reach: Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing Expand to Colleges and Universities Across the United States

The Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing Program, under the leadership of Program Director David Lindauer, has grown beyond Wellesley College with a rapid and diverse expansion to private and public colleges and universities. Wesleyan University was the first to offer Calderwood Seminars in the spring of 2018. An additional four colleges partnered with Wellesley during the 2018-2019 academic year to offer 28 seminars enrolling 271 students. The program was scaled further in 2019-2020, as Wellesley partnered with ten schools giving 462 students the opportunity to participate in Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing. Student and faculty reflections on the program provide strong testimonials of the far reach and overall success of the program:

“This course and its pedagogic structure have radically altered the way I think about the writing process. As someone who has almost strictly ever written for a private audience, the shift in thinking about doing so for the public sphere is immense; having peer review for this focus is naturally extremely useful. The subject matter under analysis on the theme of global mobilities has made me view the world and the content I consume generally with a more critical eye. Because this course has changed the way I write, it has changed the way I think. As someone who naturally strays towards writing and thinking more abstractly, this course has helped me ground and clarify my writing, and therefore my thinking generally. I feel this especially when trying to discern what I can best convey to a wider audience, seeing my clearest ideas as the most valuable. […] Overall, I would take this class again in a heartbeat.”
– Student in Mobilities: How People, Goods and Information Cross Borders, Smith College, 
Spring 2020

“I learned how to write short and punchy paragraphs instead of long academic paragraphs that span half a page. I learned how to find my own more colloquial and engaging style without coming across as unprofessional and cliché. I learned how to compose quality writing in a matter of days, or even hours, instead of weeks. Lastly, I learned how to make my writing as concise and simple as possible without sacrificing depth of content.”
– Student in Rethinking US Foreign Policy, University of Washington, Winter 2020

“I just wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed this class, the dynamic you created for us, and the creative liberty you gave us to allow us to find our own voice for social change. This has been such a powerful, wonderful, and transformative learning experience. I learned how to listen better and appreciate other peoples' perspectives. Not only have I become a better writer, but I've become a more understanding human being.”
– Student in Communicating for Social Justice, University of Oregon, Winter 2020

“The best comment for this course—and perhaps of my teaching career so far—was made by one member then confirmed by two others—all of them first-generation college-students--in our last meeting: in making them more capable to writing for the public, this course had actually helped them have better conversations with their parents. Up until that point, they had often struggled in conveying what they were studying to those outside the academic setting, including their own families!”
– Faculty teaching Reporting Genocides, Middlebury College, Spring 2019

“Out of all the exercise I have done this semester, in practice, in weight training, and in competition, this class was the best workout of all. Just like in sports, at some moments I felt the burn, hated myself for choosing to do this, wondered if I could make it through, but in the end I got stronger. Like Neitzsche once wrote, “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” This is a fact, when you do a hard workout you break the sinews of your muscles so they can grow back stronger. Another quote from one of my favorite books also comes to mind “she cannot expect to excel if she does not practice a good deal” (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice). While writing will likely remain a weakness of mine, this class provided me with more practice than ever before. Therefore, according to Aunt Catherine, this class helped me to excel in my writing abilities, thereby helping me prepare for the real world. As my coach always says, college sports will end, an education will not.”
- Student in Writing about Law, Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service, Fall 2019

“Teaching in the Calderwood enabled me to see a whole new side of my students’ thinking and skill sets. The freedom to write op-eds, profiles, and other creative pieces liberated them from the traditional analytical paper and essay, and led to their producing some marvelously original and insightful works that conveyed their writing voice and the issues they most cared about. I could sense my students relating viscerally to what they were writing about. In the Calderwood, they were no longer trying to imitate some formal model of what an academic paper should look or sound like. And they no longer reverted to the abstractions and obfuscations of academic jargon. Instead, my students began to fill their papers with humor, artfully varied sentence structures, unusual word choices, deeply felt opinions—the very elements that a more traditionally oriented academic assignment would likely not have elicited from them.

With the experience of this first Calderwood behind me, I intend to bring its lessons to all my classes going forward, and not just the ones focused on writing. In the spirit of the Calderwood, I will aim to help students find their writer’s voice, to gauge what matters to them most intellectually and culturally, and to craft assignments that mobilize their creativity and originality.”
- Faculty teaching Literaure Live, Bard College, Fall 2018

This was my first experience teaching a writing intensive course and such a small class. Most importantly, it was also my first experience teaching a class where students had to participate actively in each class. This experience will change the way I teach.  I enjoyed teaching this class more than any other I have taught. And I will modify the syllabi of other classes to increase student participation.

Science communication is among the most critical skills that science students need to develop and this class achieved that goal.  All students became better communicators, and, as a result, I believe better scientists… 

I thought I would have found it difficult to let go of “control” of the classroom, but whether it was the mix of students, the time of day, or the detailed syllabus, I found it easy. The students did a remarkable job in writing and critiquing each other’s work.  I had not expected such a high level of thinking and engagement on the part of the students and was delighted that it went so well.”
- Faculty teaching Environmental Science Journalism, Wesleyan University, Fall 2018