Wellesley’s Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing Endowed with $7.5 Million

Students in classroom
September 10, 2018

Wellesley has established a $7.5 million endowment to fund the Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing into the future at the College, thanks to a $3.75 million gift received in July from the Stanford Calderwood Charitable Foundation, which Wellesley’s trustees matched with an equal amount of board-designated endowment funds. Calderwood was a patron of the arts and benefactor of Wellesley College who placed a high value on written communication.

Launched in 2013, the seminars are senior-level electives that “challenge students to gain command of their major field of study by expressing their knowledge via public rather than academic writing,” says David L. Lindauer, Stanford Calderwood Professor of Economics at Wellesley and the creator and director of the program. “The seminars improve student writing, a critical skill for the labor market regardless of discipline.”

Classes are capped at 12 students, mostly seniors and some juniors, and are offered in a variety of disciplines each semester. They include such courses as Biology in the News, Economic Journalism, Music in Public, Psychology in the Public Interest, and Environmental Synthesis and Communication. 

This year, Wellesley will offer 12 Calderwood seminars, an increase over the usual nine or 10 seminars in past years, said Lindauer. 

In a recent survey of alumnae who completed Calderwood Seminars before they graduated, 85 percent said it was one of the three best courses they took at Wellesley. Several students who have gone through the program now work in national print and broadcast media, said Lindauer.

For the first time this year, Calderwood seminars are also being offered at six other peer schools: Amherst, Bard, Georgetown, Middlebury, Smith, and Wesleyan all recently started programs. “We’re so pleased to get this support from the foundation and the College and are thrilled that our practices are being exported to other colleges,” said Lindauer.

In an external evaluation last year, Constance Cain Hungerford '70, the Mari S. Michener Professor of Art History at Swarthmore College, called the Calderwood seminars an “extraordinary program.” She said that they “confirm for students (and prospective students and parents) the relevance of a Wellesley education to the ‘real world.’”

John Cornish, a co-trustee of the Calderwood Charitable Foundation, described the value of the seminars as well as Wellesley’s support in an email in May: “I hope that Wellesley’s leadership and faculty continue to embrace and grow these seminars, as they appear to be potential ‘game changers’ in developing skills that students need to be successful following graduation. I know that Stan would be very proud of all that you have accomplished, and pleased to have his name associated with it.”

Photo: Students listen intently to instruction during a past seminar.