26 December 2017: Writers’ Centre hosts symposium about writing across curriculum

By Courtney Carter | Image provided by Yale-NUS Writers’ Centre

The symposium opened on 8 November 2017 with “Authors in the Open Air, A Reading”, at the Yale-NUS Amphitheatre, featuring writer Sharon Solwitz (left) and journalist and essayist Maggie Tiojakin (right). 


On 8 – 10 November 2017, the Yale-NUS College Writers’ Centre hosted a symposium titled, “A Community of Writers: Collaborations across the Liberal Arts”. Writers, scholars and educators from across the globe gathered at Yale-NUS to discuss the many ways in which writing is taught at the undergraduate level. The symposium was composed of eight panels, readings, workshops, and lectures tackling diverse topics from science writing, creative writing, academic writing and the responsibility of a liberal arts college to teach writing.

Professor of Humanities, Director of Writing Programme and Writer-in-Residence Robin Hemley commented that the purpose of the symposium was to “explore connections between various writing discourses—creative, academic, science and experiential learning—and what kinds of intersections there are between these kinds of writing and the learning process”. Professor Hemley felt this symposium was especially relevant for Yale-NUS right now. He shared, “The Writers’ Centre wanted to jumpstart an important conversation about writing across the curriculum, how it is taught during a student’s college career and who teaches it. In order for the teaching of writing to be integrated with learning at Yale-NUS, we as educators must work together to achieve it”.

The 11 visiting speakers included: novelist, short story writer and Professor of English at Purdue University Sharon Solwitz; journalist, essayist and Director of The Jakarta Post Writing Centre Maggie Tiojakin; Senior Lecturer and Writing Centre Director of the National University of Singapore (NUS) University Scholars Programme Leung Wing Sze Evelyn; and Associate Vice Chancellor of Global Education and Outreach & Vice Provost at NYU Abu Dhabi Carol Brandt.

The keynote address was given by Thomas Bartscherer, Peter Sourian Senior Lecturer in the Humanities and former Director of the Language and Thinking Programme at Bard College.

Dr Bartscherer shared his views on the status of liberal arts education today, “We might say that liberal arts education has, in the last generation or two, come to realise the disjunction with its own way of keeping and telling time and the expectations and demands of the times writ large. The times seem to demand something other than liberal education: early and extreme specialisation, technical and skills-based training, and education directed toward quantifiable learning outcomes. Liberal education currently finds itself in a condition of perplexity. So we may well wonder how shall we find the way”. In defending the teaching of writing for a liberal arts education, Dr Bartscherer commented, “The important thing about the generative aspect of writing is that it can be an end in itself. This is writing to learn. Writing is a way of thinking things through, and writing is a way of finding one’s way”.

One of the panels included “Figures, Sums, Diagrams: How Writing Makes Sense of Science”, chaired by Assistant Professor of Science Jennifer Sheridan. Dr Sheridan commented, “Many students have the false perception that science writing is more difficult than other kinds of writing. Writing in the sciences is not actually that different from other kinds of writing. There is a similar argumentative structure, even if the topics and source materials are different; you still need a topic sentence, evidence and a conclusion. Writing could be an invitation into the sciences, not a barrier to entry for students with less science experience”. Dr Sheridan also appreciated the faculty writing workshops of the symposium because she felt they encouraged similar interdisciplinary teaching and learning from professors that the common curriculum requires of students.

Lishani Ramanayake (Class of 2018) was a panelist for the session entitled, “An Unlikely Marriage: Creative Writing and Academic Writing”. She shared, “Participating on this panel was an amazing experience for me, given my personal interests in the way that creative and academic writing can inform and fuel each other”.