The University Writing Program (UWP) is designed to teach and support students as they write in various phases of their RIT career, in various disciplines across the University, from the first year on into graduate studies. It is also intended to be a support resource for faculty who teach writing-intensive courses throughout the curriculum.


The University Writing Program (UWP) faculty are grounded in writing studies, an academic field that is invested in college-level instruction of student reading, writing, and interdisciplinary literacies. Our curriculum is built on five foundational assumptions – threshold concepts1– that reflect the essential disciplinary knowledge in writing and thinking needed by students in every program. Using threshold concepts as a conceptual framework, the UWP supports students as they develop new orientations to writing and thinking, while also helping them to discover how diverse literacies shape the university’s many disciplines and discourse communities.

1Naming What we Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, eds. Utah State UP 2015.

Threshold Concepts

 One: Writing is a knowledge-making activity.

Disciplinary experts regularly encounter, express, and transmit knowledge in their field through written language. When student writers engage in research and inquiry-based writing, they are also encountering, expressing, and transmitting their growing knowledge of a field. Writing is an expression and reflection of active learning and critical thinking, in which students make and remake knowledge from their own perspectives.

Two: Writing is a social, rhetorical activity (a “conversation”).

Writing involves negotiating a set of interrelated factors, including immediate and unforeseen readers, influence of other texts, the writer's identity and literacy experiences, and disciplinary expectations. Through making informed choices – often across perceived language differences – writers contribute to their discourse communities by remixing and replying to others’ ideas and employing strategic rhetorical moves for multiple, complex, and diverse audiences.

Three: Writing addresses social situations through recognizable forms called genres.

Written genres, like lab reports or literacy narratives, reflect patterns of form, style, and subject that have become more stable and thus identifiable through repeated use. In most contexts, writing is partially judged by its adherence to – or divergence from – common genre conventions. Membership in a discourse community is linked to the writer’s ability to recognize, follow, and even subvert conventions. Student writers learn by identifying and writing within discipline-specific genres.

Four: Language and literacy cannot be separated from identity.

Writers use language to explore ideas and subjects, create knowledge, and present themselves to the world. Their identities as writers evolve as they become active agents within a diverse range of sociocultural, academic, and professional communities. Student writers thoughtfully identify, analyze, and engage in linguistic practices appropriate to the communities in which they are members or seeking membership. By calling some of these practices into question, student writers can interrogate dominant and oppressive systems of power.

Five: Dynamic revision is central to developing writing.

Revision is reflective and recursive. It happens while writers read and then modify what they have written, using writing strategies like brainstorming, outlining, and drafting. Revision also happens when writers edit, consider genre conventions and forms, collaborate with others, and refine language mechanics and style for effective communication with their intended audience. Through recognizing these layers of revision, writers develop rhetorical awareness, thinking critically about their writing choices.

Goals for the University Writing Program

  • Assist students in becoming confident, innovative, flexible writers who can communicate through writing, but who can also use writing as a way to think and learn.
  • Foster productive, goal-oriented conversations about writing projects at any stage of the composing process, from invention to final draft, as well as the rhetorical moves of academic and professional writing.
  • Create inclusive intellectual spaces where students can explore university literacy practices with their instructors, their peers, and with peer and professional writing consultants.
  • Cultivate an approach to writing that sees language difference as an opportunity for making and presenting meaning, not as an obstacle to understanding.
  • Collaborate with any student to design and conduct writing-related research.
  • Provide students with resources that meet the changing needs of learners, including non-traditional assignments, course delivery systems, and the integration of emerging technologies;
  • Collaborate and consult with faculty in the design and implementation of WI courses; plan and coordinate professional development for faculty to implement and continuously improve RIT’s Writing Across the Curriculum program