Matthew Pavesich was named director of the University Writing Program (formerly the Expository Writing Program) in fall 2021. He arrived from Georgetown University, where he taught English since 2011. He served as associate director of Georgetown’s Writing Program since 2015.
What does the writing program do?
Johns Hopkins is investing in writing in a way I’ve never seen before, and at a scale I’ve never seen before. The Second Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE2) is calling for a genuinely universal first-year writing requirement. We’re going to bring a dynamic first-year writing class to every student at the Krieger School in the spring of 2023. CUE2 also calls for a years-long developmental process of integrating writing instruction into all the majors.
Why are strong writing skills important for today’s students?
It’s partly about the job market and professions, but it’s not just that. It’s equipping students with the skills and confidence to write so they can learn to write for the rest of their lives. Both personally and professionally. We’ve seen in the last half decade just how important it is for democratic citizens to have a good grasp on literacy and their own ability to interact in the public square. All of this is so urgent. It’s packed into what I think a writing program takes as its major task.
What plans do you have for the program?
We’re scaling up the first-year writing class so every student has one. We’re planning a slate of advanced undergraduate and eventually graduate courses. They’ll cover things like advanced academic writing, writing in digital environments, and public writing. I like to imagine what a four-year writing portfolio might look like. For students to build on their growth and to use in job and graduate studies applications. There is a powerful potential collaboration with Student Affairs on initiatives for first-generation undergrads—an integrated academic and student life program. I’d like to stand up a sponsored collaborative research project or two that would allow us to bring the methods of research and writing into our coursework. I’d love to work with the Life Design Lab (part of Student Affairs) to study the writing habits of Hopkins alums.
How does the program fit into the Hopkins ecosystem?
I want to build a writing program that is a leader in innovative pedagogical approaches. I want us to be the folks that people want to partner with for cool new classes, initiatives, and projects. Our program’s mission spans the campus. We can’t do this job without being connected to everybody.
What draws you to writing?
Just how big writing is. We first think of it as alphanumeric text, but when you approach it through a rhetorical lens, it’s a lot bigger. It’s the space between us, the ways we connect with others.