New York, New York

Just thought you might like to hear a little inspirational music before reading about my case study.  That and I finally learned out to insert YouTube videos into my posts.  I am so excited and plan to be inserting them in my posts whenever I get a chance — consider yourself WARNED!

Why did I choose the song New York by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys?

My reason is quite simple really — the focus of my case study is LaGuardia Community College of the City of New York.  Now you’re wondering why I chose LaGuardia for my case study, right?  Well, the reason for that is simple as well.  Think back to my blog post about an article I read about WAC/WID in community colleges.  The focus of that article was the WID program at LaGuardia.  I loved the article and was intrigued by the things that were going on at LaGuardia.  As you know, I work at a community college and I would love for use to implement WAC/WID at our school.  LaGuardia has served as a model or guide for me, and it has inspired me in more ways than you know.  Well, now that you know the where and why behind my case study let’s dive into the whom, what, and when.

LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York is named for Fiorello H. LaGuardia, New York City’s New Deal mayor, who united and inspired a city of immigrants.  Located at a transit hub that links Queens, the most ethnically diverse borough, with the world center of finance, commerce and the arts, the college provides access to higher education and serves New Yorkers of all backgrounds, ages and means. LaGuardia Community College is committed to:

  •    Offering career, as well as liberal arts and science curricula, developmental education and transfer preparation, cooperative education internships, continuing education classes, and training programs serving individuals, businesses and public agencies
  •    Responding creatively to changes in student population, technology, and the global economy
  •    Providing extensive support services and opportunities for a highly diverse student population
  •    Upholding high standards through a focus on program assessment and innovative approaches to teaching and learning
  •    Maintaining a dedicated, highly qualified faculty and staff, while promoting their professional development
  •    Preparing students to become full participants in the economic and civic life of the city, the nation, and the world
  •    Cultivating partnerships with business, community groups, government, and public schools to enhance the economic, social, cultural, and educational development of Western Queens and New York City

To help us better understand WID at LaGuardia and all it has to offer I contacted co-director Dr. James Wilson.  I emailed Dr. Wilson several questions that he answered in great detail.  The answers to these questions will appear throughout the remainder of my post.

So . . . who is Dr. James Wilson?

Dr. James Wilson joined the English department at LaGuardia in 2000 and was appointed to the doctoral faculty in the Theatre Ph.D. Program at CUNY Graduate Center in spring 2009. He teaches a range of courses, including basic writing, college composition, drama, and African-American literature. As deputy chair of the English Department at LaGuardia, he is responsible for hiring and mentoring adjunct faculty and working closely with the chair in creating the schedule of English classes each semester. Other administrative functions include co-directing the Writing in the Disciplines (WID) program.

Dr. Wilson received his BA in English from SUNY Fredonia; his MA in English from SUNY Albany; and his Ph.D. in theatre history and criticism from CUNY Graduate Center.  His articles have appeared in Urban Education, Teaching English in the Two-Year College, and Theatre History Studies. His essay, “Ladies and Gentlemen, People Die: The Uncomfortable Performances of Kiki and Herb,” appeared in an anthology of lesbian and gay theatre and performances in fall 2008.  Dr. Wilson is co-editor of The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, which is published by the Martin E. Segal Center (CUNY Graduate Center).  His book, Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Race, Performance, and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance, was published by the University of Michigan Press in June 2010.

How did he become involved in WID?

“I was a CUNY Writing Fellow as a grad student and expressed interest in working with the WID faculty when I joined LaGuardia in 2000. I began as a participant in the program, eventually became a faculty leader, and now I am a co-director of the program.  The most obvious reason for [WID’s] importance to me is that I strongly believe that students become stronger writers by writing throughout their academic careers and that writing instruction and support is not solely the responsibility of English faculty. Another reason why WID is so important to me is for the chance to work with faculty from across the disciplines at LaGuardia. The discussions around pedagogy are transformative for many of our faculty participants (as well as for me), and it is crucial that we foster these kinds of opportunities.”

WID and LaGuardia

A group of faculty, including English and ESL, created the WID program in 1998, which was one year before the university implemented its focus on writing proficiency leading to the writing fellowship program and the now defunct CUNY Proficiency Exam

In 1999, LaGuardia funded a faculty development initiative to infuse writing in the disciplines as a means of improving student learning.  In 2000, CUNY announced its institution-wide Writing Across the Curriculum initiative, which contributed both funding and writing fellows to LaGuardia’s program.  The Writing Across the Curriculum program will emphasize classroom and college based activities including the following:

  •    Informal writing to learn activities, which will take place throughout      the semester
  •    The requirement, in writing intensive classes, of a minimum of 10-12 pages of formal writing which can be satisfied in a variety of ways
  •    A variety of short, less formal assignments which integrate writing into the writing intensive courses throughout the semester
  •    Opportunities for revision in all assignments
  •    Research papers that require the use of footnotes, bibliographies and other tools of formal research
  •    Instructional mediation and feedback to encourage student growth
  •    Campus-based professional development plans for faculty and Writing Fellows
  •    Grading in writing intensive classes, in substantial part, on assessment of students’ written work

Another important principle of this pedagogy is conveyed in the often used term “Writing to Learn”—i.e. the goal of student writing is not only the end product of a completed essay assignment (like a term paper) but the activity of writing for its own sake, which can stimulate thought and engagement. WAC and WID techniques are therefore concerned as much with process as with product.

While WID is currently coordinated by English faculty, it does not live in a single department. LaGuardia does not have a General Education Department, but they are affiliated with the Center for Teaching and Learning.  Since the beginning of WID at LaGuardia, over 400 full- and part-time faculty have been trained in the WID program.  The institutional commitment to writing-intensive pedagogy has made WID a central component of the strategic vision of the college. 

Formal introduction to the WID program at LaGuardia from Marian Arkin of English and co-director of the WID program:

Why WID and not WAC?

 LaGuardia’s program is called “Writing in the Disciplines” (WID) rather than “Writing Across the Curriculum” (WAC) in order to emphasize the fact that they view writing as a discipline specific activity—that writing in a chemistry class or in a statistics class, for example, is not the same as writing for an English or History class. The way assignments are conceived and developed should depend on the kinds of thinking skills the specific disciplines require. It is for this reason that the first question asked by Writing Fellows when developing writing assignments is: “What do we want the students to learn?”

What are Writing Fellows? 

Writing Fellows 2010: Garrett Eisler, Peter Zazzali, Shawna Brandle, Haiwen Chu, Christine Caruso, and Laura Limonic.

According to James Wilson, writing fellows are graduate students in the PhD programs at the CUNY Graduate Center. Currently, the fellows receive funding for the fifth year of their fellowship and are guaranteed placement. The fellows are interviewed and ranked (based on what they can bring to the program, such as assessment, technology, and pedagogical experience).

Once chosen the Writing Fellows work with program coordinators and new faculty to practice the principles and philosophy of WID and facilitate the development of a Writing Intensive course.  Fellows gain expertise in WAC/WID methodology by attending CUNY-wide and LaGuardia workshops and conference programs, participating in weekly seminars with the LaGuardia WID coordinators and taking part in bi-weekly seminars with LaGuardia faculty participants.

In the Fall Fellows collaborate with faculty at bi-weekly meetings to develop critical components of a ‘WIDed’ syllabus. They also schedule meetings with faculty to provide one-on-one support. In the Spring Fellows continue to assist as faculty as they pilot their new course.  Writing Fellows, under the supervision of faculty Small Group leaders, are paired with individual teachers to assist in their gradual assembling of portfolios that will document their experience with WID techniques.

Faculty Participants

When asked how faculty members are selected for the WID program, Dr. Wilson stated: 

In general, faculty find us. We send out a call for applications in the spring term for faculty who are interested in participating in the program. Those who are teaching (or would like to teach) Urban Studies or Capstone classes are required to participate in the seminar (and receive course release for their participation). We are able to fund 12 fulltime faculty (junior/ senior and from across the disciplines) and 15 adjunct faculty each academic year.” 

In exchange for participating and committing time to the WID training, full-time faculty is granted course relief and adjunct faculty are provided a stipend.

Faculty members apply to the program, and are selected based on what they have been assigned to teach or would be interested in teaching. The WID program is also open to all vocational/technical faculty (CIS, AMS, or Allied Health) and faculty teaching any course required for completion of a vocational degree. This program is only open to full-time faculty. Recruiting for the adjunct program begins in early September.

Take a look at the Academic Affairs Application (found under the heading Writing in the Disciplines) that faculty members have to fill complete in order to apply for the WID program.

Yep, it’s just that simple to become a LaGuardia WID program participant!

What do participants do in the program?

Participants are required to attend a year-long program.  While in the program, participating faculty will:

  • read and reflect on writing in the disciplines/ writing across the curriculum theory and practice
  • draft and share writing to learn and high stakes assignments in their disciplines
  • pilot these activities and work on responding to student writing

Faculty will also learn about ePortfolio methodologies and develop strategies that help students use it as a tool for sharing and reflecting on their writing as well as a vehicle for program assessment. Faculty participants in LaGuardia’s WID program produce an instructional portfolio: a collection of materials that documents their participation in this yearlong program and their development of a curriculum that is writing intensive.

Each portfolio includes:

They even have a blog page created by graduate students to showcase how LaGuardia faculty is using technology to promote WID.  Check it out here !

Group Meetings

Weekly Fellows Meetings

Each week for two hours, Writing Fellows meet with the WID Director. These meetings typically have three purposes:

(1) training in the various Writing Fellow tasks

(2) updating each other and the WID Director on the work fellows are doing

(3) trouble-shooting various issues and tensions that inevitably crop up during the semester.

Large Group Meetings

There are usually two “Large Group” meetings per semester. These meetings include all participating WID faculty members, all Writing Fellows, the WID Director, and all coordinators.  The WID Director and Writing Fellows work together to plan agendas for these meetings, which usually include presentations and/or hands-on exercises.

 Small-Group Meetings

“Small-Group” meetings will typically consist of four WID faculty members, two Writing Fellows, and a WID coordinator (aka “Small Group Leader”). WID Small Groups meet for two hours approximately every other week. Small Group meetings give faculty a grounding in the philosophy of “writing-to-learn” pedagogy through readings and discussion. Some of the issues discussed will be theoretical, while others will be specific to the disciplines taught by the faculty members in the meetings. Coordinators may also workshop specific ideas for integrating writing intensive principles into course syllabi.

The fall semester Small Group Meetings help professors develop a new writing-intensive version of their syllabus that follows to the principles of WID. During the spring semester, the work shifts from the planning stage to actually trying out the new writing intensive syllabi. Small Groups continue to meet in the spring to discuss how the new writing assignments are working and whether faculty would like to revise any for their final portfolio.

Special Projects

Each Writing Fellow is encouraged to think of a special individual project to work on throughout the year that will help maintain—and perhaps enhance—the WID program at LaGuardia. Past projects have included: administering the WID website, managing student and faculty assessment, projects to document WID activities (e.g. a video brochure, newsletter), revising the WID syllabus, and giving presentations at conferences.

Here is a video of Dr. Michelle Pacht and her English class showing WID principles in action.

This video along with the article written by Dr. Pacht are what inspired me to use LaGuardia as the focus of my case study.  If you have not read the article, I encourage you to do so or at least view my blog post about it.  Trust me it is worth a few minutes of your time.  Just click here

WI Course Requirements

LaGuardia instituted a series of “proficiencies” several years ago, and one of these included writing. Although WID had existed before this, WID faculty were part of a college-wide discussion to help determine how and where in student academic careers writing would be taught and assessed. All majors needed to identify (or create) a capstone class that would be designated writing intensive.

LaGuardia has a 2-course WI requirement, and these are linked with the Urban Education and Capstone class requirements.  Writing courses (as opposed to writing intensive) exist primarily (there are several ESL courses that might be considered) in the English Department. We have a basic writing course, a composition sequence, a research paper course, and several creative writing classes.  The classes are described in greater detail on the English Department website.

According to the LaGuardia Writing Fellows Handbook the following is:

Criteria for a Writing Intensive Course

  • Students write every week
  • Writing activities include both informal and formal, discipline-specific assignments
  • Students complete frequent, low-stakes writing assignments
  • A substantial, staged assignment of 10-12 typed pages
  • Students receive feedback on their writing from the instructor and peers
  • Students have the opportunity to revise more than one paper
  • Writing counts for at least 20% of the course grade
  • Grading criteria are clearly indicated on the syllabus

When asked which classes students do students sign up for most: WI or general, Dr. Wilson stated, “In general, when we offer writing-intensive versions of classes, we have found students are not aware until they attend the class. They tend to sign up for a particular time (or faculty) rather than noting the WI designation.”  It’s good to know that students are not discriminating against WI classes. 

Below are goals Dr. Wilson expressed for WID program @ LaGuardia

Local Goals

1.  Implement a WID Faculty recertification process that is supportive (rather than punitive) and reflective of the integrity of the program.

2.  Revisit and perhaps revise the current Writing-Intensive guidelines as they relate to the emerging College Capstone requirements and curricula.

3.  Create a “College Writing Manifesto” that articulates the expectations of a LaGuardia-educated writer.

4.  Integrate the Fellows more fully into the development and design of the WID program by giving them freer rein to organize student-writing workshops, faculty development presentations, and seminar discussion groups.

University-Wide Goals

1.  Continue to refine the professional development workshop series by presenting nationally recognized figures in WAC/WID, showcasing the work of Fellows and Coordinators, and for providing opportunities for cross-campus exchanges.

2.  Create and fund opportunities for inter-college visits and projects, focusing on issues of two/four-year transfer, campus articulation agreements, and common WAC/WID program initiatives.

3.  Extend the dialogue on methodologies and pedagogies to include composition administrators, ESL faculty, and First-Year Institute coordinators to discuss the ways in which WAC/WID cn be a part of a student’s college experience from Day 1.

4.  Find out how the writing fellowship experience has affected the professional and scholarly lives of past Fellows, and develop programs that will make the experience more beneficial for those entering the academic job market.


Since participation in the year-long WID program is strictly voluntary, you would expect to get only positive reviews about the program and its benefits to them and their students.  Here is what one faculty member had to say about using WID in his classroom

Now I know you are saying that Dr. Meyer’s testimonial is completely biased because he was actually interested in implementing more writing into his class; however, he stated that he has implemented many WID techniques into all of his classes (not just his Capstone course).  Clearly, he has bought into the WID mentality and sees the benefits of WID to the college, faculty, and most importantly students.

WID at LaGuardia is growing by leaps and bounds.  Faculty members seem to be buying in to all of WID principles and utilizing them in their classrooms.  Click here to view some of the awesome work that this year’s WID faculty members have included in their ePortfolios.

The LaGuardia website along with the WID webpage provided a wealth of information about the WID program.  I would also like to thank Dr. James Wilson for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions about the program.  Doing this case study has been extremely beneficial in helping me with creating a WAC/WID course of my own.  I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed making it 😛


Take a minute to visit the Writing Center at LaGuardia and all it has to offer.

3 Responses to “New York, New York”
  1. wacattackaum says:

    Brilliant choice! I have a friend at U of A–the writing director. She’s not in the office right now, so if you don’t find info or someone to talk to–I’ll help!

  2. What a good choice. This is fascinating–and proves that everyone can benefit from WAC or WID, young or old, anywhere, in any discipline.

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