Writing in the Majors

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Overview: Based on the premise that language and learning are vitally connected in every field, the Writing in the Majors program extends the Institute’s discipline-based approach to advanced courses in all spheres of the curriculum. An essential ingredient of the program’s success has been the Institute’s support of additional teaching assistants, drawn from the professor’s own discipline, to help implement these projects. Some of these teaching assistants collaborate with faculty to improve entire courses; others lead optional, writing-intensive sections of larger courses. Teaching assistants assigned to Writing in the Majors projects enroll in WRIT 7101: a six-week course on teaching strategies in advanced instruction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Program History: Following its creation in 1987 by former Knight Program Director, Professor of English Harry Shaw, Writing in the Majors functioned in its first decade as an effective pilot program that served 400-500 upper-division students per year. Initially funded by a university grant and then by the College of Arts and Sciences, Writing in the Majors gradually expanded through additional funding from the Division of Biological Sciences and the Park Foundation, which supported new projects in the social sciences.

Since 1997, funding from the Knight Foundation and commitments from the university have allowed Writing in the Majors to support more than 40 courses each year, with combined enrollments of roughly 1,400 students.

For inquiries and further information, contact Elliot Shapiro, Senior Lecturer and Director of Writing in the Majors at ehs9@cornell.edu.

Consultation and Workshops: For more than twenty years, collaboration with exciting teachers has given us a wealth of information about innovative course designs, assignments, and teaching strategies. We have often brought these ideas to informal discussions with faculty members who would like to revise their courses or solve specific problems.

We have also worked with many graduate teaching assistants, individually and in groups, who are not formally appointed to Writing in the Majors courses. This support for teaching assistants has included workshops on responding to student writing in departmental TA training programs and in staff meetings for large courses that assign writing.

Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the following:

  • Course design
  • Development or revision of writing assignments
  • Strategies for responding to student writing
  • Work with peer review and other methods of revision
  • Concerns about particular students
  • ESL problems among student writers
  • Individual or group meetings with TAs


Elliot Shapiro
Knight Foundation Director of Writing in the Majors
M101 McGraw Hall
Phone: 607- 255-5867

Kelly King-O'Brien
Associate Director of Writing in the Majors
M101 McGraw Hall
Phone: 607 255-7188