New Minor in the English Department: Professional and Public Writing


The English Department is introducing a new minor. (Courtesy of Instagram)

This spring, Fordham’s English department created a new minor for all undergraduate students that aims to strengthen student’s ability to write professionally for broad, public audiences. The minor, public and professional writing (PPW), will debut in the fall 2022 semester, but students can sign up for classes associated with the minor during this spring’s registration period.

This minor was created to provide both the personal enrichment of a writing degree while also emphasizing professional development and improvement. It prioritizes and deepens analytical, rhetorical and critical thinking skills while ultimately providing a crucial skill set that will be helpful beyond college. Many students and faculty have shown interest in the minor.

While the minor is writing-focused, it is definitely not an opportunity exclusive to English or communication majors.

According to Professor Glenn Hendler, associate chair of the English department, the English major and minor focuses on reading, writing, literature and culture, and the professional and public writing minor is “continuous with that focus.”

However, the new minor will specifically emphasize communicating information in a way that is accessible and clear to the reader.

While most college writing involves writing for an audience of one, the professor, the coursework associated with this minor will teach students how to write for a wider audience in a way that is easy to understand.

“Keeping the public in mind changes the writing,” stated Hendler, “[and] ultimately, the writing is better.” While the possession of knowledge is conducive to success in the professional world, being able to communicate this knowledge and its importance is critical.

In addition to improving writing skills, the professional and public writing minor will focus on the content that is being communicated.

Professor Crystal Colombini, Fordham’s first dedicated writing and rhetoric specialist, highlighted that the goal of the minor is also to educate and create global citizens that are “thoughtful, conscientious and ethical” about the work they produce.

Communication is important, but respectful communication is even more so.

The goal of the minor is to teach students how to be good professional writers, both in terms of content and morality.

Writing and rhetoric are powerful ways to create change in any discipline, and this minor will allow students to explore the ways in which laws, social contexts and culture can be improved through the effective transmission of ideas.

There are a total of six classes required to complete this minor, including Texts and Contexts, Introduction to Professional Writing, one course denoted as a focused professional and public writing course and three courses designated as professional and public writing courses.

Examples of PPW-focused courses include Writing for Publication and Nonprofit and Advocacy Writing, as well as future courses like Writing for Digital Spaces and Usability and Universal Design.

Examples of PPW-designated courses include Digital Creative Writing, Performance Criticism and Anti-Racist Methods with future courses that will teach how to write professionally for fields like natural sciences, economics, math, political science and music. The PPWD attribute will allow students to see which courses will fulfill this requirement.

With the exception of the two required courses, the final four courses are selected by the student.

Therefore, the minor holds many interdisciplinary possibilities and will ultimately strengthen the writing profiles of students with any major or interest.

All of the required coursework will include client-based projects, so students will be working with both real or imagined organizations to genuinely think about that organization’s needs and communicate them through writing.

Coursework will also primarily focus on argumentation and assessing information in a way that is cohesive and coherent.

It is important to remember that coherence doesn’t just apply to public and professional writing, but also to thoughts, interview responses and public profiles like Handshake and LinkedIn.

Being able to successfully convey one’s skills, abilities and experience on paper, or on a screen, is more important now than it ever has been.

“The art of being a good writer is valuable in today’s marketplace,” said Professor Mary Bly, chair of the English department.

By pursuing this minor, students will be “eloquent in service of something [they] deeply believe in” while preparing themselves for the professional world.