The following is an article from The Daily Pennsylvanian. The article can be found here.
English program offers new twist on writing
By Rachel Horowitz
February 10, 2004
For many Penn students, writing courses are seen as tedious requirements that they must begrudgingly endure.
However, a select few have conquered this prevailing attitude of reluctance toward writing at Penn and are going above and beyond the requirements. Through the new Writing Apprenticeship Program, three seniors are creating individualized writing experiences, utilizing Penn's writing program as a springboard for possible careers as the next Charles Dickens or Emily Dickinson.
The program -- which is only in its fourth week of existence -- was conceived in order to provide students with a more personalized educational experience, according to Al Filreis, director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing.
The CPCW was established last July to synthesize Penn's three principal writing programs: the Critical Writing Program, the Kelly Writers House and the Creative Writing Program. The CPCW's objective is to make writing resources and courses more accessible to all Penn students by expanding and diversifying opportunities in writing.
To this end, six months after its creation, CPCW launched its apprenticeship program as a means of providing an educational alternative in writing.
"This is the very first apprenticeship program of its kind in the school," Filreis said. "We created the program because [College of Arts and Sciences] Dean [Rebecca] Bushnell is very interested in providing alternative educational opportunities to students through individual research experiences and apprenticeships."
This individualized attention is the focus of the program, in which only three students were selected from a pool of over 40 applicants. Engineering senior Emily Hsu, Wharton senior Erin Sweeney and College senior Ariel Djanikian each work directly with their own English Department faculty mentor on a one-on-one basis.
As a central part of the program, students earn credit while assisting mentors on professional projects, which include professor Greg Djanikian's compilation of a collection of war poems, professor Charles Bernstein's creation of a digital poetry archive and professor Max Apple's publication of a short fiction work.
The focus on a project -- rather than a published creative work or critical thesis -- is what distinguishes the apprenticeship program from the independent study, research and internship programs already offered at Penn.
"The program is a cross between an independent study, an honors thesis, an internship and a work-study," Bernstein said. "It combines and allows students to explore different aspects of each through a very project-oriented approach."
According to the apprenticeship's creators, the program also distinguishes itself from other Penn writing opportunities by the large degree of creativity that it affords participants.
"The apprenticeship program is much less structured than a normal class, which I like," Hsu said. "It allows us to improvise a lot, which makes it much more creative than a lot of the English classes."
The freedom that is central to the program makes it a viable alternative for students who feel constrained by the curriculum of English courses or even the restrictive nature of many individualized writing projects.
"The alternatives which exist for individualized learning don't really fit some students' needs, and the program is great because it is different for every student and can be tailored to meet students' needs," Bernstein said.
Because of the program's practical focus and the intensive interaction they experience with professional writers, many students hope to tailor the program to help them with their goals of pursuing careers as writers.
"I'm using the program to learn about writing poems and to observe an actual collection of poems being compiled and published," Hsu said. "I definitely want to publish some works one day, and I think the program will definitely help me to do that."