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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 7, 2006

UI Provost Implements Recommendations Of Writing University Task Force

University of Iowa Executive Vice President and Provost Michael J. Hogan is moving forward on several recommendations included in the report of an ad hoc task force that spent much of last academic year considering ways to build on the UI's longstanding reputation as the nation's premiere "writing university." 

Hogan appointed the Writing University Task Force last fall and gave it a dual charge: to explore possibilities for developing synergies among the various groups that contribute to Iowa's reputation as "the writing university"; and to formulate five-year and 10-year strategic plans for UI investment in creating a "writing corridor," with particular attention to the allocation of space and to funding models for new projects.  

"The University of Iowa is known all over the world for its world-class writing programs," said Hogan. "Iowa's programs have been a model and an inspiration for others for decades, and Iowa City is a powerful magnet for writers. But I believe we can do more, and do an even better job of bringing the value of our writing programs to a larger audience. How best to build on this key strength is the challenge I asked this group to take on."

Hogan commended the Task Force, co-chaired by Vice Provost Pat Cain and International Writing Program director Christopher Merrill, for its work.

"I was gratified by the enthusiasm with which the task force members attacked their charge," he said. "And I wasn't surprised they had such good ideas. This is an extraordinarily creative group of people, and I know they're excited by the opportunity to take the programs they've nurtured to the next level."

Hogan has approved and begun to take action on several recommendations in the report, including:

* Creation of a Writing Neighborhood. The Task Force recommended several strategies for physically grouping writing programs closer together on campus, and building better architectural connections among them. One strategy involves the renovation of two houses--Bowman House and 111 Church Street--to house all or part of several programs that, though small, are integral to the literary culture of Iowa City, including the Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry (POROI), Electronic Journals, and the Virtual Writing University. In addition to bringing these programs together, the move will bring them into closer proximity with the Writers' Workshop (in the Dey House) and the International Writing Program (in the Shambaugh House). 

* The Virtual Writing University. The Task Force recommended that the UI invest in expanding the Virtual Writing University, which includes the many electronic journals housed at the UI (see and the Virtual Writing University Archive, a joint project by the UI's writing programs and the School of Library and Information Science to create a digital repository of recorded programs such as readings sponsored by the Writers' Workshop and the International Writing Program. The Virtual Writing University Archive can be found online at

* Establishment of Postgraduate Writing Fellowships. Writing Fellows -- chosen from among graduating students in the Writers' Workshop, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Translation Program, the Playwrights' Workshop, and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication -- will receive a stipend, office space, and the opportunity to live and work in 111 Church Street, which the Task Force would like to see transformed into a "writers' house." Though the Fellowships are designed to give writers time and space to complete significant projects, Fellows will also gain valuable administrative experience working with UI writing programs, and will commit to serving the University through activities like readings, working with undergraduate writing groups, and tutoring and mentoring undergraduates individually. The first four Writing Fellows will be Will Smiley, Angali Sachdeva, and Kiki Petrosini, all from the Writers' Workshop; and Mia Nussbaum from the Nonfiction Writing Program. 

* Continuing to support the Iowa Review. The Task Force recommended that the Provost and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences appoint a review committee to suggest strategies for the future success of the Iowa Review, the UI's 36-year-old literary journal. A self-study is now underway.

Other recommendations still under consideration include:

* Hiring a director of Translation Studies. The UI's Translation Workshop, which leads to the MFA in literary translation, was the first program of its kind in the country, and has served as a model for other universities ever since. The program has been without a director for the past seven years, and the Task Force strongly recommends that the UI make filling that position a top priority.

* Development of a new undergraduate major in creative writing, and a new doctoral program in writing and public culture. Both programs would require approval by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, and would begin no earlier than 2007-08. The Task Force also recommends creating a writing certificate program, so that students in any major will be able to earn a credential that attests to their concentration on developing strong writing skills.

In addition to Cain and Merrill, the Writing University Task Force included faculty and staff from the Writers' Workshop, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the UI Press, the Summer Writing Festival, Broadcasting Services, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and several departments of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including Cinema and Comparative Literature, Communication Studies, English, and Theatre. The Task Force's full report may be found online in pdf format at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Stephen J. Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,; Program: Christopher Merrill, 319-335-2609,; Writer: Kris Yows

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