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English department produces custom text for first year composition students


BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 18, 2004 – The English Department at Virginia Tech is in the second year of a partnership with Pearson Custom Publishing in which faculty and students produce a custom text for approximately 3,000 students in first-year composition. This year, for the first time, those teaching in the composition program, and a number of student writers, authored the text.

Filled with photographs of the campus and quotes from faculty and administrators, "Composition: Writing, Revising, and Speaking" is a full-color text that highlights the joys and perils of the writing/speaking process, and guides students through a series of carefully designed assignments that build upon each other. The authors attempt to describe what is expected of students in an "A" paper, for example; and the text helps ease the transition students have to make as they begin to write at the college level. The text also features essays by student writers as well as critiques of those essays by the faculty who nominated them.

Student and faculty contributors will be honored in a special ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 21, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Shanks Hall Atrium, when they will receive VT/Pearson Prizes. These prizes will be presented by Jerry Niles, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Virginia Tech Provost Mark McNamee, and Pearson Custom Publishing executives.

In order to produce the custom text, some 40 instructors and a handful of professors worked collaboratively to design a text tailored to fit Virginia Tech students. As general editors of the text, Nancy Metz, associate professor of English, and Cheryl Ruggiero, an instructor in the Department of English, gathered hundreds of student evaluations so that the editorial board could find out what students really wanted in a textbook about writing and speaking.

The final price for the text was heavily discounted so that it would be affordable. (The text is priced at approximately $30, which works out to be $15 per semester for students in the two-course composition sequence.) As the text was faculty-authored, funds generated through royalties will be invested in the composition program for faculty development workshops and to revise the text in response to feedback from students.

The department will be working on an accompanying CD/DVD this year, which will again feature students and focus on oral presentations.