Program News


Learn by Writing
The Composition Program has continued its commitment to helping students learn to write more effectively. After completing their first-year writing courses, students have studied how writing can help them explore complex ideas, perspectives and experiences. In effect, writing can help students create and master knowledge.

Just a few highlights from the program... 

Fresh Voices: Composition at Cal Poly

The Collection:
In fall 2017, the Composition Program will publish its eleventh edition of Fresh Voices: Composition at Cal Poly, a collection of student writing that showcases the abilities of Cal Poly’s student writers. For the first time, students enrolled in English 145 have been invited to submit their work to the collection. The goal is to make this collection a staple text in as many first-year writing classes as possible.

This year’s editorial committee was co-chaired by Brenda Helmbrecht, Jason Peters, and Dawn Janke. And additional composition faculty worked together to select the essays: Carol Curiel, Scott Ferree, Sean Green, Morgan Livingston, Rebekah Maples, and Justin Swanson. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact the University Bookstore or Brenda Helmbrecht (

The Reception:
In September 2016, the composition program held its third “Fresh Voices Award Reception” to honor those students whose essays were selected for the publication. The reception was held in the University Art Gallery. Students—many of whom attend with friends and family—were awarded a certificate of achievement and a copy of Fresh Voices by the writing instructor who worked with them. The celebration is truly a wonderful way to kick off the new academic year. Additional images from the event can be seen on Flickr.  


Cal Poly Safety Kit Infographic

The Technical and Professional Communication Program continues to grow, adding new students and classes to the certificate program. This past year, five students graduated with the newly updated Technical and Professional Communication Certificate—Mialani Federico, Claire Phillips, Malamatenia Wilson, Becky Zieber, and Jessica Dinh. In addition to taking courses in the English Department, these students pursued elective courses in other departments—including Communication Studies, Liberal Arts/Engineering Studies, and Computer Science. The certificate holders further completed a quarter-long internship related to technical and professional communication to gain real-world experience in the field. Internships included working for local non-profits, companies like Hewlett Packard, and on Cal Poly’s new Cybersecurity Case Library Journal.

Technical and Professional Communication students were also active this past year, participating in interdisciplinary projects across the university. Most notably, students worked as editors, copy editors, and writers for the Cal Poly Cybersecurity Case Library, “an undergraduate research journal that explores contemporary topics in cybersecurity.” The journal brings together undergraduate students from multiple disciplines to research and explain how cybersecurity issues affect fields beyond computer science. English major Brian Kinnee co-wrote an article with computer science student Grant Blake; their piece “Blockchain Databases and the Ongoing Drive to Secure Information” was published in the inaugural issue. English senior Mialani Federico was instrumental in the publication of the journal; she acted as managing editor for her senior project and was responsible for tasks such as facilitating the design of the journal, organizing editing, and working with a publisher to deliver a hard copy of the journal by the end of the 2016-17 academic year. English students Amanda Jenkins, Riley Smith, Clarisse Wangeline, and Malamatenia Wilson contributed their copy editing skills to the project.

Students in the certificate program further found ways to share their technical communication coursework with organizations affiliated with Cal Poly. Multiple students from this year’s English 319—Information Design and Production course created infographics that were offered to university partners. GRC student Danica Liang designed an infographic about the “model minority” stereotypes affecting Asian Americans; her design was displayed in Cal Poly’s Multi-Cultural Center. LAES student Emily Dunlap created a suite of information designs illustrating safety precautions recommended by Cal Poly’s Department of Emergency Management.


TESL students with John Battenburg
TESL students

Sixteen students graduated from the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) program this year and are headed to teaching posts abroad and at home, to graduate and professional schools, and to careers in public service and the private sector. During the year, TESL students taught in classrooms with cooperating teachers at Cuesta College, Allan Hancock College, and several of San Luis Obispo County's K–12 schools; many also tutored international and domestic English language learners here at Cal Poly. The program continues to attract new candidates from across campus and looks forward to the return of Professor John Battenburg from his Fulbright Fellowship in Morocco. 




Cal Poly Submit-a-thon
Students at Submit-a-Thon

This past year, the Cal Poly English Department welcomed Mira Rosenthal as our new professor of poetry. Rosenthal is both an accomplished poet, with her collection of poems winning the Wick Poetry Prize, and a noted translator. This coming year she will join Krista Kauffman in overseeing our undergraduate literary journal, Byzantium.

Over the previous year, the creative writing program brought a number of authors to campus. In fall quarter, they brought Carmiel Banasky, first-time novelist and author of The Suicide of Claire Bishop. In winter, they brought Jay Asher, New York Times bestselling author of 13 Reasons Why, which was recently made into a Netflix miniseries. In spring, they brought Hilary Kaplan, the translator of Brazilian poet Angélica Freitas’ Rilke Shake, which won the 2016 Best Translated Book Award and the 2016 National Translation Award. Next fall, the entire creative writing faculty is excited to host a reading with former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Our students continue to write and publish their works. In winter quarter, Rosenthal sponsored a Submit-a-Thon, where a dozen students spent an evening together submitting their poems and stories to literary journals. At least two students have been published as a result of this event! It is sure to be an annual tradition.

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