A liberal arts education prepares students to participate actively in democratic society. For this to happen, students must be encouraged to connect their studies to the world beyond the university.
Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing empower students to communicate specialized knowledge to a broad audience by teaching them to explain academic work in a way that makes the information relevant to others.
In 1984, David L. Lindauer, a professor of economics at Wellesley College, introduced a seminar, Economic Journalism, designed to teach senior economics majors to write about their field using language someone who had never studied it would understand. Each week, he asked them to engage with the course material by writing pieces intended for a public audience, which they would revise after going through rounds of peer editing and in-class workshopping.
The course was a success, providing a useful complement to the skills students had developed in their major. The pedagogy Lindauer developed proved adaptable to other disciplines, encouraging its widespread adoption among Wellesley’s faculty. The first Calderwood Seminars were offered in 2013; today, 15% to 20% of a class at Wellesley will have completed one before graduating.
Lindauer began expanding the Calderwood Seminars program, of which he is the director, to other colleges and universities in 2018. More than a dozen institutions now offer Calderwood Seminars, and
Photograph by Richard Howard
that number continues to grow. Over 130 faculty members from across the disciplines have offered the seminars, and over 2,600 students have enrolled in one.
Through the program, students gain confidence in their knowledge, their writing, and themselves. Students and faculty often describe Calderwood Seminars as their favorite courses.
The seminars are named for Stanford Calderwood (1921–2002), who worked briefly as a reporter for United Press International in the 1940s and later became a successful venture capitalist. He was also a major benefactor of the arts in the Boston area.
Stan Calderwood placed high value on writing and communication. When Wellesley College approached the Stanford Calderwood Charitable Foundation for financial support for seminars in public writing, the trustees felt it was a natural fit. John Cornish, one of the trustees, later commented, “Of all of the wonderful programs and projects we have supported since Stan’s death, he would be most proud of your seminars.”
A more detailed biography of Stan Calderwood is available here.
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