As Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead packs his bags for North Carolina this summer, Alfred “Alfie” Guy, Jr. will begin his work in New Haven bringing Brodhead’s sweeping vision for writing instruction to life.
Currently the director of the expository-writing program at Johns Hopkins University, Guy will serve as the inaugural director of the new Yale College Center for Writing Instruction. Guy said he hopes to implement Yale’s long-term plan to integrate additional writing instruction into a far-reaching distribution of courses, including several in the physical and natural sciences.
The center, which does not yet have a physical location, will serve as an umbrella institution for Yale’s writing-based initiatives, such as the residential-college writing-tutor program.
“This represents a major step forward in trying to make the strengthening of student writing a feature potentially of every course,” said Brodhead, who will assume the Duke University presidency July 1. “We want students to learn to pay attention to their writing in all the contexts where they use it, and the center will be able to work with faculty in all departments to see how to strengthen writing instruction in their classes.”
As part of its implementation of the 2003 undergraduate academic review, Yale will institute new curricular requirements in the fall of 2005 under which undergraduates will have to complete two writing-intensive courses.
“The whole point is, you’re going to have to take classes that satisfy a writing requirement, but they won’t be classes in writing,” Brodhead said. “They’ll be classes in evolutionary biology or medieval history or political theory, courses that offer conscious strengthening of writing together with their academic focus.”
Guy plans to advise faculty and teaching assistants on innovative ways to integrate writing into courses while still maintaining the “intellectual heart” of the subject, he said in an interview Tuesday from Italy, where he is on sabbatical with his wife. For example, Guy proposed a course on public health that would be designed for non-science majors and would have quantitative and writing components.
“People think the world of Alfie Guy,” Graduate School Dean Peter Salovey, who will replace Brodhead as undergraduate dean, said. “This is clearly a person who will come to Yale and hit the ground running.”
Over the course of a few years, Guy plans to help develop more than 100 writing-intensive courses in the college.
“I don’t know what the culture of writing is at Yale, but my guess is students respect writing and could benefit from some other ways of approaching it,” Guy said. “There’s no reason to start by burning everything down. Writing can come as a private partner.”
Justin Cohen ’04, who served as a student representative on the academic-review committee, said he found Guy to be “very mature” regarding faculty relations.
“You’re not going to teach faculty on any level how to do their own teaching. It’s just not a productive enterprise,” Cohen said. “But Alfie is saying if you take a more active stance in incorporating writing into what already exists, then it’s amenable.”
When the cowboy hat-wearing, earring-studded Guy visited campus this spring he met with a few freshmen who impressed him with their bookish curiosity.
“I thought they would be scared,” Guy, 40, said. “But they were really kind and intellectually stimulating and kind of pushy in a way that I respect, being from New York.”
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