Magazine On-line [fall 2009]
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Writing, rhetoric, and communication major, chemistry: biochemistry track added to curriculum

A major in writing, rhetoric, and communication, and a biochemistry track within the chemistry program are the newest additions to the Transylvania curriculum.

The writing, rhetoric, and communication (WRC) major allows students to explore the many ways in which humans communicate, including the classical rhetoric of ancient Greece, contemporary writing in many varieties, and speech and debate.

“A student majoring in writing, rhetoric, and communication is interested in reading, writing, and looking at culture very closely and critically,” said WRC professor Scott Whiddon. “They will be able to take what they learn about audience, purpose, genre, and discourse and apply it to many areas of their careers and lives.”

WRC faculty

Writing, rhetoric, and communication faculty meet in the writing center, from left, Scott Whiddon, Martha Gehringer, Gary Deaton, and Martha Billips.

Gary Deaton, WRC instructor, program director, and director of forensics, said the program’s areas of study are rooted in the classical era of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates, among others.

“The teachers and thinkers of the classical era, in the way they contemplated the world, were the foundation of a liberal arts way of learning,” Deaton said. “A lot of it had to do with how they thought about relationships among people, the ways of moving people to act, and the communication of these messages both orally and in written form.”

Martha Gehringer, WRC instructor and director of the Writing Center, likes the opportunities the new WRC major offers students who have an abiding interest in the written word.

“Writing is part of everything students do at Transylvania, but this is the first time we’ve given them the opportunity to make that the primary intention of their four years here,” she said. “For students who truly love to write, this will give their course of studies the attention it deserves.”

Possible outcomes for WRC majors include graduate programs in the three disciplines that might lead to teaching or research careers, professional programs such as law school, or careers as communications or human resources staff members at a variety of companies or organizations. Print and broadcast journalism, along with public relations, are also possible career paths.

Dylan Holland, a senior WRC major, will be among the first group of students to graduate under the new curriculum. He sees his major as a versatile degree that will allow him to pursue an interesting choice of career paths.

“I’ve thought about being a teacher or writer, and those are both still open to me,” he said. “It’s the thing I love most about this major, that there are a lot of ways you can go with it.”

The major also brought him in touch with the forensics program and the Writing Center, both of which have given him highly valued experiences.

“I took an Argumentation and Debate class from Gary Deaton and ended up liking it so much that I joined the debate team,” he said. “I enjoy this a lot. We went to the national tournament and did very well.”

Visit the WRC program Web site.

Chemistry: biochemistry track gives students the opportunity to combine their interests in biology and chemistry to explore the point at which chemicals interact to create living organisms.

Eva Csuhai“We’ve always had the courses that a biochemistry track would contain, and now we have grouped them for the students to have as a path,” said chemistry professor and program director Eva Csuhai (seen left with students in the new lab). “It’s an interdisciplinary course of study. You have biology and you have chemistry—biochemistry is the link between the two.”

Among the outcomes for students in this variation of the chemistry major would be graduate work in biomedical research, along with professional schools and other graduate programs, teaching, and industry.

Sydney Blevins, a senior who is following the chemistry: biochemistry track, plans to attend graduate school and earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry or a related field. Her career goal is to do research or teach at the college level. She spent the summer of 2009 at Texas A&M University, working in the biochemistry department with a graduate student on a project that used yeast to study activities at the cellular level.

“I was originally a biology major, but after taking some chemistry classes, I realized I was more interested in the chemistry of how biological systems work,” she said. “I find it fascinating and amazing how molecules interact and eventually control our metabolism, how our blood flows, and how we breathe. I’m excited that future Transy students will have this opportunity to explore both areas and bring them together.”

Editor’s note: Holland and Blevins were able to complete their respective major requirements in the first year of the new programs as a result of having prepared for a special major pattern beginning in their sophomore years.

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