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Funny... I don't feel dead! If you've forgotten JMC - You weren't there!

An academy for wandering minstrels
Equipping lifelong learners to pursue personal and professional interests in art, activism, law, education, business, medicine, international affairs, social services, science, management, media, and more.
* Michigan State University's first, most experimental, and most innovative residential college *


What constituted, in your opinion, the writing requirement for JMC students?


The classic 15 page final paper summing up the entire quarter's readings.

- David Brigode (Student: 1969 - 1973)


The one year I&E course was generally considered superior to the University required literature and writing course. Written papers were usually expected for JMC classes, but other media were also sometimes allowed to be used in creative projects. (Randy Whitaker and I collaborated on a tape-recorded project analyzing science fiction thematic elements in popular music of the time for our Science Fiction course.) Compared to my geology and other science classes, I had a far greater writing requirement than Geology majors, which helped considerably in graduate school. There was no senior thesis requirement, which might be something to consider for a new program.

- Paul M. Buehrle (Student: 1969 - 1973)


The formal "writing requirement" of the College occurred in the first year and consisted of very small classes (no more than 7 students) meeting three times a week with a professor. Each student had to bring a two to three page essay on a topic (and enough copies for the class) and then we evaluated our writing together with the professor. We also had to write a journal, which was turned into the professor every so often. It was a great experience. Secondly, there was an informal writing process in that all of the exams given in the college were written examinations, and not the multiple choice or electronically graded systems of the larger University.

- Dennis Hall (Student: 1965 - 1969)


During my years in JMC, Inquiry and Expression was the writing requirement. I never took it. But I did attend *many* film screenings, and as part of a deal allowing me to substitute English-department writing classes for I&E, I also assisted in a section, an experience which made it pretty easy for me to get a graduate teaching fellowship.

- Mark Harris (Student: 1973 - 1977)


Only one I&E class was demanding enough. I wish there had been more.

- Leonard Kaufmann (Student: 1967 - 1969)


The first-year course consisted of topics/books/movies introduced in larger groups and dissected in small seminars that required weekly writing. All the elective courses had a separate independent study credit. There was a constant emphasis on writing throughout the curriculum.

- Carl Koivuniemi (Student: 1965 - 1969)


It seemed like most of my classes had essay exams and that required one to write a lot. The tutorials freshman year were also daunting to me. But I survived and learned. I'm afraid I don't remember much about their structure other than we wrote on NCR paper.

- Suzanne Levy (Student: 1965 - 1969)


As referenced above, the shared work reviewed in Inquiry and Expression courses, as well as essays written for the varied coursework.

- William McGarvey (Student: 1966 - 1971)


Lots of research papers and intense writing program in first year; I got a lot out of it and think that writing now days is even more important because so many kids come out of college with very poor writing skills. The usefulness of expression is valuable in itself but also is a very important life skill in surviving economically.

- Joe Milkes (Student: 1967 - 1971)


This was never quite clear to me when I was there. I believed that there was a senior paper to be evaluated by a faculty committee, but I did not participate in this. I did require writing on the part of my students in every class, even those in which students had "hands-on" projects to complete.

- Pamela Oestreicher (JMC faculty: 1976 - 1978)


We had those I&E classes, you had to write about your field experience, and I think you had to take some other Arts/Humanities classes, most of which included some writing challenges.

- Cleo Parker (Student: 1974 - 1978)


There was not a requirement of a writing skills and grammar component. To this day, I have a difficult time writing well. (I got out of the basic writing skills with all the I&E options.) Video production was fun, but gave me few skills that were substantial to my future.

- Kathryn (Pinkus Cohen) Reiss (Student: 1968 - 1971)


The freshman Inquiry and Expression program provided a weekly lecture from which students drew themes for writing assignments. Journaling was required, and creative writing — particularly poetry — usually sprung up in journals. I&E expanded to include graphic arts and film or video.

Dr. Herman Struck’s numerical word count approach to composition did not appeal to freshman; Dr. Struck admitted to me once that his approach worked better with graduate students.

- Charles K. Roberts (Student: 1966 - 1970)


Writing emphasis in most courses, which is a critical part of any liberal arts college education.

- Nancy R. Shaffer (Student: 1972 - 1975)


Not sure how to answer. I created writings that were graduate level, and I can write a brief in less time than most now.

- Deborah Sirotkin Butler (JMC Student: 1966 - 1970)


Most of my JMC courses required term papers.  I&E, as a basic composition course, did not seem to me to be more than ordinarily effective in teaching writing.  The movies were great for building community, however.

- John Stick (Student: 1971 - 1975)


I remember writing in all of my courses. We would write often, and with thought and vision, in every possible subject. Now they call it ‘writing across the curriculum’ in schools. I really enjoyed this part of the study.

- Darlene Swartz-Hubsky (Student: 1969 - 1973)


JMC had a strong focus on writing, for which I am eternally grateful. We had a rigorous freshman writing class, Inquiry and Expression. Virtually all of the JMC classes I took required papers. There were very few, if any, examinations. There was a writing requirement in virtually every JMC class. That is important. As a lawyer, much of my work product is written. In my practice, I see a lot of lawyers and other professionals that cannot communicate with the written word. Universities need to put much more emphasis on writing.

- Robert Walter (Student: 1969 - 1974)


Sometimes I think 'Inquiry and Expression' could have served as the label for the entirety of the JMC concept. As it was 'I & E' was a year-long sequence of courses collectively intended to equip us for individual analysis and, well, 'expression'. The first term was dedicated to critical analysis of selected works (books and films) and the generation of weekly essays which were themselves critiqued with a small circle of fellow students and an instructor. In subsequent terms the 'skills development' was extended to longer written works, public speaking, and even video production. Through the I & E sequence, JMC students were given practical experience in understanding and creating 'content', as well as practical exposure to the 'vehicles' by which such content is made available.

This writing emphasis was recurrently reinforced in JMC courses (seminars typically requiring written papers for grades) and in independent studies (where final written reports were usually the product). The JMC environment emphasized student writing to a degree I suspect applied nowhere else within the University (certainly not outside the humanities departments).

One of the major recurrent problems I see with today's graduates is a almost total lack of skills in both inquiry and expression. Much of the training I give young researchers has nothing to do with technical knowledge; instead it largely consists of tutoring them on how to conduct and report on research, as well as how to operate in the research community.

Though often taken for granted because it was a 'basic freshman' course sequence, Inquiry and Expression was perhaps the most pragmatically important component of the JMC curriculum. I strongly recommend that something of similar thrust and scale be incorporated in any future liberal arts and sciences curriculum. One could do a lot worse than to simply resurrect the original JMC I & E model for a one-year sequence.

One important note… It is all too obvious that there have been major changes in practical communications since JMC was a viable College. Public speaking is now a matter of MC-ing a Powerpoint presentation. More and more business and personal communication is done via the Internet. However, as the old saying goes: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." The newer communication techniques still require clarity of thought and a capacity for expressing those thoughts through communicational artifacts.

Most importantly, one should always bear in mind that for all the graphical gimmicks festooning today's Internet, the medium is overwhelmingly 'textual' with respect to those features most intrinsic to modern vocational life (e.g., Web pages, email, and online chats). The textual skills whose decline went unabated because we figured writing was unnecessary are now the very skills the most modern workplace media demand.

I've been repeatedly told that one of my unique and valuable assets is my writing ability. A considerable portion of my senior-level research work consists of writing and making presentations. In some circles I am a one-man 'brand name' for analysis and illustrative presentation - i.e., 'inquiry' and 'expression'. At the collegiate level, I owe it all to I & E.

I consider this to be the single most important - and most practical - component of a prospective liberal arts and sciences curriculum. Updated to incorporate (e.g.) presentation media and Internet features (e.g., Web page creation), I believe our defunct year-long I & E sequence would still be invaluable.

- Randy Whitaker (Student: 1969 - 1973)

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