The Excitement of the First Year

Van E. Hillard
Director, College Writing Program

This is an exciting moment for Davidson’s College Writing Program, as we offer our inaugural issue of Commonplaces. Our Writing Program has held to an ambitious mission: to nourish and promote the College’s rhetorical culture, a culture of argument, analysis, and strong thinking evidenced in the vast array of lab reports, position papers, literature reviews, critiques, and research essays that students produce across the disciplines.

When you have the opportunity to become readers of the students’ work collected here, I expect that you will find what our editorial board discovered: Davidson students are remarkably good writers. No doubt, this is a function of strong students working with caring teachers who have nourished these papers along and have urged students to make their work public. But the quality of these writings is also sparked by the excitement of the first year, a volatile combination of curiosity, freedom, and new intellectual responsibility–all of this happening in the “deep end,” where new students tend to thrive.

The ten essays collected here offer some indication of the breadth of rhetorical styles, writerly genres, and scholarly personae enacted by first-year students. The works range from literary interpretations to position papers to analyses of publicTextSculpture32-300x226 The Excitement of the First Year discourse, to film criticism to history and art writing. Prospective students can look here to glimpse what will be expected of them. Davidson faculty can look here to sense (and to judge) the work of writing in our courses. Current students will no doubt feel the push and pull of their colleagues’ accomplishments. 

Our editorial board made this first issue possible. Professor Ruth Ault (Psychology), Professor Randy Ingram (English), Professor Lynn Poland (Religion), and Professor John Swallow (Mathematics) each gave up some of that precious temporal commodity called summertime to read, review, and read again. Thank you all. Nancy Randazzo, the Writing Program’s Administrative Assistant, guided the journal with her steady proofing prowess and patience. Kristen Eshleman, Director of Instructional Technology, continues to teach me everything digital, and does so with grace–no small feat, given this digital immigrant’s learning curve. 

So, enjoy. And may the excitement of our first year also be yours.