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Significant gift made to Northwestern Writing Program

Weinberg program to be renamed the Bobbie and Stanton Cook Family Writing Program

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Writing Program of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences will be renamed the Bobbie and Stanton Cook Family Writing Program on Wednesday (May 13) after the Cook family made a significant gift to the program that touches every part of Northwestern University.

Widely regarded for its leading-edge instruction combining tradition and innovation, The Writing Program has made it a mission to help all Northwestern students learn to write clearly, thoughtfully and effectively.

As the nexus of all writing services and resources on campus, the program exemplifies interdisciplinary learning and champions effective communication -- key ingredients for preparing Northwestern students for success in a globalizing world.

The gift by the Bobbie and Stanton Cook Family Foundation enables Weinberg to extend the Writing Program to include more offerings for juniors and seniors, to develop new partnerships for first-year programming and to expand its work beyond Weinberg to create writing-related curricula for other disciplines at Northwestern.

“We believe that clear writing and thinking are central to success in every academic discipline,” said Writing Program Director Robert Gundlach. “We also believe that writing is a complex activity worthy of study in itself.”

The Weinberg-based writing program is increasingly being recognized for its excellence, and that is attracting support and increased collaboration across the University, including in partnerships with other schools and programs at Northwestern such as the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Graduate Writing Place.

The Bobbie and Stanton Cook Family Foundation wanted to invest in a core strength of Northwestern, and the gift recognizes the Writing Program as one of the best writing programs in the nation.

The foundation’s gift was directed by Northwestern Trustee Stanton R. Cook, retired chairman of Tribune Company, and his daughter, Sarah Shumway (Kellogg MM, 1987), who were both impressed with the deep experience of writing program faculty and the program’s reach to all corners of the University.

”After spending so much of my life working at a great Chicago newspaper and running a national multimedia company,” Cook observed, “the idea of contributing meaningfully to such an outstanding writing program to help train the next generation of writers was very important to me.”

“We were fascinated by the fundamentals of the existing program and the possibility of promoting such strong teaching in the art of writing to a large and diverse student body,” said Shumway.

Other key goals for the gift are to:

  • Provide additional writing support for high-potential students, including those enrolled at Northwestern as well as participants in the University’s college-access programs.
  • Expand The Writing Place, Northwestern’s center for peer writing consultations, both physically and programmatically, to include a broader range and greater availability of in-person tutoring and consultation services.
  • Advance the writing program’s technological offerings, including improved online resources and digital communication expertise.

The gift comes at a time when Northwestern is expanding diversity at the University, and one goal of the Writing Program is to engage more extensively with high-potential undergraduates, some of whom come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds in Evanston, Chicago and beyond.

The Writing Program already engages with some of these students through the writing-focused Summer Academic Workshop program in the summer before freshman year. Writing Program faculty expect to do considerably more work along these lines -- during both pre-freshman summer “bridge” programming and in subsequent stages of students’ undergraduate careers.

Anticipated efforts include engaging with high school students and their instructors in the Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools and with colleagues in other college-access programs to determine priority needs in writing support.

Other goals of the program include expanding the peer-tutoring concept in the Writing Place, which offers tutoring and consultation to anyone in the Northwestern community. Plans could include having current Northwestern students serve as mentors and role models for high school students in college-access programs.

Writing Program courses are taught by a core of experienced faculty who are well known for their willingness to work closely with undergraduates. Courses are small so that instructors can meet regularly with students in individual conferences and comment extensively on student work.

To accomplish the goals of the program, faculty offer a variety of courses and services:

  • Introductory, intermediate and advanced courses in expository writing.
  • Weinberg College first-year seminars that emphasize writing and critical thinking.
  • Tutoring and consultation through The Writing Place.
  • Courses that writing faculty team-teach with faculty from other disciplines, such as Design Thinking and Communication, a two-course sequence team-taught with engineering faculty.
  • Online writing advice and resources (including NuWrite) for students and faculty.
  • Collaboration on workshops and programs run with other University units such as the English Department, the Department of Linguistics, the Center for Civic Engagement, the Center for the Writing Arts and the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence.

The Writing Program was founded in 1977 to ensure that Northwestern undergraduates have ample opportunities to learn to write clearly and persuasively. Since then, the program has offered courses at every level -- from introductory to advanced -- and worked with faculty across the University to help their students become more effective writers.

“We are very grateful for the Cook family’s extraordinary support,” Gundlach said.  “This gift will allow us to build on the Writing Program’s strengths and extend the reach of our work with students across the University.”

This gift comes at a pivotal time for Northwestern. A year ago, (March 14, 2014), the University announced its $3.75 billion fundraising campaign, We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, to address society’s critical challenges and prepare global leaders. The University-wide, multi-year effort will support initiatives across Northwestern.

Already, total giving to the campaign stands at $2.2 billion.

In addition, the University’s 2011 Strategic Plan recognizes writing and oral expression as critical to Northwestern’s future, and the Writing Program is integral in the University’s continued leadership in this area.

For information about Writing Program courses and faculty -- as well as the Writing Place, requirements, advice and NuWrite resources -- visit the program’s web site.

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