University Composition Program


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University Composition Program

Welcome to the University Composition Program!

We're proud to be part of Colorado State University's long tradition of excellence in undergraduate education: our Composition faculty bring diverse training, expertise, and research in writing theory and pedagogy; textual and visual rhetorics; professional and science writing; and print and visual design practices into the courses they teach.

On this page, you will find our program vision and mission statement, our commitment to diversity, and our program policies. We invite you to learn more about the University Composition Program by reading our values below.

The rhetoric and writing skills students learn in our composition courses can be widely applied to different writing situations and audiences. Read below about what our composition faculty value about the portability of rhetoric and composition.

Aly Welker sitting on an outdoor bench on the CSU campus

One of the things that I think is really important about rhetoric and composition is that it applies to everyone and to every situation. I tell my son, who is ten, “You know, think about your audience. You might think that joke is funny and your friend might think that joke is funny, but it's probably not appropriate to say to your teacher.” And we're teaching those same concepts on a much deeper level here. A writer’s understanding of their audience is so important to persuading an audience to get something done—to get a raise, to do new research, to start a new initiative, to change a perspective.” — Aly Welker

Michael Lamb smiling for the camera on CSU campus.

“In composition, we value teaching students how to use rhetoric as a method to write language persuasively to get things done. I teach my students how to use rhetoric effectively, so they can learn to persuade others but also so they can see how others use persuasion to get things done.” — Michael Lamb

Program Vision

Our courses provide students with opportunities to expand their critical thinking, reading, analysis, and writing abilities. Each course approaches writing as a rhetorical act accomplished through the effective use of writing processes and strategies. Students develop their research, argument, and writing skills, and use them to compose texts written for both academic and public audiences. Our courses focus on varied writing strategies and situations: composing for college, writing arguments, writing for the web, writing and style, and writing in the Arts and Humanities, Sciences, Social Sciences and Education.

Program Mission

In alignment with CSU’s land grant mission, the University Composition Program cultivates the intellectual work of writing by teaching students both to develop and deepen their written communications practices and to value writing and rhetoric as vital tools for global engagement:

  • Our curriculum fosters critical curiosity as students develop agility with both academic research and writing and the public discourses that will prepare them for success as university students, professionals, and citizens.
  • Our faculty support students as they become critical imaginative thinkers by teaching them to navigate rhetorical situations that value inclusive language practices.
  • Our courses focus on varied writing strategies and situations: composing for college, writing arguments, writing in digital spaces, writing and style, and writing in the Arts and Humanities, Sciences, Social Sciences and Education.

Diversity Statement

In line with CSU's commitment to diversity and inclusion, the University Composition Program stands in solidarity with people of all gender, ethnic, racial, and LGBTQIAa+ identities, ages, and abilities. We embrace the experiences of students with diverse socioeconomic, geographic and cultural backgrounds. We recognize that strong writing and communication skills are built upon varied life perspectives and expressed through lively and inclusive classroom conversations and writing opportunities. We commit to the intentional design of writing assignments built upon a wide range of published and lived research approaches, genres, and styles. Just as writers continually learn and develop their skills, we are open to active listening and learning and anticipate embracing change whenever opportunities to do so come our way.  In our effort to imagine and realize a more just and equitable world, the University Composition Program welcomes all students.

Principles & Goals

We aim to design, teach, and assess our composition curriculum and initiatives guided by these strategic principles and goals:

  • Curricular Innovation: Craft innovative composition curricula informed by contemporary research on the teaching of introductory and advanced writing in the field of composition and rhetorical studies and informed by the values of our land grant university.
  • Inclusive Design: Align composition curriculum and classroom experiences with CSU’s Principles of Community by actively engaging in inclusive and anti-racist teaching practices and creating and supporting contextually- and culturally-rich learning opportunities.
  • Pedagogical Excellence: Cultivate a culture of active learners in the science and art of teaching writing by recruiting and engaging composition faculty through innovative, responsive professional development and program assessment.
  • Reflective Practice: Strengthen opportunities for students and instructors to incorporate metacognitive reflection and revision practices into formal and informal writing work and evaluation practices.
  • Program Accountability: Foster a strong and supportive community by advocating for equitable and sustainable working conditions for composition faculty and by actively and regularly enlisting administrative feedback from faculty.

Program Policies

These policies guide our teaching and curriculum design to support student learning and success in the University Composition Program:


Since learning to write effectively in college and beyond depends upon regular interaction with other writers, the University Composition Program expects your active participation in all class sessions, small group and individual meetings, and with online work. Missing more than two weeks of class will make your successful course completion difficult. If you miss more than three weeks of class, you are strongly encouraged to take composition during an alternate semester.

In line with CSU policies, university-sanctioned events and religious holidays are considered excused absences; please speak with your instructor in advance about your participation in these events. If you have concerns about your ability to regularly attend class due to mental or physical well-being, please contact Student Case ManagementSince our courses rely heavily on workshops, discussions, and in-class practice, your attendance at each class is essential; our program courses are not simply lecture courses. According to the CSU General Catalog, “Students should attend all classes for which they are registered to obtain maximum educational benefits. Absence or lateness does not excuse students from required course work.” If you miss class, you are responsible for the learning missed, and we encourage you to meet with your classmates and attend your instructor’s office hours to learn the missed course material. If you stop attending class and/or have excessive absences, whether in an in-person or online course, you may not receive credit for work submitted to Canvas and you may fail the course. Your contributions, big and small, greatly impact our learning community and create a rich and dynamic learning environment through your presence and class contributions.

Academic Integrity

The University Composition Program wants to provide you with the best possible education. Providing this education means we take academic integrity seriously. Academic integrity means no one will use another person’s work as their own—including someone else’s ideas, words, graphics, images, and research. We know it may be challenging to know just what your instructor means by “academic integrity,” so let’s focus on the most common type of academic integrity issue we see in our writing courses: plagiarism. Here are a few of the most common examples of plagiarism:

  • Submitting someone else’s work as your own
  • Submitting an assignment or homework you have written for another class (aka self-plagiarism)  
  • Submitting an assignment or homework that was purchased or downloaded from the internet  
  • Submitting an assignment or homework that a peer, family member, or other person has helped you write
  • Using someone else’s ideas, language, research, and graphics and not properly attributing them 
  • Using a phrase (whether quotation or paraphrase) without acknowledging its source 
  • Summarizing, paraphrasing, or quoting a source without citing it correctly

We recognize in some instances you might be still learning to cite sources correctly; however, in all cases, you are responsible for correctly citing sources and should ask for help from your instructor or the Writing Center if you need it. Various other actions can also be considered plagiarism or breaches of academic integrity. To learn more about academic integrity and avoiding plagiarism, be sure to talk with your instructor for specific guidance. For a more complete definition of your academic integrity responsibilities, see the Student Code of Conduct.In each instance of plagiarism, whether accidental or purposeful, the instructor will meet with the student and then decide the consequences. Consequences may vary from the student rewriting an assignment to receiving a zero on the assignment to receiving an F in the course. In most cases, the Student Conduct Office will be notified.

AI and ChatGPT

Our Composition Program courses are specifically a space for learning and practicing invaluable writing and researching processes that cannot be replicated by generative artificial intelligence (AI). While the ever-changing (and exciting!) new developments with AI will find their place in our workforces and personal lives, in the realm of education, this kind of technology can counteract learning. This is because the use of AI diminishes opportunities to learn from our experiences and from each other, to play with our creative freedoms, to problem-solve, and to contribute our ideas in authentic ways. In a nutshell, college is a place for learning, and this AI simply cannot do that learning for us. Academic integrity plays a vital role in the learning that takes place in all Composition Program courses, and submitting work as your own that was generated by AI is plagiarism. For all of these reasons, any work written, developed, created, or inspired by generative artificial intelligence does not lend itself to our learning goals and is a breach of ethical engagement and CSU’s academic integrity policy. 

Mental Health

Taking care of your mental health is valuable heath care. We know college can be stressful, and we want you to know you are not alone. Your student fees provide access to a wide range of support services that you can access at no additional charge. CSU Health Network Counseling Services has trained professionals who can help. Call Counseling Services at (970) 491-6053 to talk about what services might be right for you or visit Counseling Services for additional student mental health and well-being resources. You can see all available resources on CSU’s Mental Health Resources page. If you want to start a more personalized approach to your well-being, we recommend you check out YOU at CSU.If you are concerned about a friend or classmate, use Tell Someone by calling (970) 491-1350 or visiting support and safety to share your concerns with a professional who can discreetly connect the distressed individual with the proper resources. Should you be concerned about your ability to regularly attend class due to mental or physical well-being, please contact Student Case Management where a case manager can help you navigate your situation.The University Composition Program cares about your well-being. Please make sure you know of all the resources available for you to take care of yourself.

Participation & Engagement

The University Composition Program courses rely on students’ engagement and active participation to create a dynamic writing and learning community. While we recognize your engagement in class may vary from day to day, your peers and instructor depend on your regular participation and engagement to support everyone’s learning experience. What do we mean by “participation” and “engagement”? In your composition class, your participation and engagement are valued in any way you demonstrate curiosity for the course content, actively learning course skills and content, and/or support for your classmates. Some concrete ways we encourage participation include, but are not limited to, asking questions in class; attempting to answer questions even if you’re incorrect; participating in small and whole-group discussion, whether in-person or online; showing leadership and mentorship among classmates; coming prepared with materials for class; demonstrating an overall interest in improving your writing and critical thinking skills; actively taking notes or following along with materials in front of you; communicating non-verbally; and using technology to support your and your peers’ learning. Our co-creation of knowledge through these classroom practices is central to the development of our learning community and your engagement will help our classroom community thrive.

Process Work

The University Composition Program values both the process of learning to write and the final products that emerge from that learning. Regularly practicing writing skills and rhetorical strategies allows you to practice and make mistakes, brainstorm and strategize, and rethink and revise. Our courses are designed to value these practices and processes through all stages of the writing process.

All University Composition Program courses include daily writing activities that support your refinement of your writing, reading, thinking, and rhetoric skills. This work is commonly called “process work,” as it emphasizes the importance of learning through the process of the activity. In our courses, process writing includes, but is not limited to, write-to-learn activities, written responses to readings, summary and response activities, brief analyses, explanations of rhetorical context, practice with and analysis of visual compositions, peer review and revision, drafts and workshopping, and written comparisons of composition theories and approaches. All process work will be graded; sometimes it will receive comments and sometimes it will not depending on the goal of the work. Process work also teaches you to engage in writing as a rhetorical act, which, in a simple sense, means that when we write, we are engaged in conversations that precede us and conversations that will continue long after us. Therefore, writing is very much a collaborative act that requires active participation among all members of a community. In our courses, our co-creation of knowledge and writing practices will be central to the development of our learning community. Your voice and the writing you create matter.