Distinction in Writing

A program that recognizes students who pursue and achieve writing excellence beyond the classroom.


The Distinction in Writing program encourages Writing majors to explore opportunities in addition to the regular curriculum. While the major prepares students with the fundamentals needed to succeed, the program recognizes that the most successful students pursue a wide variety of experiences and accomplishments. Often these out-of-class activities enrich our lives, shape us, help us to be the active, creative, humane people we aspire to be. The Distinction in Writing program recognizes students who pursue and achieve writing excellence beyond the classroom.

These webpages outline the Distinction in Writing program requirements as well as provides an overview of its major components. Students should read through all of this information before making a decision to engage in the program. If you would like a booklet that contains this information, stop into the Department of Writing office (LOH 326).


Any Writing major is eligible to participate in the program. A student’s GPA must be at least 3.33 in the Writing major when the final portfolio is submitted.

Application Process

Students who would like to complete the Distinction in Writing program should express their intent by submitting a form to a departmental advisor (form available in LOH 326). Students should complete the application form at least two semesters prior to graduation, but four semesters is ideal. Students begin planning for this program in concert with their advisor beginning the junior year and complete all components in two years. 

Professor Toth working with students

Like all WRT faculty advisors, Professor Toth meets with students and offers guidance on completing the Distinction in Writing program.

Intention to complete the Distinction in Writing program. Complete and submit this form when you begin the program.

* denotes a required field

Human Verification *

Responsibilities of the Student

This program is based entirely on the initiative of the student. Therefore, it is the student’s responsibility to seek and complete appropriate activities, retain any required documentation, and keep in regular contact with their advisor. The program provides the framework, but the student enacts the program. Students completing the program are expected to attend a status update meeting with all participants every year in early January.

Role of the Advisor

When a student expresses interest in the Distinction in Writing program, the advisor should encourage the student by providing guidance towards activities that might best suit that particular student. The advisor and student will frankly discuss the student’s strengths and weaknesses in a constructive working relationship. The advisor acts as a mentor, first to help understand the student’s vision, and then to help guide the student toward the realization of that vision


The student chooses four of five program components to complete. In addition, students must also complete a final portfolio (with narrative, résumé, and artifacts).

Each component allows students to apply their writing skills and talents to a specific and significant project. In order to receive credit for a component within the program, a student must finish either one (1) Level A activity or two different (2) Level B activities.

The activities listed under each component on the following pages are offered as suggestions. A student and advisor should not limit themselves to the listings alone but instead should use the activities as a guide toward tailoring the program and the specific activities to suit each student. Many of the activities within the components will likely have a certain degree of overlap with one or more of the other components. The student and advisor should work together to ensure the student completes the program with a broad range of activities represented.

Time Commitment

The total time commitment should be roughly equivalent to two additional courses.

Typically, Level A activities require a semester-long commitment while Level B activities require a briefer—but still substantial—commitment. Two different Level B activities should be roughly “equal” to one Level A activity when considering time and the eventual product. The final designation is the responsibility of the advisor.


Students who complete the program and meet all requirements by the deadline will receive a department honor cord to wear at graduation. Additionally, the students’ names will be added to a plaque in the Writing Department. Completed portfolios will be displayed during the Department of Writing’s Annual Awards Ceremony in April.

The Portfolio

The portfolio component of the Distinction in Writing program is meant to achieve four goals:


  1. To help the student document successful engagement with the program.
  2. To foster reflection on how participation in the program contributes to the student’s professional and personal development.
  3. To give the student a tangible product as a result of completing the program—a product that might, in alternative form, serve as a job-seeking portfolio or application materials for graduate school.
  4. To give the department a means of recognizing and celebrating the achievements of its Distinction in Writing students and alumni.



Because the Distinction in Writing program is flexible, allowing students to participate in events and experiences that reflect their unique interests and talents, there is no standardized “look” or table of contents for the portfolio. It is up to students, in consultation with their advisors, to provide evidence of completion of the program by assembling a portfolio that includes a résumé, narrative, and artifacts following these general guidelines:

Picture of finished portfolios

Students create a portfolio to help document successful engagement with the program. Archived portfolios are available to read in the Department of Writing office.



  • The portfolio must include a résumé that highlights a student’s engagement with the various components of the program. 
  • The résumé might make mention of internships, volunteer commitments, descriptions of major projects, honors/awards, publications or presentations, or other Distinction in Writing related work.


  • The portfolio must include a brief (no more than two single-spaced pages) reflection that introduces the artifacts included in the portfolio and describes the student’s engagement with the program. The narrative should discuss the student’s larger growth as a Writing major by completing this program.
  • The audience for this reflective narrative is the Writing Department generally—faculty and students who are interested in learning more about participant’s engagement with the program.
  • The narrative should make clear which four program components the student completed.


  • The portfolio must include a selection of between four and eight unique artifacts generated during the student’s engagement with the four chosen program components. 
  • These artifacts might include publications, internship projects, or journals or brief reflections about Distinction in Writing activities. 
  • At least one artifact from each completed component of the program must be included in the portfolio.

Portfolio Submission Guidelines

  • The student is responsible to compile and keep track of the documents in the portfolio. 
  • The portfolio is due to the student’s advisor on the deadline date for each semester.
  • The portfolio will be read by the advisor to verify the student’s successful completion of the Distinction in Writing Program. The portfolio will also be reviewed by a second faculty reader in the Writing Department. Faculty may request students make revisions to the portfolio before it is officially approved.
  • Upon the student’s graduation, the Writing Department will retain the portfolio for assessment and archival purposes. Thus, students participating in the program are responsible for keeping copies or extra originals of all artifacts submitted in the portfolio.

Important Submission Deadlines

Your Distinction in Writing portfolio must be submitted to your advisor no later than the following dates:

  • Fall Graduation: November 1
  • Winter Graduation: March 15

Because your advisor is likely to have feedback for revision, you should submit solid drafts well before these deadlines.

Page last modified August 2, 2023