Rhetoric Program

Writing Center Expands PresenceWriting Center Expands Presence
Brad Chester '17
The Writing Center collaborated with the Office of Student Affairs to expand the Writing Center into the freshman dorms, in addition to the fully staffed Writing Center. Full Story...

There is a reason Hampden-Sydney men are confident and articulate. Inspired by the mission of our first President, Samuel Stanhope Smith, the Rhetoric Program is a unique component of our curriculum. Smith, a Valedictorian of Princeton University, intended to model Hampden-Sydney after his alma mater, but with a "greater emphasis upon the cultivation of the English language than is usually done in places of public education."

Hampden-Sydney's current Rhetoric Program, established over thirty years ago, is based on a 1978 faculty resolution that states: All Hampden-Sydney graduates will write competently. Consisting of course work and examinations that focus on argumentative and analytical writing, the program is designed to assure that all graduates can write clearly, cogently, and grammatically. Instructors, supported by the Writing Center, emphasize the process of writing as well as the finished product. As persuasive communicators, graduates gain a considerable advantage in graduate or professional schools and in their careers.

Entering students write a diagnostic exam. While some may be exempted from writing courses because they demonstrate proficiency in writing, most students will enroll in Rhetoric 101, in which students learn to write expository and argumentative essays and to edit their work effectively, and then in Rhetoric 102, in which students hone their writing skills, learn to write researched essays, and work intensively on "rhetorical grammar" so that they can communicate their ideas in effective prose. Students who need preparation for the regular sequence of Rhetoric courses are enrolled in Rhetoric 100, a course that also focuses on argumentative writing and that helps students learn to write prose free from what the college identifies as major sentence-level errors.

Program Requirements
In each rhetoric course, students compose and revise numerous essays and take final essay and editing examinations. At the end of their sophomore year they write a three-hour timed essay on a topic not foreign to their experience. Rhetoric students may also participate in an annual essay contest. No student may be graduated from Hampden-Sydney College without attaining and demonstrating proficiency in writing.

The Value of the Rhetoric Program
While the rhetoric requirement may sound formidable to many freshmen, those who apply themselves to the task of learning to write well find the requirement fair and manageable-and well worth the effort. Hampden-Sydney graduates regularly tell us that in competitive situations - in professional and graduate schools, as well as in the job market-they have had a considerable advantage over other candidates because the rhetoric program gave them the ability to think clearly and write concisely - skills employers and graduate schools consistently demand and reward.

Class Size
All rhetoric classes have a 14-student maximum enrollment so that professors have sufficient time to read and grade their students' essays carefully and so that they have time to meet with their students in individual conferences at least twice each semester. Despite the relatively large number of sections of rhetoric that the College offers each semester (from 20 to 30), the staff works together to ensure unity of goals for the courses.

Hampden-Sydney's Rhetoric Program was recently featured in Inside Higher Ed: "Teaching for Better Writers."