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The University of Iowa

Winter 2015


Parents of the Year

Bigger. Better. Best.

Midyear check-in

Classroom pass

'Writing University' offers something for everyone

'With a little help from my friends'

Deadline near for on-campus students to reapply for housing


Centennial Celebration


Daniel Khalastchi (left), writing center associate director, works in his Schaeffer Hall office with Ben Lederer (right), who graduated in December with an Undergraduate Certificate in Writing.

‘Writing University’ offers something for everyone

Ben Lederer figured it would be his degree in finance that would land him a job with an investment firm. No doubt, a degree from the University of Iowa’s prestigious Tippie of College of Business garnered special attention from the prospective employers who contacted him.

But there was something else on Lederer’s résumé that earned him a second look: an Undergraduate Certificate in Writing from the UI, home to the top-ranked writing program in the country.

Frank N. Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing

Established in 2011 through a gift from UI alumna Marilyn Y. Magid and her family in Cedar Rapids, the center honors the late Frank N. Magid, who believed writing was a key component of a liberal arts and sciences education and a successful career.

The center is home to:
• The Undergraduate Certificate in Writing
• The Iowa Writers Living-Learning Community
• Ink Lit Mag
• earthwords
• The Iowa Youth Writing Project

Learn more on the Center website or contact director Daniel Khalastchi at 319-384-1328

“The potential employers were impressed that I had received a writing certificate,” says Lederer, who graduated in December 2014 with a degree in finance and accepted a position with Fisher Investments in Portland, Oregon.

Though Lederer will start his job at Fisher talking with clients and managing their accounts, eventually he will write reports. His writing skills gave him an advantage over other applicants.

The Undergraduate Certificate in Writing is offered through the Frank N. Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Students of all majors can benefit from the university’s numerous writing programs by pursuing writing courses related to their majors, career goals, or personal interests.

While in the program, students take a minimum of 21 semester hours of approved writing courses that help them develop skills in a wide range of genres and for varied purposes. Students can select courses in creative writing, such as fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and playwriting, as well as those in scientific and technical writing. There are also courses in grant writing and writing for fields such as business, journalism, science, and the arts. Each student also completes a large-scale, independent capstone project or portfolio. 

Daniel Khalastchi, associate director of the Magid center, says the center opened in 2011 with the writing certificate program, but has since grown to include other writing and community service opportunities for students, including two student-run publications and a nonprofit.

“As the Magid center grows and expands, our hope is to continue providing University of Iowa students with unique learning opportunities in the field of writing—both creatively and professionally—through the wide-ranging courses, work experience, and community outreach programs we offer,” he says.

For Lederer, who grew up in Clarinda, Iowa, the writing certificate has served him both personally and professionally.

“Going through the writing certificate program helped me utilize some of the creativity that I had but wasn’t using in business lectures,” he says. “I learned that I’m a pretty reflective person and at a time like college, when I was feeling new stresses and pressures, it was easy for me to write down some of the personal conflicts I faced.”

By the time Skylar Moore graduates in May, she will have a bachelor’s degree in English as well as certificates in writing, entrepreneurial management, and nonprofit management.

Her dream? “I want to be the executive director of a nonprofit writing program.”

The Magid center offered Moore opportunities she credits with helping her grow up and build leadership skills, including serving as editor-in-chief for earthwords, an undergraduate literary publication, and volunteering with the Iowa Youth Writing Project, a nonprofit initiative to inspire creativity in youth across the state.

But for Moore, who grew up in a family struggling to make ends meet in the Quad Cities area, the center for writing also allowed her to embrace her experiences and use them to her advantage.

“Over the course of the certificate program,” she continues, “I came to accept my upbringing as something that formed me, and I now wear it with pride. By having asked more of myself than what felt comfortable, I feel I now can motivate people to ask more of themselves.”




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