Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing – now at the University of Washington

closeup of a block of glass on a desk that reads: Write without fear, edit without mercy

Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing are upper-division seminars providing cross-genre writing instruction. Students read and write policy briefings, journal articles, blog posts, editorials, the personal essay, and a variety of other formats in these dynamic seminars.

Through a rigorous process of writing, editing and peer feedback, students in Calderwood seminars adopt a fresh view of their major within an interdisciplinary context and translate their expertise into accessible modes of communication to broader audiences.

Read more about the mission of the Calderwood Foundation and the important work these seminars are doing at colleges across the nation.

UW Honors is hosting its second year of Calderwood seminars during 2020-2021 and is grateful to the Calderwood Foundation for supporting approximately six seminars at UW per year over a total of three years. These eighteen seminars bring together faculty and students from across departments in the social sciences, humanities and arts, and STEM fields.

What UW faculty are saying about the Calderwood seminars…

“This style of course was nothing like I have ever experienced before, but it is an experience that I will hold with me and allow to guide me as I continue my writing career. I am forever grateful for this experience.”

“One of the biggest challenges the world is facing is understanding how to come together in support of one another. Academic institutions can effectively introduce things like the Calderwood model to bring more attention to the importance of teamwork. This would create a learning environment that pushes students beyond the scope of academics, bringing the world closer one step at a time.”

“I think the biggest overall writing take away I had of the quarter was to understand the sheer diversity of approaches to a single topic. Such a wonderful delve into the complexities and diversity of writing — I thoroughly enjoyed this course”

Calderwood Seminars at UW (upcoming)

Autumn 2020

HONORS 210 C: Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing: Mestizx Consciousness and the ‘Racial’ Shadow (VLPA, DIV) – 5 credits

Faculty lead: Juliana Villegas, English/Honors

SLN 16128 (View UW registration info »)

In this seminar we will become familiar with the genre of Mestiza/o/x literature and engage in informed conversation about this body of literature in the United States. We will look globally at critical mixed race and border identities and consider epistemological questions, power, and privilege. Relatedly, a key goal of this seminar is to practice public writing through a variety of creative expressions and through collaborative work with peers for community building and activism (praxis).

We will write to articulate understanding of texts and engage in the complexities of identity and its construction (individual, family, community, nation, etc.). Students will write weekly and be authors and editors in a collaborative active learning environment with sensitivity to different learning and communication styles.  Students will also have the opportunity to learn about digital storytelling and create a multimedia digital story of their own.

HONORS 230 B: Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing: #BlackLivesMatter in Historical Context (withered AES) (I&S, DIV, “W”) – 5 credits

Faculty Lead: TaSha Levy, American Ethnic Studies

SLN 16133 (View UW registration info »)

This course explores the emergence of #BlackLivesMatter as a critical development in a long history of Black resistance to anti-black racism and state violence. While the recent movement has organized campaigns against police shootings, mass incarceration and other iterations of racial marginalization, #BlackLivesMatter also conjures specific intellectual and activist traditions in African American history. In this course, students will examine the origins of #BlackLivesMatter as an ideological intervention, alongside the historical events, organizations, and leaders who have given it inspiration. Course material will engage the political thought of Ida B. Wells, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Assata Shakur and Ella Baker—all of whom figure prominently in #BlackLivesMatter historical frames. Students will also engage an ever-growing body of intellectual interventions (both academic and public scholarship) that interrogate the social, cultural, and economic contexts of racial violence in the United States and beyond.

This course provides an excellent opportunity for students to explore the art of public writing in relation to the rise of a social movement. As students engage recent scholarship, music, and documentaries related to the Black Lives Matter movement they will also sharpen their editorial and analytical skills through peer review and public commentary.

Prior to the first day of class, students are required to view “Queer on the Frontlines of #BlackLivesMatter” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YHs9jIH-oo) and write a 350-word blog post that explores how the short feature confirmed and/or challenged your perceptions of the movement.

HONORS 230 A: Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing: Migration Stories and the Idea of America (I&S, DIV)

Faculty Lead: Joel Walker, History and Near East Language and Civilization

SLN 16132 (View UW registration info »)

This seminar course will invite students to think carefully about the experience of migration to America from Africa and other regions. The course will not offer a history of immigration – a topic better examined in other History Department courses – but instead use films, novels, and memoirs to reflect on the experiences of immigrants and the stories told by and about them. As part of the course, students will also develop skills to tell their own immigration stories in written, visual, audio or musical formats. These narratives can be autobiographical or they can tell the stories of family members or other people (living or dead) who had remarkable immigration histories. 

This course is linked to a creative residence at UW’s Meany Hall for the Performing Arts by the musician Meklit Hadero (meklitmusic.com), who will attend some sessions of the class to help students craft their voices as storytellers.

HONORS 398 A: Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing: Shift Happens: Moving the Humanistic Conversation in the Classics from the Classroom to the Public Arena (VLPA) – 3 credits 

Faculty Lead: Jim Clauss, Classics

SLN 16147 (View UW registration info »)

Ancient Greek and Roman writers and thinkers observed first-hand the near impossibility of speaking to power. Their observations, demonstrating that nothing has changed except for technology, could help moderns see that, unless we learn from the past, we will continue to repeat mistakes but those which have even greater potential for death and destruction given technological advances. During the seminar, students will examine ancient texts—literary, historical and philosophical—with the goal of communicating the lessons learned in various forms of public writing with the following objectives:

  • To develop an ability to write with greater clarity, concision, engagement and effectiveness and to acquire editorial skills that will help you achieve this goal.
    • To reflect on what constitutes effective public writing and how such writing influences our perspectives.
    • To gain a greater insight into what the humanities, in particular Classical antiquity, have to contribute to contemporary discussions of the difficulty of preserving our humanity in the face of political and technological power structures.

Winter 2021

Candice Rai, English; Urban Justice and Sustainability in Seattle

Neal Koblitz, Mathematics; Math that Lies: communicating why some quantitative arguments are misleading or bogus

Michelle Koutnik, Earth & Space Sciences; Science & Society in a Changing Climate

Spring 2021

Damarys Espinoza, Anthropology; Writing Food and Politics

Find more details on these seminars when registration opens for the listed quarter. Fresh descriptions of Honors’ curriculum available at:

Previous UW Calderwood Seminars

Autumn 2019

Damarys Espinoza, Anthropology; Writing Food and Politics.

Winter 2020

James Clauss, Classics; Shift Happens: Moving the Humanistic Conversation in the Classics from the Classroom to the Public Arena

Spring 2020

portrait of Joel Walker

Joel Walker, History and Near East Language and Civilization; Interpreting the Middle East

Walker won Honors’ Excellence in Teaching Award in 2018, most notable for his seminar fondly referred to as “The Cow Course” and his creative, authentic engagement both in the classroom and beyond.

Learn more about Professor Walker HERE.

Daniel Bessner, Jackson School of International Studies; Rethinking Foreign Policy

Bessner has been awarded the prestigious Joff Hanauer Honors Professorship in Western Civilization. Supported by a generous endowment to UW’s College of Arts & Sciences, this award recognizes a faculty member whose research and teaching address issues pertinent to our civilization, with a particular bent towards the interdisciplinary focus of Honors.

Learn more about Dr. Bessner’s work appointment in UW Honors HERE [link to announcement coming soon].