First Year Composition
First-year composition courses are the foundation of the Writing Program’s curriculum. Cadets are required to take a two-course composition sequence which introduces them to writing the essay—focused, purposeful, logical, informed, fully developed, and well-edited prose.
In WR 101, cadets study the fundamental principles of rhetoric, develop the ability to think, read, and write critically, and refine their writing strategies and behaviors. They write primarily expository essays to practice advancing ideas logically to a particular audience for a specific occasion to achieve a clear purpose. By defining these elements of the rhetorical situation for writing, cadets cultivate a clear voice and presence in their writing as they strive to communicate their ideas to others.
Cadets’ understanding of rhetoric and of the essay provides a strong foundation for learning to synthesize and integrate the ideas of others into their own writing when they enter WR 102. This course introduces cadets to methods and strategies of conducting research, including how to identify, locate, and evaluate secondary sources of information, as well as how to ethically incorporate and document the ideas of others.
First-year composition courses at VMI are conducted as writing workshops in which cadets regularly meet in small groups to discuss and respond in writing to challenging readings, as well as drafts of one another’s essays. In addition to scheduled class meetings, cadets frequently meet with their instructors in conference to discuss their writing at various stages of the drafting process. Those who complete the two-course sequence more clearly understand the method by which writers analyze the particular circumstances for writing, whether for an academic audience or a professional one. They have learned not only to recognize the characteristics of effective writing, but also have developed a broad repertoire of strategies to produce their best prose.