Carnegie Mellon University

English Department History

Inspired by Tradition, Dedicated to Innovation

In 1919, the English major was formed. The school was still "Carnegie Tech" and the English Department was housed in the Margaret Morrison Carnegie School for Women (MMCC). Only women could major in English. In an article on the history of the MMCC, Eileen McConomy (MM’56) says, "Our education was rigorous. Our women professors were the forerunners of the feminist movement and inspired us to take charge of our lives, to not be afraid to speak out for what we believed was right, and to demand excellence in all that we did."

In the 1940s, the innovative Carnegie Plan for liberal/professional education was put into place, and Carnegie Tech engineers were required to take three courses in English.

Department Highlights

1958 The BS in Technical Writing & Editing, the first degree of its kind in the country, was added as a possible major within MMCC under initiative of Erwin Steinberg.

erwin steinberg

Erwin Steinberg

1960s In a period of increasing emphasis on education (and government funding for innovative curriculum ideas) the English & History departments organized the Carnegie Education Center to develop innovative high school and college curricula and developed nationally-funded and recognized curricula for AP high school English courses.
1968-69 Carnegie Tech becomes Carnegie University then Carnegie Mellon University. Division of Humanities & Social Sciences becomes the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and degrees in English, Technical Writing, History, etc are transferred from MMCC to H&SS.

h and ss

H&SS, Baker Hall

1969 Under the leadership of Gladys Schmitt and Jerry Costanzo. B.A. in Creative Writing is added to B.A. in English and the B.S. in Technical Writing. The B.A. was one of the first undergraduate degrees in Creative Writing in the country.

glady schmitt

Gladys Schmitt

1972 Jerry Costanzo founded Carnegie Mellon University Press in the English Department. The Press published "Thomas and Beulah" by Rita Dove, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1986.

jerry costanzo

Jerry Costanzo

1978 B.A. in Professional Writing added as the fourth major within English in response to student demand for a B.A. degree focusing on non-fiction writing.
1980 The M.A. in Professional Writing program started as one of the first degrees of its kind in the U.S. M.A. and Ph.D. in Rhetoric programs started, also some of the first degrees of their kind in the country. Under the leadership of Richard Young, programs become known for ground-breaking research in processes of writing and workplace writing.

Richard Young

Richard Young

1986 The Ph.D. in Literary & Cultural Theory program is added, spearheading changes in the academic landscape of English departments across the U.S. M.A. concentration in Literary & Cultural Studies soon follows. The founding Cultural Studies Association conference was hosted here in 2003.
1994 Under the leadership of Dick Buchanen (Design) and David Kaufer (English), The Master of Design in Communication Planning & Information Design (MCPID) began as new MA degree jointly offered by English and CFA's School of Design. The degree was and is one of the very few degrees in the country that emphasizes the interaction of visual and verbal communication and admits half of students with writing background, half with design.

dave kaufer

Dave Kaufer

1996 BA in Literary & Cultural Studies and BA in Rhetoric merged to form BA in English, The degree combines all three major elements of the department: Literary & Cultural Studies, Rhetoric, and Creative Writing.