Carnegie Mellon University
March 04, 2020

Pre-College Prepares High School Students for Campus Life

Julie Mattera

Carnegie Mellon University’s Pre-College Programs offer high school students opportunities to explore college life.

While the Pre-College summer programs have offered courses in the humanities, the newest program, Writing & Culture, has an intensive, integrated humanities curriculum. It is being offered by the Department of English in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and aligns with the goals of CMU's Humanities Initiative.

“Writing and Culture is the first humanities Pre-College Program at Carnegie Mellon, and it is one of the few Pre-College programs in English at any other university. Every part of the curriculum has been designed to intentionally complement the other learning pieces in the program, with faculty collaborating to promote deep learning experiences,” said Danielle Zawodny Wetzel, director of the Writing & Culture Pre-College Program.

According to Wetzel, students will experience rigor in Writing & Culture but will not be graded so that “students can engage with the kind of learning that occurs outside of a points-driven, achievement-focused environment.”

Students in the Writing & Culture Program will engage in a variety of hands-on tasks with their faculty, writing beyond their usual expressions, building an understanding of print and literature through historical and technological lenses, producing two visual-verbal projects that integrate words and images to make compelling messages, ultimately compiling a collection of both creative and analytical work. Throughout the six-week program, students will take faculty-led field trips to understand how the humanities are at work within the Pittsburgh community, such as through poetry readings and theatrical productions. By the end of the program, students will walk away with skills to write effective college application essays as well as a letter of recommendation from Wetzel.

Another distinctive feature of the Writing & Culture program is that it is taught exclusively by permanent Department of English faculty, including Lauren Shapiro, Stephen Wittek and Suguru Ishizaki.

“In terms of their work, these faculty represent the very best that the English Department offers to Carnegie Mellon. They are not only incredibly expert people —but also they are themselves parents who care about high school students preparing for college,” Wetzel said.

Read more about CMU’s Pre-College Programs