Program Philosophy and Architecture

Founded in 1909, North Carolina Central University (NCCU) became the first public liberal arts institution for African Americans in the nation. Originally founded as the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua by Dr. James Edward Shepard, NCCU now offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees, a Juris doctor Ph.D. in Integrated Biosciences. Located in Durham, North Carolina (the “City of Medicine”), NCCU’s mission is to prepare their students to become community and global leaders. Nestled in the Research Triangle, NCCU takes pride in their research contributions to the biotechnological, biomedical, informational, computational, behavioral, social, and health sciences.

The First-Year Writing Program (FYWP) is housed in the Department of Language and Literature, under the College of Arts and Sciences. Directed by Dr. Collie Fulford, the FYWP includes courses in introductory expository writing and rhetorical instruction, offering English 1050, English 1110, and English 1210.

This report will cover those elements of a writing program that are interconnected, multifaceted, and tethered to surrounding elements in the university as a whole. In doing so, this report recognizes Finer and White-Farnham’s metaphor of “writing program architecture” (2017). This report aims to outline the architecture of NCCU’s First-Year Writing program, in order to reveal its relational structure to the larger department, college, and university mission.

As the FYWP is housed in the Department of Language and Literature, it is important to note that the priorities of the program outline the value of educational enrichment, accessibility and flexibility, service and community engagement, and global perspectives. Chaired by Dr. Wendy Roundtree, the department largely values their connection to the community and the multicultural society in which they operate. Conversely, they value teaching that is responsive to their students’ cultures and realities.

There are four department administrators, including Dr. Collie Fulford as the Director of First-Year Writing. She also serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of Language and Literature. Her administrative background includes her position at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she was the Assistant Coordinator of Placement. She was also the Assistant Director of the Center for Writing at Keene State College before coming to serve at NCCU.

Additionally, the Department of Language and Literature at NCCU includes the Chairperson (Dr. Wendy Rountree), the Director of Graduate Programs (Dr. James Pearce), and the Administrative Assistant (Ms. Sandra Howard).

The FYWP at NCCU aligns closely with departmental value as both facilitates a burden of care towards students in which they nurture their intellectual development. Further, the program seeks to prepare their underclassmen for their area of study as well as those writing tasks to be experienced beyond the university. Together, their attention remains focused on the community and global realities of their student’s futures. They provide the core curriculum courses (English 1110 and English 1210) that attend not only to argumentation rhetorical strategies, but also to the uses and purposes of electronic media for drafting, revising and sharing writing.

Taken up as a kind of model for this process, the FYWP at NCCU provides an online resource for its administration and faculty. Their resource site, “Collective Wisdom” provides information related to course guidelines, syllabi, textbooks, placement, and program assessment. This resource site is a collaborative effort managed by the editor, Dr. Fulford. The materials gathered and shared on this site come from writing teachers, researchers, and students. Not only does the program appear work closely with students and researchers, but also the NCCU Writing Studio, providing students with the resources, materials, and guidance they need to succeed.

With such strong attention to student engagement with the local and global community, as well as to student cultures and realities, it is important to note the student population at NCCU. According to data reports in 2016, there were a total of 8,096 students (6,285 undergraduates and 1,801 graduates) enrolled at NCCU. Approximately 78% of students were African-American, 12% White, 1.8% Hispanic, and 1.2% Asian. In addition, the university had a student to faculty ratio of 15:1 with an average class size of 21.

In addition to a burden of care for the student population, NCCU’s attention to service – having required community service for graduation for a number of years and in doing so, gained national recognition from the Carnegie Foundation as a community-engaged university – is being reinforced by the FYWP as they are working to strengthen the training young scholars and writers who are prepared to engage the communities and cultures around them.


Donahue, C. (2013). What are students. A rhetoric for writing program administrators.

Finer, B. S., & White-Farnham, J. (Eds.). (2017). Writing Program Architecture: Thirty Cases for Reference and Research. University Press of Colorado.