University of Minnesota
center for writing

Mission and history

image of Nicholson HallMission

Through individual consultations and in partnership with academic departments, the Center for Writing supports students and educators who practice, teach with, and research writing at the University of Minnesota, throughout the state, and around the world. To fulfill this mission, the Center

  • Encourages the development of writers and the use of writing as a tool for critical thinking, learning, and communicating in all fields
  • Promotes expanded understandings of what writing is and how it works in the world
  • Listens carefully to the ideas and perspectives of students, faculty, researchers, and academic departments
  • Engages in collaborative learning, teaching, and research
  • Develops and communicates current knowledge and research about writing and writing pedagogy

The Center for Writing is committed to fostering and sustaining a culture of equity, inclusiveness, and openness, which includes respect for linguistic and disciplinary diversity.


The University of Minnesota’s Center for Writing is rooted in over four decades of commitment to writers and the use of writing as a tool for critical thinking, learning, and communicating in all fields.

Today’s Center for Writing builds upon the rich histories of four formerly independent centers: the General College Writing Center, the Student Writing Center, the Online Writing Center, and the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing. The merging of these four centers allowed the University to provide support for student writers—and for those who teach with writing—in an integrated manner. The Center for Writing now houses multiple programs designed intentionally to serve students and teachers in departments across the Twin Cities campus, as well as preK–college educators and their students throughout the state.

Brief history:

  • 1972: The General College Reading and Writing Skills Center opens, with a focus on teaching individually-paced, tutorial-supported, credit-earning courses on writing, reading, study skills, and library research.
  • Early 1970s: The English department begins offering undergraduates one-to-one writing instruction in what becomes to be known as the Student Writing Center (SWC).
  • 1980s and 1990s: The General College Writing Center (GCWC) drops “skills” and “reading” from its name, ceases offering courses, and begins focusing on collaboration between student writers and writing consultants.
  • 1987: The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing (CISW) is created with a generous grant from the Deluxe Foundation and University matching funds to support faculty, staff, and graduate students researching and teaching writing across the curriculum.
  • 1991: CISW becomes the home for the Minnesota Writing Project (MWP), a local site of the National Writing Project, committed to enhancing the literacy of all students, strengthening University and K-12 school connections, and increasing the professional power of the state’s preK-college teachers through ongoing professional development.
  • 1995: The Board of Regents approves the Composition, Literacy and Rhetorical Studies interdisciplinary graduate minor, housed in CISW and later shortened to simply Literacy and Rhetorical Studies (LRS).
  • 1995: GCWC joins the General College Math Center and a new Computer Center to create the Academic Resource Center (ARC).
  • 1997: The Department of Rhetoric on the Saint Paul campus opens the Online Writing Center (OWC) as a voluntary collaboration among faculty and graduate students, with a mission to provide writing assistance for students in technical and scientific disciplines and to embrace the use of technology in writing and writing instruction.
  • 1999: SWC becomes an independent unit in the College of Liberal Arts, as the University adopts a writing-intensive course requirement.
  • 2001: The Teaching with Writing Program (TWW) is begun, offering instructional support to any faculty member or instructor who assigns writing (broadly defined as visual marks conveying meaning) in any University department or college.
  • 2003: SWC merges with CISW to become the new Center for Writing, which includes five programs: Student Writing Support (SWS), which provides one-to-one writing instruction to undergraduate and graduate students; Teaching with Writing (TWW), which provides workshops and consulations for faculty and instructors integrating writing in their courses; Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing (ISW), which supports research into writing across the curriculum; the LRS graduate minor; and MWP, which continues its outreach to preK–college educators statewide.
  • 2006: General College becomes part of the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, and the GCWC is renamed the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) Writing Center
  • 2006: The OWC joins the Center for Writing and is created anew as, a hybrid consulting service involving both asynchronous paper submission/response and synchronous chat.
  • 2006: The Provost’s Baccalaureate Writing Initiative calls for the merger of all writing centers on the Twin Cities campus and the incorporation of this merged and expanded Center for Writing into the new Department of Writing Studies beginning July 2007.
  • 2007: The Center pilots the Writing-Enriched Curriculum project, with funding from the Bush Foundation, with the goal of ensuring that all undergraduate majors are writing-enriched.
  • 2007: The CEHD Writing Center merges with the SWS program and is renamed SWS–Appleby.
  • 2008: SWS partners with the McNamara Academic Center for Student-Athletes to create the SWS–MAC satellite for student-athletes.
  • 2012: The Writing-Enriched Curriculum project (WEC) completes its pilot phase and is fully institutionalized with support from the Office of Undergraduate Education.
  • 2016: SWS partners with the Asian Pacific American Resource Center to create the SWS–APARC satellite.
  • 2018: SWS and TRIO create the TRIO Writing Fellows Program (formerly College English Transitions) and the SWS–TRIO satellite.