Next year, the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT) will welcome Meredith McCarroll as its first-ever director of writing and rhetoric, a hire that addresses an apparent gap in Bowdoin’s curriculum—public speaking.  

“When this position was endowed, it was endowed by someone who wanted to make sure that when Bowdoin students graduated, they could speak and write well,” said McCarroll. “As far as I understand it, there isn’t much of an emphasis on speaking at Bowdoin, and so that’s one of the things I will be working toward.”

Similar to the CLT’s Writing Project, the new Rhetoric initiative will be integrated into a number of classes, where students will be required to cooperate with tutors on certain projects and assignments.

“It probably goes without saying that writing and speaking are hugely important skills for Bowdoin students to master as they enter the job market, the workplace, graduate school and the civic arena, and these skills can always be improved, polished and perfected,”  wrote Director of the Writing Project Kathleen O’Connor in an email to the Orient. “It’s great that the College is able to devote some more resources toward this goal.”

O’Connor was on the search committee to find a rhetoric director. 

She added that the new hire could affect the current duties of writing assistants.
“It’s possible that they may take on the task of helping students with oral presentations, or speaking assistants could be trained separately,” she wrote.

McCarroll will influence the curriculum as well—working with the First-Year Seminar program and collaborating with professors who want to incorporate oral communication into their coursework. She will also teach a few workshops a year on writing and speaking. 

McCarroll has spent the past three years working at Clemson University in South Carolina, where she established the Writing Center that she currently directs.

She studied as an undergraduate at Appalachian State University before moving on to pursue a master’s degree in English at Simmons College. After that, she obtained her Ph.D. in English at the University of Tennessee.

McCarroll said that Bowdoin’s small size and the friendliness of the community attracted her.
“I have long had the desire to find myself at a small liberal school. I did my undergraduate studies at Appalachian State, which then had about 13,000 students. And so when I went to Simmons, I thought about how dramatically different that experience was for students in a really positive way. I love the sense of community that comes with a smaller student body,” said McCarroll.

McCarroll recognized that the new program will require a period of review before it is able to reach its full potential.

“I think that the first stage will really be one of asking a lot of questions and listening to the responses,” she said. “The general sense that I have is that students are getting what they need in terms of writing, but there hasn’t really been any clear measurement of that, and there hasn’t been a sustained process of assessing how well students are doing. So, I think that what I’ll be doing is trying to better understand what the current situation is before I can suggest changes.”

—Emma Peters contributed to this report.