Rhodes Summer Writing Institute Celebrates its 40th Anniversary

Two students writing in a classroom

The Rhodes Summer Writing Institute, a two-week, residential program held on campus for high school students, will celebrate its 40th anniversary this summer. Founded in 1977 as the Southwestern Summer Collegium, the Writing Institute attracts students from across the nation and gives them a real-life look at what writing and living at college are like.

Professor Rebecca Finlayson, who has led the institute since 2000, says, “In my years, the program has educated well over 1,000 students and prepared them for college life and coursework.” Upon completing the coursework, students receive a grade and two credits that are transferrable to any college or university. “That’s another distinction of our program, actually,” says Finlayson. “It is a true academic college experience.”

Rhodes faculty and visiting faculty teach at the institute, and students participate in peer workshops and discussion-based classes. This prepares them for the types of academic feedback and discourse they will receive in college settings. Participants learn about writing styles, analytical skills, and theme development. Students also benefit from experiencing a classroom environment that inspires thoughtfulness and curiosity. Professor Marshall Boswell, who teaches at the institute, enjoys watching these communities form each summer, saying, “After the first day or so, the students begin to understand that, at the institute, it is cool to be smart, engaged, eager to learn, and basically a nerd. And once that message has been absorbed, they rise to the challenge of thinking and writing at their highest level.”

The program exposes students to subject matter of multiple disciplines across the campus, so not only do they get a taste of college level writing, but also general college level academics. There are 43 current Rhodes students who are Writing Institute alums, which emphasizes the impact that the program can have on students and their choice of a liberal arts school.

“We’ve now had two generations from a single family participate in the program,” Finlayson adds. “For one summer student in the 80s, the impact was so profound that she sent her daughter 30 years later.”

Applications for the Rhodes Summer Writing Institute are being accepted now through April 15.

By Katherine Hancock '19