PPW Certificate

Who should consider the PPW Certificate?

We offer an 18-credit undergraduate certificate that is open to students across schools at the University of Pittsburgh. Students who know that they will write extensively as professionals in law, medicine, the sciences, social work, public policy, international relations, business, or other fields are good candidates for the PPW Certificate, as are students who are interested in advocacy and activism. Students contemplating graduate work should also find the course of study leading to the PPW Certificate useful. The courses will allow students to work on significant writing projects in a range of venues. Students who have finished the Certificate should have a compelling portfolio of work that they can show to prospective employers.

English majors are likely to find this Certificate very useful, but so are students in the Honors College, Environmental Studies, Communication, Information/Computer Sciences, College of Business Administration, Fine Arts, Engineering, and other fields where excellent writing skills support and advance professional work.

The PPW Certificate offers many opportunities to students who are interested in influencing public policy related to their field or who want to bring together several different fields to impact the policies that shape our daily lives.

What will I learn as I work on the PPW Certificate?

In addition to learning how to use the forms and genres of particular professions or fields, students will consider critical questions in public and professional writing and examine the place and practice of writing in these environments, taking up questions like these:

•   How do professionals in fields like law, medicine, public affairs, science, technology, business, and industry use language to represent to other professions and publics the work they do?

•   How does writing advance the work of nonprofits, shape public opinion, inform public policy, and create change?

•   What ethical responsibilities do writers face when they write for a profession or a public?

•   What are the professional, cultural, and political dynamics that writers navigate?

•   How do these different dynamics challenge and create opportunities for writers?

Students should expect to undertake rigorous intellectual work that will increase their precision as writers, develop their facility with language and style, and deepen their engagement with writing as a form of social action that has consequences in the world.

How do I apply to the PPW Certificate program?

The PPW Certificate program accepts applications to the program at any time during the year. Students must be resident in the certificate program for at least one year before they graduate.

To apply, submit a one- to two-page letter of intent that explains why you want to work on this Certificate, a résumé with your current contact information, and a writing sample of about 10 pages of text (you can include excerpts from several projects or one longer project, and you can include creative, professional, or academic writing).

You can apply using any of these methods:

·      email your application packet to ppw@pitt.edu,

·      submit your application materials to Dana Nowlin-Russell's mailbox in 501 CL, or

·      send your application materials via campus or US mail to this address: Public and Professional Writing Certificate
, Department of English
, University of Pittsburgh
, 526 Cathedral of Learning
, 4200 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15260

We will respond via email.

How do I have the Certificate noted on my transcript?

As you probably know, the term before you graduate, you have to apply to your school for graduation. In the same way, the term before you graduate, you have to apply to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences for the PPW Certificate. By applying, you are asking the school to verify all your records. Go to 140 Thackeray and complete the necessary paperwork.

The Dietrich School offers the PPW Certificate, so even if you are graduating from another school, you still have to apply for the Certificate through the Dietrich School. The Dietrich School graduation deadline may be significantly earlier than your school's deadline, so please investigate early in the term before you plan to graduate (for example, the deadline for graduation applications may be early November to graduate the following April). The Dietrich School imposes a late fee on students who apply to receive their Certificate after the deadline or after they have graduated. Access the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences academic calendar to find the deadline to apply for graduation.

The Dietrich School will check with the director of the PPW program to verify that you have completed all the requirements. It's fine if you are still finishing your requirements during your last term: we will flag that coursework for the Registrar’s Office so that they can follow up after you get your grade for that course. A couple of months after graduation, the Dietrich School will note the certificate on your transcript.

What are the academic requirements for the PPW Certificate?

To earn the PPW Certificate, you must complete six approved courses (18 credits). Students must maintain a "B" QPA in the courses required by the certificate. Under some circumstances, the director may waive this requirement for a course. Email ppw@pitt.edu.

You must take at least one of these courses:

ENGCMP 0400 or
Written Professional Communication or
Written Professional Communication: Topics in Diversity
ENGCMP 0410 Writing for the Legal Professions
ENGCMP 0420 Writing for the Public

You also need at least two 1000-level ENGCMP courses (see the list of course descriptions). You may select the remaining three courses from ENGCMP courses at the 400 level or higher for a total of 18 credits. Please see the course clusters page and be mindful about putting together courses that will give you writing expertise that will be valuable to your future plans.

For Students from Specific Programs

For CBA students only, we will count BUSORG 1101 Fundamentals of Business Communication toward the PPW Certificate. If you want to count BUSORG 1101 toward the Certificate, please don't take ENGCMP 0400 as well, since they are similar in focus.

Note for CGS students: You can't count one course for two different credentials, so if you are pursuing the CGS major in Media and Professional Communication and you would also like to complete the PPW certificate, you will have to take 6 courses beyond what you are taking for your major.

You can read short descriptions of PPW courses >

How do I petition for other courses to count?

Students may petition for courses in other departments or courses taken at other colleges to count toward the certificate. Up to six credits may be accepted, provided the student can show that the course work was equivalent to the kind of work done in our courses. Good candidates for eligibility include courses in which professional discourse is a key concern and courses in which the content is in part directed toward writing (rather than being simply a course with a discrete writing component).

Please download the petition form, complete it, attach materials, and email it ppw@pitt.edu or send it to Public and Professional Writing Certificate, Department of English, University of Pittsburgh, 526 Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Whom do I contact if I have questions or need help?

For general questions: Dana Nowlin-Russell, Director, PPW Program, dnruss@pitt.edu.

Our general mailbox is ppw@pitt.edu.