August 4, 2023

University Writing Program Director retires after four decades at UCR

John Briggs leaves behind a legacy of leadership that increased UWP's enrollment from 2K in 1980 to 13K in 2023

Author: Malinn Loeung
August 4, 2023

John Briggs

The founding director of the Undergraduate Education University Writing Program, or UWP, John Briggs retired at the end of this past academic year. 

Briggs joined UC Riverside's English Department faculty in 1980, teaching over 20 different courses. He won the Academic Senate Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1996 and also held the McSweeny Family Chair in Rhetoric and Teaching Excellence for over a decade from 2012-22. 

As an author, he has received the Thomas J. Wilson Award from Harvard University Press for his book, “Francis Bacon and the Rhetoric of Nature” and the Johns Hopkins University Press nominated his book, “Lincoln’s Speeches Reconsidered” for a Pulitzer and the Lincoln Prize. 

From 1980 until 2007, Briggs administered UCR’s Entry-Level Writing Requirement, or ELWR. Then in 2007, when the UWP, was established, he was appointed its first director.

As program director, Briggs has: 

In 1980, UCR enrolled fewer than 2,000 students per year in composition. UWP now enrolls over 13,000 students a year in composition and several thousand a year in Writing Across the Curriculum courses offered by a dozen departments. UWP instruction comprises about 5% of all undergraduate units taught at UCR.

A 2022 UC Academic Senate review from an external, non-UCR team of faculty drawn from comparable institutions examined UWP's courses and its TA training program. The team concluded the program is “an overwhelming success” and “a jewel of a program, which should be a source of campus pride.” They were also impressed by the high morale of the program's students and instructors.

 “The University Writing Program is one of the oldest, largest, and most productive writing programs in the nation,” Briggs wrote in a statement. “We are among the oldest for good reasons: our dedication to helping students attain university-level proficiency, and holding ourselves publicly accountable to show our Senate, our students, and the administrators who fund us, that we are doing that job in accountable ways, according to durable principles, and beyond expectations. What goes on in our courses is our caring and rigorous preparation of students who, with plenty of hard work and self-discovery on their part, can become even better writers on their own in the years ahead.”

Faculty director of University Honors and professor of evolution, ecology, and organismal biology Richard Cardullo called Briggs ” a transformative force for the campus.”

“Our undergraduates are better off because of his commitment to writing excellence. His erudition is evident through his scholarship but his greatest impact, I believe, is through his mentorship to all who have had the privilege to work with him including students, staff, faculty, and administrators,” Cardullo said. “I was saddened to learn of his retirement but buoyed by the legacy that he has left behind."

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