Don Rothman began teaching undergraduate writing classes at UC Santa Cruz in 1973.
After more than three decades of guiding teachers and teaching college students, the senior lecturer emeritus in writing–and recipient of the 2002 Distinguished Teaching Award from the UCSC Center for Teaching Excellence–has established an endowment to honor exceptional freshman students and their writing teachers.
“The ‘First Year Writing Award’ seeks to celebrate excellence in writing among first-year UCSC students, and to give them the chance to honor instructors who contributed to their growth as writers,” said Rothman.
“It’s likely that UCSC would not be the institution that it is now if its founders hadn’t intuited the importance of identifying, challenging, and respecting our beginning students’ strengths as thinkers and writers.”
The first awards were presented at an October ceremony which honored seven students and their instructors.
Molly Carpenter received the top prize and had nothing but praise for her teacher, writing lecturer Jeff Arnett.
“Although I’ve always loved to write, I don’t think I knew how to truly write thoughtfully until I took Jeff’s class,” said Carpenter. “Jeff consistently pushed me to be the very best writer I could be.”
“I just want to express how lucky I am to attend a university that encourages original and creative thought through writing, regardless of whether you’re an engineering or art major,” she added.
The UCSC Writing Program serves approximately 3,000 students each year, taking into account core classes. More than 100 classes are offered annually.
Writing Program chair James Wilson noted Rothman’s visionary impact over the years, citing his deep commitment to the writing process, and his ability to bring out the best in both teachers and students.
“Through his years of serving as director of the Central California Writing Project, Don has been a strong advocate for outreach in the wider community, working in schools at all levels from K-12, especially in Santa Cruz County,” said Wilson.
Wilson added that Rothman has also been a “deliberate, persistent, and optimistic” spokesperson for the Writing Program across the campus, speaking with faculty across the divisions about the importance of writing and emphasizing the value of undergraduate education–particularly at a research university.
“Part of Don’s message is to remind the university that the effective teaching of writing to undergraduate students is essential to the mission of a research university,” said Wilson.