Success is working against us

Unlike UBC or SFU, where massive class sizes are expected and becoming a number is a normal occurrence for students, Capilano is one of the few schools that prides itself on the small class sizes. But judging by the clusters of kids in the overcrowded Creative Writing classes, this is not the case.

“In order to have a class, 20 students are required.” Reg Johanson, a creative writing professor explained, in regards to why the English 190/290 classes had been put together, giving rise to a creative writing class with nearly 35 registered students. According to both Johanson and Roger Farr, who both originally spearheaded the creative writing program, the reason for teaching a split class came down to two things: money and numbers.“[When the program] first started, we wanted to be able to offer people who were interested in writing a second year course. In the past, we’d had a lot of problems with getting enough numbers to teach the course, so it was decided to put a class of English 190 with a 290 class,” Johanson further explained.

“We used [have] ten first years, and ten second years. In the couple of years, we've began to really advertise our program, so it’s grown really fast.” Fast enough to have nearly twice the amount of students slammed into one class than expected by both those teaching, and those attending the classes.

While the solution to this overcrowding may seem simple - by selectively allowing only those specifically in the creative writing program to take the classes - Johanson explained that there are “many people who aren’t technically in the program, that really want to take a course to feel it out. I don’t want to make them cool their heels if they are enthusiastic about writing.”

Johanson also discussed how having so many students in the one class could be detrimental to the workshop style the course is supposed to have. “The reason we have low numbers in the first place is because the [creative writing] program is so writing intensive. It’s a huge demand on the instructors. They have writing every week to respond to on top of weekly homework and two major portfolios submitted. Twenty students really is the limit ... before it becomes detrimental.”

He went on to say that teaching two different years within one class is not the easiest in terms of lesson planning. “Because I am teaching two courses at once, I am always pitching the ideas in class at a level that is either too high for some students or too low for others.”

The program itself is one of the few specialized programs that doesn’t really see any integration with the other programs that are similar in nature to it. While the Film Studies students are given, and often required, to work with students from the costuming, musical theatre and acting for stage and screen students, this doesn’t happen with the writers. A screenwriting class is currently being offered at Capilano, but rather than being open to those enrolled in the Creative Writing Program, it is offered exclusively to the Film students.

For one of the largely publicized “specialized” programs at Capilano, it is by far the least selective. There are no interviews as seen with the Global Stewardship program, nor are portfolios required, as is expected from IDEA program applicants. Farr explained, while it would be exciting to see students submitting portfolios prior to acceptance, the lack of resources given to the program would make it impossible for the portfolios to even be viewed on time, let alone be given enough time to select students based on the criteria.

Clearly, with the way Capilano is growing, and the attention that is being shed on the creative writing program in advertising, Cap needs to give better aid to the program. As Johanson put it, “It’s a question of evaluating priorities, and being committed to the programs that we know are working. If given the resources, the creative writing program, could become the program it has the potential to be.”

// Nicole Mucci

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