New director values written word
Posted March 10, 2006
Sergio Sandoval
Kirsten Ogden, newly appointed University of La Verne writing program director, helped revise the creative writing minor and designed the writing certificate program. Students can now choose from a creative or professional writing track or a creative writing minor through the program.

Christine Collier
Staff Writer

In a day of increasing technological advancement where business savvy and self-marketing is among the most treasured skills, has the art of the written word lost all value?

Not if the efforts of Kirsten Ogden, newly appointed University of La Verne writing program director, are any indicator of what the future holds.

“She really encourages the students to find their own voice,” said Megan Gjerde, a junior creative writing major. “I enjoy how she combines the academic writing with the creative.”

The ULV writing program teaches composition courses and offers a comprehensive writing certificate program, which allows students to choose either a creative writing track or a professional writing track, and a creative writing minor.

“We’re making sure that the students get the writing instruction they need,” said Ogden, who helped co-author the revised creative writing minor and designed the writing certificate.

In order to help the students take better advantage of the writing program’s unique opportunities, Ogden uses a distinctively open teaching style, which makes her students take notice and makes her the perfect candidate for director of writing programs.

“A lot of professors here have recognized my unique style of writing but it was she who started to help me generate mediums to express it,” said Adrianna Gardner, a senior creative writing major.

The writing program gives students the opportunity to minor in creative writing or to major in writing when they elect to follow the ULV individually-designed major option. With the individually designed major option, students can design their own major tailored to their specific areas of interest.

“We’re working with some departments to see if they would be interested in co-sponsoring a writing major, which is a nice way to use the interdisciplinary resources already at our school without taxing the system,” Ogden said.

The program gives students a foundation in a variety of genres, such as composition and technical writing, poetry, fiction, literary essay, playwriting, screenwriting, editing and developing hybrid genres like hypertext writing or multi-media writing.

“We have been equipped with the skills, the techniques, the time and patience to hone our craft,” Gardner said.

Ogden can sympathize with most students’ plight to find the perfect major.

“I’m very familiar with students creating their own majors because I created my own major by combining theater, creative writing and psychology,” she said.

Ogden earned her Bachelor of Arts in drama therapy from San Francisco State University and her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

“I went [to Alaska] because nobody I knew had been there before and I wanted to go someplace new and different,” she added.

This multifaceted writer of plays, short stories, poetry, book reviews, screenplays and essays has not only helped revise the majority of the writing curriculum but acts as faculty adviser and editor of “Prism Review,” created an internship program for writing students and established “Voice in Action.”

“‘Voice in Action’ brings up-and-coming emerging writers to the University,” Ogden said. “The program started when I applied for a grant from the Arts and Sciences Campus Diversity Initiative fund, which was set up to give faculty a small seed grant to get something started that would invite more diversity on campus.”

Students not only get to ?attend a reading from these talented authors, but also participate in a master class that allows them to receive one-on-one interaction with the writers for the optimum learning experience.

“What appeals to me most is the introduction to people doing things that are unconventional, contemporary, yet successful in this field,” Gardner said.

Yet, the value of writing goes far beyond the confines of the classroom.
“People forget that writing can be applied to all areas of work and life,” said Ogden. “It gives you listening skills, critical thinking skills and ways to look at the world that are different.”

This would explain why Ogden goes to such great lengths to be as much a part of that world as possible. She is an active member of the L.A. Poets and Writer’s Collective and also works with the California Poets in the Schools program and WordProcessPoets as well.

Ogden’s sentiment for being involved with the community is mirrored though out the writing program itself. Students participate in public readings and performances of their work, publish and distribute their own chapbooks, work on the editorial staff of the statewide journal “Prism Review,” teach writing workshops in the K-12 classroom and intern at various organizations in the Los Angeles area.

“Writing should be about enriching your personal self,” Ogden said.

Christine Collier can be reached at ccollier@ulv.edu.

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