The William S. Dietrich II Institute for Writing Excellence, launched in January 2020, is designed to support and enhance a vibrant writing culture on campus. It includes some long-standing initiatives, as well as new developments.

Programs and Initiatives

The existing initiatives that are now part of the Writing Institute are the Writing Center, the First-Year Engineering Composition Program, and the Writing in the Disciplines Faculty Seminar.

As the site where the College Writing Board is housed, the Writing Institute also administers the Writing General Education Requirement. As part of that work, we are exploring ways to meaningfully assess the writing that students are doing across the disciplines.

We support faculty who want to develop new or revise existing writing-intensive courses. We are developing workshops and online resources for teachers of writing-intensive courses and for teachers who just want to make better use of writing assignments in any course.  

In addition, we offer programming to support the writing of writers on campus, including graduate students, faculty, and staff. For graduate students, we are building on established programs like Dissertation Camp.

We have received a generous grant from the Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust for research on teaching and supporting writers with disabilities. Look for more about this project over the next two years.

Our Name

The Writing Institute is named for the late philanthropist and businessman, William S. Dietrich II. Dietrich, a double-degree Dietrich School alumnus, made a historic gift of $125 million to the University of Pittsburgh to name the then-School of Arts and Sciences in honor of his father, Kenneth P. Dietrich. A generous gift from the Dietrich Foundation helped to establish the new Writing Institute.

“You didn’t need much time with Bill Dietrich to learn that he’d mastered the art of economy of words, both in speech and writing. To steal a line from Cervantes, Bill offered wisdom in short sentences drawn from long experience,” says Edward J. Grefenstette, President & CIO of the Dietrich Foundation.

Naming the Institute in honor of William S. Dietrich II is particularly significant since he was the author of two books, In the Shadow of the Rising Sun: The Political Roots of American Economic Decline and Eminent Pittsburghers: Profiles of the City’s Founding Industrialists, a collection of biographical essays. “Bill believed deeply in the adage that ‘clear writing reflects clear thinking,’” says Grefenstette. “He certainly made me a better writer – and a better thinker.”