Under the banner “Leading Innovation in Higher Education,” the University Continuing Education Association recently awarded the Writers’ Program with the 2010 “Outstanding Program-Non Credit” Award at its annual conference in San Francisco. Hailed as a model of continuous academic originality as well as a positive force in the Los Angeles and global creative economy, the Writers’ Program was cited for its efforts to help students meet their personal and professional writing goals through its extensive curriculum, instructor corps of 250 professional writers, certificate programs, consultation and mentorship services, free public events, individualized advisement, scholarships, and literary and screenplay competitions. As former student Stuart Beattie (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl; G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) notes, “The Writers’ Program courses at UCLA Extension offer the best of both worlds: academic excellence and the real-world experience of accomplished [writers].”

Here are some of the winning reasons UCEA recognized the Writers’ Program with this national honor:

Innovative and In-Depth Curricula Reflecting Students’ Needs and Current Literary and Entertainment Trends: The Writers’ Program’s core is its continuously evolving 530-course onsite and online curriculum, which typically includes 20% new offerings every quarter.

Instruction Combining “Real World” Expertise with Academic Excellence: The Program has an instructor corps of 250 professional writers that, in addition to their published and produced bodies of work, undergo teacher training and are approved by affiliated UCLA departments.

A Training Ground for Professional Writers: As the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner for First Fiction Alice Greenway puts it, “Here I found dedicated fellow writers and brilliant teachers who helped send me on my way to writing my first book.”

A Global Provider of Writing Education: The Program’s 220 annual online courses help students overcome barriers of geographical isolation and physical disability as well as open up 100’s of new storytelling models for students worldwide.

A Supportive Worldwide Writing Community: Recognizing writing is solitary and sometimes isolating, the Program offers a network for the individual writer through its onsite and online events, various social media, and expert advisors.

Opportunities to be Recognized by the Literary and Film Worlds: The Program’s James Kirkwood Literary Prize, UCLA Extension Screenplay Competition, and Master Classes have helped launch the careers of such writers as mystery novelist Hannah Dennison and Academy Award winner Gavin Hood (Tsotsi).

Commitment to Serve the Los Angeles Writing Community: The Program awards yearly scholarships through its Community Access Scholarship Program as well as partners with local MFA programs, professional and community arts organizations.

I want to thank Dean Cathy Sandeen for nominating the Writers’ Program for this award, and I especially want to acknowledge the teachers and staff who have made my coming to work for the last 20-plus years a privilege and a pleasure. We at the Writers’ Program look forward to continuing to helping all writers do their best work, whatever their writing ambitions might be.

Linda Venis is the Director of the UCLA Extension Department of the Arts and the Program Director of the Writers’ Program.

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