The Northwest Writing Institute (NWI) was founded in 1986 as a college-wide initiative at Lewis & Clark to bring focus to academic activities related to writing.

Early programs included the College of Arts and Sciences Writing Center; the Legal Writing Program at the Law School; writing dimensions of the freshman course “Basic Inquiry”; creative writing classes in the English Department; writing classes in the Graduate School (“Writing and the Writing Process,” “The Foxfire Workshop,” and other courses); and the Oregon Writing Project (founded in 1984).

Beginning in 1987, the NWI helped to launch the Fishtrap Writers Gathering in Wallowa County (www.fishtrap.org), writing dimensions of Portland State University’s summer Haystack Program in the arts, writing classes at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology (www.sitkacenter.org), and other local and regional projects. On campus, the NWI helped to launch the “Fir Acres Summer Seminar” for high school students, in association with Bard College in New York.

In 1988, with help from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Oregon Arts Commission, the NWI established the Oregon Folk Arts Program. Initially directed by Joanne Mulcahy, this program has a long and distinguished legacy of supporting folk arts and folk artists, and providing community education around cultural issues. This program is now at the University of Oregon.

Over the years, the NWI has offered courses for Forest Service and other government agencies (“Writing Wild”); sent writers to rural public libraries (“Writing about Home,” sponsored by the Oregon State Library); convened seven “William Stafford Symposia” (with help from the Lamb Foundation); created the Walden Residency in Southern Oregon (now administered by Southern Oregon University); worked with PEN International to offer “Writers in Danger,” a project to advocate for imprisoned writers; and other projects.

In the early 1990s, the NWI became part of the Graduate School of Education & Counseling in order to focus on offering writing opportunities to teachers and community writers. We launched the annual “Writing and the Writing Process” courses for in-coming MAT students, and a broad array of writing courses in the graduate Core program. In addition, we offer courses in writing poetry, essays, and other forms of imaginative exploration. And we developed the Writing Culture Summer Seminar (see separate description) for featuring connections between writing and cultural inquiry.

For a time, the NWI administered the William Stafford Center, culminating in the donation of the William Stafford Archives to Watzek Library at Lewis & Clark by the Stafford family (www.williamstaffordarchives.org).

In 2010, the NWI launched the Documentary Studies Certificate program to offer graduate students and community writers an opportunity to work with radio, film, writing, digital storytelling, and other media.

Over the years, the NWI has ranged from a single individual (1986) to a staff of five and a faculty of a dozen (1990s). The program is currently housed in the Graduate School’s Center for Community Engagement.

Throughout our history, we have striven to offer opportunities for students, writers, readers, and cultural citizens of all kinds to tell their stories in thoughtful and evocative words.