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The SDSU English Department has been offering courses of study in the college since its beginning in the 1880s. Initially, the courses offered by the department were designed to be both practical and cultural. A minor in English was first offered in the 1930s, and a major in English-Journalism was begun in 1945. At that time, the English Department was a part of the Division of General Science. English as a separate major first appeared in the 1952-53 catalog, at which time the department was a part of the Division of Sciences and Applied Arts.

A graduate degree, the M.S. in Language Skills, was first offered in 1956. This degree was a composite of English and Speech. The M.A. in English was authorized in 1966 and first appeared in the 1968 catalog.

In 1993, the English Department began offering two B.A. options with different requirements: the English Option and the English Education Option for students interested in secondary education. This division into options followed an intensive study of our curriculum that resulted in the curricular redesign to reflect the requirements for teacher certification in English.

In 1994, after the same curriculum study, the Department instituted two M.A. options: Studies in Literature and Studies in Language and Rhetoric. The second option was added to address the needs of an increasing number of graduate students who desired more opportunities in language and linguistics so that their goal of teaching writing in college would be more attainable.

In 2010, after a two-day faculty retreat, the Department instituted a third M.A. option: Thesis with Creative Component. In addition, the Department also instituted a third B.A. option: English with Writing Emphasis.