Melanie Doyle is a writing tutor at the Writing House in the College of Nursing and Heath Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She also teaches composition in UMass Boston’s English department while completing her MA.
In 2000, John Trimbur wrote of the importance of bilingualism in writing and called for more writing centers to transform from English-only to multilingual (30). Though many writing centers embrace notions of multiliteracies, some even rebranding themselves as multiliteracy centers, this designation tends to emphasize digital literacies rather than multilingualism or translingualism in the more traditional sense. In other words, despite college campuses becoming increasingly linguistically diverse, the majority of writing centers still operate under a dominant discourse. Indeed, though most (if not all) American college writing centers serve students from diverse language backgrounds, few can serve students in their preferred language. Looking slightly north, Canadian writing centers offer a unique perspective into writing tutoring, bilingually. Though Canada’s contribution to writing center scholarship has been historically small, the field is growing, and the work produced from the Canadian Writing Centres
Association’s (CWCA) annual conferences look to extend the borders of writing research. And with the continuing interest—and current utter importance—of understanding students’ use of language, Canadian institutions are available sites for inquiry.
While Canada as a nation is officially bilingual, each Canadian province chooses its official language: Quebec, for example, is unilingual French, while Ontario, Canada’s largest province, is unilingual English. Still, many of Canada’s higher ed institutions offer francophone writing tutoring or bilingual writing tutoring. Ontario’s University of Ottawa, situated in Canada’s national capital and on the border with Quebec, is currently the largest bilingual university (French-English) in the world, and is thus is an interesting case study to examine bilingual writing tutoring.
To help me understand tutoring practices, pedagogies, and dynamics at the University of Ottawa, I spoke with Amélie from the Academic Writing Help Centre (AWHC), otherwise known as Centre d’aide à la rédaction des travaux universitaires (CARTU). Housed in a bilingual university where courses are taught in French and English, AWHC/CARTU’s mandate is to offer writing support to all students in the official language of their choice in order to fulfill the University’s mission. Indeed, the University of Ottawa is committed to protecting the region’s francophone culture; so in 2015, it obtained designation for its services in French, including student support services like tutoring. In other words, by offering writing tutoring in both French and English, the AWHC/CARTU is doing its part to protect student rights to their own language, using official statutes to ensure protection and access. Ultimately, by supporting francophone students in their studies, the AWHC plays an important role in helping the University of Ottawa achieve its goals regarding the promotion and safeguarding of francophonie. Continue reading “Crossing Borders: Bilingual and Multilingual Writing Centers”→
This week’s post is an introduction of our new co-editors, Ann Gardiner, Director of the Writing and Learning Center at Franklin University Switzerland and Brian Hotson, Director of Student Academic Learning Services in the Studio for Teaching and Learning at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada. In their conversation below, they speak to their own experiences coming to writing centers, their own practices in academic writing, and their outlook for the blog. You can contact Ann (email@example.com) and Brian (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any ideas for the blog.
Q:How did you arrive at your current position? Ann: To make a long story short, I would say that I went through several side doors to arrive at my current position at Franklin University Switzerland, where I have been Director of the Writing and Learning Center since 2010. With a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, I started my academic career as a professor, but I always worked closely with writing centers and even created one during my first academic appointment in Germany. In a sense, I became a specialist in general education courses, and I found that I really enjoyed helping students how to write better, read better, think better. In my two previous teaching appointments prior to coming to Franklin, I regularly taught writing and was teaching writing courses at Franklin as an adjunct when my predecessor at the Writing and Learning Center took an extended maternity leave. The replacement position became a permanent position in 2010, and I have been happily here ever since.
Brian: Unlike Anne, I started outside academia before my first writing centre position in 2008 at the writing centre at Queen’s University in Kingston (Ontario). I worked for many years in academic publishing, as a writer, project manager, and editor, among other things, mainly for Nelson Education. I also spent ten years as a writer and director/producer in educational television. Writing centre work came as a suggestion to me from a friend: I needed a job while completing my Master’s. We moved our family to Halifax in 2009, and in 2010, the directorship of the centre at Saint Mary’s University came available. It seems to really bring together my working skills and experience together.
Q:What do you like best about working in writing centres? Brian: Students and sentences. I spend a lot of time thinking about both. I like getting to know the students as a person–when I can–what they want to do academically, as well as how they’re going to take all their experiences and knowledge away with them. There’s great satisfactions to witness a student’s progress in, through, and out of the school. It’s humbling and satisfying!
Ann: As Director of the Writing and Learning Center, I have also gotten to know my tutors well too. Like Brian, I find it extremely rewarding to watch a student or tutor progress. I regularly have fantastic discussions with my students, tutors and academic mentors, who are upper-level students who help professors in their first year seminar courses and whose training I help coordinate. As I mentioned, I really enjoy helping students become better learners, and there is never a dull moment with this endeavor. We are a very small school at Franklin with about 400 students, and as a result I know my students well.
I have been Director of the University of Alberta’s Centre for Writers (C4W) for almost six years, now, after getting a PhD in ESL at Purdue University and working as ESL Coordinator and Writing Centre Director at Ryerson University, in Toronto, for three years. The C4W is growing very quickly, with more than 40 graduate and undergraduate tutors (trained in a course I teach every fall). We served about 7000 students, faculty members, and staff last year, and we would like to help more people but we are running out of space. Most writing centre directors in Canada have administrative positions and I am one of the very few, if not the only one in Canada, who has a tenured faculty/Writing Centre Director position.
The Canadian Writing Centres’ Association (CWCA) used to be the “daughter” of a larger Canadian conference but seceded about three years ago, just as I was joining it. It had its very first independent conference in Victoria, in 2013, and a second conference near Toronto, last spring. Its next conference will be in Ottawa, in May. First, I was its francophone representative and now I am its Vice-Chair. Since I became involved in this association, I have tried to get tutors involved in research and presentations at our conferences. Historically, only writing centre administrators and directors have presented, since tutor research and involvement has not been something that is done in Canada, but I am trying to change this. To encourage tutors to attend and present at our conferences, I am trying to put together some kind of tutor bursary and create a “tutors interest section.” My C4W tutors have been the only ones presenting at the CWCA conferences so far, and I hope that the bursary and my efforts will pay off one day and we’ll have more directors getting their tutors involved in small projects and attending the conference and presenting together.
FROM THE CALL FOR PAPERS
Ideas connect us to the world and reconnect us to our lives and our professional practice, and theories and research can reconfirm what we do, or can provide us with fresh perspectives. We invite you to present a paper, conduct a workshop, or suggest a panel or roundtable on one of the following “capital ideas”:
The politics of location and funding in the Writing Centre
Perceptions of the Writing Centre in the community: Debunking myths.
Inclusive practices in the Writing Centre: Focusing on indigenous populations and bilingualism.
Opportunities for self-reflection in the Writing Centre.
The theory and practice of tutor training for the Writing Centre.
Technology and the Writing Centre.
Facilitating collaborative practices between Faculty and the Writing Centre.