Two Provosts Later: Establishing a Writing Center Administration Graduate Certificate Program

Carol Mohrbacher

Carol Mohrbacher is a Professor of English and former Writing Center Director (the Write Place) at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Carol, using her many years of experience, advice and input from colleagues, as well as research in writing center practice, theory, and pedagogy, planned, developed, and launched a new Writing Center Administration graduate certificate in the Fall of this year. Below is our e-mail interview with Carol.

WLN Blog: What was the progenitor of your idea to set up this program?
About seven or eight years ago, it occurred to me that I was supervising too many independent studies on the topic of writing center administration and tutor training. Some of our writing center alums who had completed these independent studies were finding jobs as writing center professionals. In 2009, there was a call from our Provost for the development of ideas that might appeal to the local and state community. Funding would be involved. So, never one to overlook an opportunity for funding, I proposed a course on writing center administration. The proposal almost immediately fell into a black hole, as the Provost moved on to another position at another institution, and the initiative disappeared—a situation that anyone who has been in academia for any length of time will recognize.

In 2012-13, a few years and more independent studies—and two Provosts—later, a new Provost called for innovative certificate programs. Simultaneously, administration pushed for more online offerings. I saw this as an opportunity to develop a valuable program—something that would contribute to the international writing center community, as well as to my own institution. My efforts in 2009 had resulted in a syllabus, and a sort of plan for future topics courses in writing center administration. I decided to build off of that early nugget.

WLN Blog: What were the processes and obstacles to developing and implementing the program?
The first thing I needed was some direction on what a certificate program looked like. No one seemed to know, so I did my research, looking at programs in IT and Education. One note: generally, this kind of project is the result of group or committee efforts. I was on my own, except for the feedback and editing help of my friend, Tim Fountaine.

What I did not expect were the many levels of scrutiny and research that would be required of me from groups and individuals at all levels—the English Department, College of Liberal Arts, SCSU administration, IT, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities administrative body. Two years later, after 14 levels (I counted them) of permissions and approvals, and after much research and one survey that resulted in 260+ respondents, the program was a go.

The next step was to create the courses that I had proposed and outlined for the various committees and individuals. This semester, I have begun teaching the first 2 courses—Writing Center Theories and Practice, and Issues in Writing Center Administration. So far, so good. I have students from 7 states. They are MA and PhD students and writing center professionals from various institutions from high school to R-1 universities. The engagement and enthusiasm are infectious. I am having a great time working with them.

The final two 2-credit courses for this 10-credit certificate program will be offered at the beginning of summer semester in a 5-week session. They are titled, “Staffing and Training” and “Cases Studies in Writing Center Administration.” Continue reading

The Middle East Technical University Academic Writing Center: A Story of Volunteers


Coordinators Deniz Saydam and Cahide Çavuşoğlu

Editor’s note: The questions around volunteering in the writing center are always contentious ones! Even in the last year, Barko and Satore’s article “How to Start and Run A Writing Center With No Budget” produced a lot of interest, including a thoughtful response on “Volunteer Tutors” from Diana Hamilton.

Today’s post comes courtesy of Deniz Saydam and Cahide Çavuşoğlu, who share the story of their graduate writing center in Ankara, Turkey, and state that “teaching is a low paid job in Turkey and yet many teachers choose to be in teaching for the outcome, not the income. As the Turkish culture values all forms of sacrifice made for children and students, and thus, the development and future of the country, our instructors’ attitude to volunteer tutoring may be different.” I’m glad they’re willing to share their story, below, and continue to think about the cultural dynamics and logistical challenges that shape the invaluable work they do.

Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey is a prestigious university counting 3 campuses (the main campus being Ankara) and 29.000 students, about 8.000 of which are graduate students. The Academic Writing Center of METU was established under the School of Foreign Languages (SFL) in 2001 and has since then served as a graduate writing center for Masters and PhD students as well as faculty and research assistants. It is located in the Central Engineering Building, a central point from where it serves the whole Ankara campus. The space consists of two coordinator offices, a meeting room, a cubicle room, a computer assistant room, and a utility room.

The center has two coordinators, one from the Department of Basic English (200 instructors of English), where undergraduate and some graduate students are enrolled in a year-long intensive English preparatory program, and the Department of Modern English (85 instructors), which offers the post preparatory freshman and sophomore academic English courses as well as other languages in the undergraduate programs.

7Today, we coordinate the writing center, but we started off as two of the first tutors 15 years ago when the center first opened its doors. We both volunteered to work 2-3 hours a week and since then we have continued to volunteer to be on the team. Now as coordinators, we are responsible for managing the center under the Assistant Director and Director of the SFL. We have no secretary, so we answer phones ourselves, give information, make appointments, prepare supplementary materials, manage the AWC library, organize writing retreats, conduct short seminars on departments’ request, prepare activity reports, conduct periodic assessments, and promote the center within the university. We have a reduced teaching load of 4 hours in our department but are full-time in the writing center and receive the regular instructors pay who teach their weekly load of 12, 15, 20 or 25 hours in their department, depending on the level they teach. The regular course load is 12 hours, and instructors receive the equivalent of about 3$ for every hour they teach beyond 12 hours.

Continue reading


Dr. Lucie Moussu writes:

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. PrintTo 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.

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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.

For more, visit the CWCA website today!