Transnational Collaborations and Writing Center Development at an English-Medium University in Lebanon

Anna S. Habib has an MFA in Creative Nonfiction (2006) and is near completing her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric from George Mason University. She served in several positions in the Mason Writing Center, from graduate tutor to Acting Director. Currently, she is the Associate Director of Composition, managing the undergraduate composition courses for multilingual students at both the George Mason University home campus and at the branch campus in Songdo, South Korea. She also coordinates and teaches the Graduate Writing across the Disciplines courses for INTO Mason, Mason’s pathway program for graduate and undergraduate international students.

WLN blog: Can you share some of your story?
Habib: I was born in Beirut during the civil war[1] to an American mother and a Lebanese father. At the age of four, when the war began to escalate, my parents, sister, and I fled the country on a small boat with other refugees who had found an illegal way out of the country. We made our way to the island of Cyprus where I grew up in a community of immigrant/refugees from Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, and the former Soviet Union. My father’s family opened a branch of their Lebanese school in Cyprus for this community of displaced students. The school followed the French Lycée curriculum, meaning all subjects were taught in French (a consequence of Lebanon’s post-colonial history), but the curriculum also included Arabic literature and language and English and Greek as required courses. When I turned 15, my family emigrated to the US to live with my mother’s parents. The shift from a tiny Mediterranean island surrounded by my native languages and my community of friends to a North Jersey high school in a wealthy community was extremely jarring.

I managed to find my way through high school, and then moved to Virginia to attend George Mason University as an undergraduate student. The campus felt a lot more comfortable than my high school environment—I was surrounded by other students from the Middle East and North African region and began to form friendships again with peers who also spoke Arabic as their first language or who had had similar international experiences.

View from University of Balamand

WLN blog: What was the role of writing centers in your academic experience in the US?
Habib:
I didn’t encounter the concept of a writing center until my undergraduate studies at Mason. In the Lebanese school/French lycée system, writing was not taught as a process. Students were often required to write decontextualized essays in class or at home that demonstrated their mastery of literary/philosophical concepts without any feedback or conversations on drafts. During my undergraduate studies at Mason, I visited the writing center once, but couldn’t appreciate the possibilities of the peer-feedback approach yet. It wasn’t until I was hired as a graduate research assistant for Terry Myers Zawacki and Chris Thaiss’ book, Engaged Writers, Dynamic Disciplines (2006), that I learned about the work of writing centers. I sat in the back hallway of the writing center and transcribed dozens of Terry’s and Chris’ interviews with faculty across the curriculum describing their own experiences as writers, and how those experiences informed their writing pedagogy. As I typed and typed for hours, I watched students and tutors interact in thoughtful conversations about writing projects. Through listening to faculty perspectives and observing tutors and students in action, I began to understand pretty clearly that the role of writing in the US academy was significantly different than its role in non-US academic contexts like the one I grew up in. Continue reading “Transnational Collaborations and Writing Center Development at an English-Medium University in Lebanon”

Tutoring in Qatar

Editor’s note: Today’s profile is of Dr. Molly McHarg, who was kind enough to share some of her experience working in Qatar.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 8.28.13 AMThe Writing Center (TWC) at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQ) began rather organically. VCUQ opened in 1998, and, to the best of my understanding, there was an English faculty member who recognized the need for additional English language writing support early on. She, along with other volunteer English faculty members, provided supplemental writing instruction to students on a one-on-one basis. Fast forward to 2004, and the first Writing Center Instructor position was created. This instructor is still with TWC. Since 2004, there have also been a series of adjunct instructors hired to work part-time in TWC. Finally, in 2013, a second full-time position was created in TWC, a position which I currently hold.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 8.29.30 AMMy husband and I moved to Qatar in August 2005 — almost 10 years ago — when Georgetown University was just opening its branch campus in Doha. We were newlyweds and eager to embark on an exciting adventure abroad, so we jumped at the opportunity with plans to stay “for one year, maximum two”, at which point we planned to return to the U.S. Ten years later we are still here and loving it! We now have three children and have added two advanced degrees to our resumes. Qatar is an incredible place with many opportunities, both for work and personal development. I think it is one of the best places in the world to raise children; there are also endless opportunities to travel, and research and other professional development opportunities abound.

Continue reading “Tutoring in Qatar”