WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarshipis launching a workshop program to help writers publish in WLN and contribute to the field of writing center studies. The online workshops will support writers in their early stages of thinking and writing.
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The Canadian Writing Centres Association (CWCA) hosts its fifth annual conference at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) in Toronto, Ontario on May 25th and 26th, 2017. CWCA represents members of writing centres, broadly defined, in colleges, universities, and institutions of all sizes across Canada. It is an affiliate member of the International Writing Centres Association (IWCA).
Clare Bermingham is the Director of the Writing and Communication Centre at the University of Waterloo and is Secretary of CWCA.
WLN Blog: The theme of this year’s CWCA conference is From Far and Wide: Imagining the Futures of Writing Centres. In developing this theme, what were you hoping for?
Clare: “From Far and Wide” is a phrase pulled from the Canadian national anthem, and it’s connected to the 150th anniversary of the formation of Canada as a political nation. However, rather than simply and uncomplicatedly celebrating this milestone, our theme seeks to recognize the complex, often difficult, history of Canada, which plays out in our institutions today and feeds into the questions that writing centres ask about language and writing. We want to challenge ourselves to take note of this history as we turn and look ahead to what’s next for writing centres. We want to know how our community is engaging in work that is inclusive and equitable. How are we working with both Indigenous and international student populations? How are we responding to questions about power and language in training, in theory, and in our daily practice? In what ways are we opening our centres up to be places of real diversity and inclusion in our respective institutions?
WLN Blog: The keynote, Dr. Frankie Condon, has written a great deal on racism and rhetoric. How does her keynote fit into this year’s conference?
Clare: Dr. Condon’s work challenges us to think more deeply about how we do the work we do. It moves us to face issues of inequity and bias head on, but to do so with generosity and care. Frankie’s work, for me, is a generous conversation that’s grounded in the assumption that we want to act in good faith, that we’re taking these issues seriously, and that we acknowledge the potential harm of not listening to each other, especially to the marginalized voices in our communities. Her work is personal and reflective, and she is always equally responsible for the work she calls others to do.
Interested in Joining the WLN Editorial Staff?
Because of an ever-increasing work load and an interest in adding someone with new ideas and approaches to engage our readers, the editorial staff of WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship is in need of another staff member to join our team for the print journal. We envision this person as being an Associate Editor with some development work as well.
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Please send your CV and the requested additional information to us: Lee Ann Glowzenksi (email@example.com) and Muriel Harris (firstname.lastname@example.org). The position will remain open until filled.
An Invitation to Add Your Voice to WLN Conversations
We recognize that articles in WLN should be two-way conversations between authors and readers. And so, we want to provide space (when we can) in WLN issues to hear from you as readers responding to articles you’ve read in WLN. Because page space is always a problem with any journal trying to stay brief enough to actually allow you to read all articles, please keep your comments brief too. It’s difficult to predict when we will have space to include your responses, but we’ll do our best.
WLN: First, can you tell us a little about yourself, your writing center, and your staff? Asao: I’m the Director of University Writing and the Writing Center at the University of Washington Tacoma. I am an Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, and I was just promoted to Full Professor, as of September. I am also the Assistant Chair of CCCCs and so am the Program Chair for 4C18 in Kansas City next March.
My research is in writing assessment and racism. I’ve published on validity theory, classroom assessment, writing program assessment, and composition pedagogy. Most of my work deals with ways to consider race, racial formations, whiteness, and antiracism as a practice in writing assessment. My work has won three national awards, two outstanding book awards, and an outstanding scholarship award from CWPA.
Our writing center is lucky to have four professional staff members, all of whom work full time (except one, out of choice), and full time administrative support. We also have fourteen student writing consultants (tutors), with majors from Communications to Philosophy to Environmental Science to Psychology. The center is centrally located on the second floor of the library. We conduct face-to-face and online sessions.
WLN: Can you describe the composing process and timeline for the statement? To what degree was your staff involved? Asao: During our staff meetings in the winter and spring of 2015, we read some literature on racism and language, including some in writing center studies, and discussed them. During the process, student tutors and professional staff decided to build a statement with my urging. We used a Google Doc so that we could continue our work outside of the confines of the staff meetings, and so that others who couldn’t make a meeting could still participate.
I shaped a lot of things in the statement early on, then let everyone else craft and revise the statement. We went through several iterations of the statement. I suggested that we think of the statement as a living document, one we would come back to periodically to refresh ourselves of our understandings of our position on antiracism and what we promise to do about it. This periodical looking back also means the statement may change as we change and as we try things.
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.
Editor’s note: The recent movie, Arrival, provoked many strong reactions from me–and lots of thought! I’m delighted that someone else from the writing center world saw connections to the work that we do. Today’s post comes courtesy of Andrew Rihn, who started working in writing centers as an undergrad at Kent State University – Stark Campus. Today, he works as a professional tutor at Stark State College.
Arrival is a 2016 science-fiction movie about humanity’s first contact with an alien species, so it’s appeal to writing center people may not be immediately obvious. While much science fiction focuses on domination or conflict, Arrival is unique in its focus on the problems and promises of linguistics. The plot hinges on the work of pursuing communication and avoiding miscommunication, familiar work to anyone who has spent time in a writing center.
In Arrival, the aliens simply arrive with no warning or explanation. Twelve large, mysterious ships hover twenty feet about the ground at seemingly random points across the globe, including one in Montana. The Army is mobilized for defense, but cannot make headway when it comes to communication. They enlist the help of two professors, Louise Banks, a linguist (played by Amy Adams), and Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist (played by Jeremy Renner). This interdisciplinary duo sets out to meet the aliens, find a way communicate, and at the behest of the Army, find the answer to the question “What is your purpose on Earth?”
We follow Dr. Banks’ first fumbling attempts to communicate with the aliens, called “heptapods” in the movie (so-named for their seven tentacle-like limbs). The language-learning process is of course very slow. The Army is increasingly frustrated with their progress, so we are treated to several scenes of explanation from Dr. Banks about the hows and whys of language acquisition.
Submitted by Susan DeRosa and Stephen Ferruci, Associate Professors of English Eastern CT State University
Susan DeRosa and Stephen Ferruci are Associate Professors of English at Eastern Connecticut State University. They co-authored the textbook, Choices Writers Make: A Guide (Pearson, 2011), and they have collaborated lately on scholarly articles and conference papers on multimodal writing in the writing center and writing classroom. Their research laid the groundwork for the creation of Eastern’s Writing Center in 2008.
Title: Multimodal Writing in the Writing Center: Relationships, Roles, and Responsibilities
Students are increasingly composing and designing multimodal texts that combine sound, visual, performative, and textual components. Takayoshi and Selfe (2007) argue that students need to be versed in both critically reading and producing multimodal texts “if they hope to communicate successfully within the digital communication networks that characterize workplaces, schools, civic life, and span traditional cultural, national, and geopolitical borders” (3). As writers produce multimodal texts to respond to different rhetorical situations and assignments, writing centers need to find ways to work with students and the texts they design. While writing centers may have experience helping writers who include visual elements in their texts, (photos, graphs, charts, etc.), they may be less familiar with other modes with which writers choose to compose. Recent scholarship suggests a focus on these changing roles and the relationships between writing centers and writing classrooms as we engage with multimodal composers and their choices.
The idea for the listserv grew out of a SIG we presented at the 2015 IWCA conference titled “Refocusing the Conversation: Creating Spaces for Online Writing Center Community, Support, and Discussion.” After talking through possibilities for community building during the SIG, many ideas were on the table—an annual conference and/or a possible affiliation group within IWCA (much like the current regional affiliations rooted in specific geographic locations). Post conference, to follow up with these ideas, we sent out a survey to all who attended the conference and others at the conference who signed up to receive more information. Based on the group’s voting, it was decided that we would initially start with a listserv, or discussion list, to promote communication about what centers are doing and how we could all better serve students in a fully-online capacity.
We hope that this listserv does in fact start as a building block that generates wider conversations about the state of current online writing centers, common issues among fully online centers, and possibilities for future collaboration among these centers. We would love to see our group gain the support and membership to work toward a separate affiliation under IWCA one day or even create an academic conference around issues specific to tutoring writing in a virtual environment.
We are advocating for further conversations among staff and tutors that serve students online, so we can, as a group, come up with best practices. Because such a community is still in its infancy, perhaps a better discussion would be how we’ve come to the practices that work for our center– through trial and error, gaps we perceived in our services, ideas for conveying information about writing in new ways, etc. In other words, we can talk about how we have a lot of this stuff, in part, because we don’t really have many discipline-wide best practices and, consequently, we’ve had to experiment. Our guess is that other centers are in the same boat, so we’d like to really advocate for a space where important discussions on innovation and new technologies can take place.
Key to our success in the important work of writing centers is our effectiveness in providing tutor education. Our field has over three decades of scholarship on how to educate writing tutors in a multitude of settings, but the wealth and variety of resources can create challenges for those seeking guidance. However, that we also have a number of excellent and popular (though not universally used) resources such as The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors, The Longman Guide to Peer Tutoring, and The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors does suggest at least some consistency in how we educate tutors. But to what degree do we share core beliefs about tutor education, how do we know what aspects of our programs to prepare writing tutors are most effective, and to what areas are we not paying adequate attention? Moreover, what are effective contexts for educating tutors? Although credit-bearing courses appear to be ideal contexts for tutor education, what particular aspects of a course make it effective? And for directors who are unable to offer a course or even paid time for educating tutors, how can they effectively prepare tutors for the different rhetorical situations and writers they will encounter?
Anna Aghlamazyan is the Math and Writing Center coordinator at the American University in Armenia. She shares a bit of the story of her center, below!
Students at the American University of Armenia (AUA) have a place not to be found in any other educational institution in Armenia – a Center dedicated to Math and Writing. We are the only one in the country and now are 3 years old.
It all began in 2013 when Garine Palandjian, Manager of Student Services, launched the Center for Student Success. Six work-study students were hired to provide math and writing consultations specifically targeting undergraduate students.
Founded 25 years ago, AUA is a private, independent university affiliated with the University of California. Our University initially offered only graduate programs but with the establishment of undergraduate programs The Math and Writing Center was also set up. Supporting student success is an integral part of an American undergraduate education; therefore, AUA ensured that student support services such as the MWC would be included in the design of the undergraduate program.
The number of consultants did not change significantly since the launch of the Math and Writing Center, ranging from 4 to 5. Upon being hired, all of the work-study students are trained to be able to provide support to their peers successfully. The Manager of Student Services and I as the Math and Writing Center Coordinator, guide the consultants to essential tips and tricks to prepare them for consultation sessions. We also have bi-weekly meetings throughout the academic year to ensure work-study students’ professional development.
Editor’s note: Jill Gladstein shares an update on the always growing #IntlWriteIn event!
At this moment, there are 88 schools from 5 countries set to host an international write-in event between Dec. 1-10. The current list of schools is below. Some are hosting an event for the first time while others are old pros at this point. The Swarthmore folks will do our best to keep tabs on how things unfold via social media, but others should feel free to help out to create a buzz. We have adopted the hashtag #intlwritein. If you use this hashtag on any social media platform, the event tagboard should pick it up. You don’t need to be hosting an event to use the hashtag. Feel free to add to the buzz by sharing a scene from your writing center.
I can’t wait to see how this event unfolds on the different campuses. We know that schools have adjusted the event to fit their campus, which is what matters most. If we can get the event buzzing on social media, that’s a bonus. I like to think of the social media buzz as getting the wave moving around a stadium. It’s exciting if and when it happens, but the success of the wave shouldn’t impact the game on the field.