WLN Blog: Tell me a bit about your background, and how you got started in writing center work?
Adam: As a new graduate student in the English program at Washington State University, I was quickly met with imposter syndrome and felt a bit lost trying to think of what I wanted to do with my career. Despite focusing my thesis on multimodality, I worked closely with the Writing Center Director there and enjoyed my time tutoring in the center. I excelled at tutoring almost immediately and was soon asked to begin mentoring at-risk reinstatement students at the college. The initiative I put forth toward organizing and leading these sessions led to me being awarded The Harold and Jeanna Rounds Olson Fellowship for Writing Across the Curriculum Award, a competitive, university-wide award given to a single student for their contributions to the university each year.
Still, I continued down the path of researching multimodality as a doctoral student at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). There I taught Composition, as well as English as a Second Language courses, but it was what happened outside of the classroom that reignited my passion for tutoring.
To this day, the most rewarding experience I had as a tutor was visiting with an entire family who relocated from Japan to Bowling Green, Ohio. Though there were many language barriers and challenges along the way (as the family spoke nearly no English whatsoever), I particularly wanted to help the mother of the family who broke down into tears because she could not figure out how to communicate effectively enough in English to obtain a library card to be able to check out children’s books and DVDs for her young daughter and son. After months of work, I still tear up thinking about the image of her crying tears of joy, library card in hand, with two very happy children.
The Dangling Modifier is a newsletter/online journal written by peer writing tutors for peer writing tutors. The newsletter, first launched in 1994 at Penn State University under the direction of Dr. Ron Maxwell, serves as an opportunity for peer tutors in writing to have their thoughts and experiences in the writing center published for an international audience.
Part of The DM’s charm? All selected submissions (and their writers!) are tutored through synchronous, digital sessions with a panel of student consultants. We don’t want to use the word “editors,” here, since that’s not the work we’re setting out to do. The goal for each published piece in each edition is for writers and their preliminary readers (our team of student consultants) to have meaningful conversations about their work and their writing before the editions go live. We want to extend our discourse on writing, revision, and reflection beyond our classrooms or writing centers and into a space that centers tutor-knowing and tutor-experiencing by pairing together our writers with consultants who assist in that reflection process.
Every fall, the newsletter is hosted by Penn State University under the supervision of Dr. Karen-Elizabeth Moroski (me), and in the spring, the newsletter travels! Recent hosts include Michigan State University and Wittenberg University. If your university might be interested in hosting during Spring 2019, let Karen know (email@example.com).
To learn more about The Dangling Modifier or to view this fall’s CFP, check out our website. Submissions are due November 12th.
Margaret Procter retired in 2012 as University of Toronto Coordinator, Writing Support since 1994.
How does a country invent a new discipline? The answer for Canada would have to involve the organization commonly called Inkshed (otherwise the Canadian Association for the Study of Language and Learning). It brought university teachers together in person and online from 1982 to 2015 to discuss how students learn to use texts, write with their own voices, and interact to develop ideas. In the process, Inkshed gave Canadian writing-centre faculty a way to think about their particular kind of teaching and helped them become growth points in the emerging discipline of writing studies. As a new writing-centre director in the 1990s, I found a community in Inkshed conferences, listserv exchanges, and newsletters. I learned from Inkshed what writing instruction could be, and gained encouragement by seeing others navigate the issues I also faced.
Inkshed no longer offers conferences or creates newsletters, but it still exists as an active publishing house, extensive online archives of newsletters and email, and many intense memories. When Inkshed took shape in the 1980s, Canadian universities had only a weak tradition of teaching writing. Where first-year composition existed, it was usually grafted onto a literature course to show students correct essay structure and grammar. A few engineering and business schools required courses on workplace genres, also emphasizing correctness. Some universities had writing centres offering individual tutoring, but they tended to be hidden in back rooms and seen as charitable measures for underprepared students. Continue reading “Inkshed and Canadian Writing Centres”→
The Writing Centre Multiverse: Vancouver May 30-31, 2019
For our 2019 conference, the Canadian Writing Centres Association/L’Association canadienne des centres de rédaction welcomes proposals on any writing-centre-related subject, but particularly invites proposals that explore how Writing Centres navigate, respond to, and negotiate the “multiverse” we all inhabit—in our spaces, our practices, and our research.
How, for example, do any of the following multis inform, enrich, and/or limit our work in the context of our own institutions? How do they intersect or overlap with practical, political, and/or personal concerns around training, pedagogy, administration, decolonization, or wellness? How do we as writing centre practitioners respond to, negotiate, or resist, any or all of these?
Ashley Squires is Director, Writing and Communication Center, New Economic School, Moscow.
When I arrived in Moscow in 2013 to begin my job as Associate Director of the Writing and Communication Center at the New Economic School, it was with a sense of purpose and adventure. I felt that the work I was doing—teaching communication and critical thinking skills to Russian students—would be challenging and urgent. But I could not have guessed that my time here would overlap with the emergence of writing and writing pedagogy as a genuine academic discipline in a place where it hadn’t previously existed.
The WCC at NES is usually considered to be the first American-style writing center in the Russian Federation. Founded in 2011, it coincided with the creation of an American-style liberal arts program at the New Economic School and the Higher School of Economics. The latter university, which, like NES, was founded in the years immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, began its own writing center in the very same year. Since then, between 14 and 16 writing centers have popped up across the country (the number depends on how we define an “active” writing center). However, the NES WCC remains the only writing center that, in the American mode, primarily serves the needs of students, especially undergraduate students.
Though inspired by American writing centers and Anglophone writing pedagogy, Russian writing programs are taking new forms. Many of them were founded with money distributed as part of Project 5-100 (Проекта 5-100), a state-sponsored effort to raise the international profile of Russian universities by encouraging faculty to publish in international venues. This has created the conditions for writing to emerge as a genuine discipline focused as it is on raising the general level of scientific communication, not only in English but in Russian as well. Interesting new approaches and research projects are emerging in this environment, and parallel efforts are ongoing in Central Asia and other parts of Eastern Europe. But across such a vast territory, scholars need help finding one another, and the West as yet knows little about the work being done here.
In cooperation with the WAC Clearinghouse, I am looking to bring attention to this important work and to increase the possibility of collaboration across borders. We are seeking proposals for contributions to an edited volume that will cover the history and current practice of writing programs throughout the former Soviet Union. This collection seeks to address the following questions:
How are teachers, students, researchers and administrators in the region working to further progressive writing pedagogy?
What ideas about writing and writing instruction—both new and old, foreign and domestic— inform, assist or complicate this work?
How does writing shape knowledge and practice within specific regional cultures, academic or otherwise? How might writing function as a bridge or barrier?
How is writing being used as a learning tool, within disciplines, within the university, or at a national or international level?
Possible submissions might include:
Studies of past language / educational practices in the region and the impact these practices have on contemporary writing pedagogy.
Analyses of institutions (writing centers, language departments, universities) and the forces, both internal and external, with which stakeholders must contend in reforming writing pedagogy.
Analyses of the region’s unique cultural, economic and political challenges, and how these challenges affect the teaching of writing.
Stories of success (or failure) in attempting to incorporate methods and materials from other countries’ research traditions.
Analyses of international collaboration efforts, the challenges faced and knowledges produced.
Research studies (either qualitative or quantitative) that test the feasibility of various teaching methods.
Stories or studies which understand local experience through broad theoretical concepts (translingualism; World Englishes; genre studies, activity systems and communities of practice; writing to learn and WAC/WID theory; academic literacies, etc.).
The deadline for proposals (200-300 word abstracts) is October 31, but we will continue to look at submissions after that point. Final essays will be due in late Spring of 2019. To submit an abstract or ask a question, contact Ashley Squires at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few years ago, Scott Whiddon (Associate Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication, Transylvania University) and Graham Stowe (Assistant Professor of English, Canisius College) became friends because of writing centers and a shared love of music. Both are songwriters, guitar players, active musicians, and writing center directors. For the past few years, they’ve played various writing center gatherings as Stamp+Ink, performing at spaces such as The Carson McCullers Center (Columbus, GA), the Burns-Belfry Museum (Oxford, MS), and Gallery 5 (Richmond, VA). Along the way, Whiddon and Stowe recorded a digital album called Beautiful Scenes and are releasing it as a fundraiser for undergraduate and graduate student scholarships.
Please welcome to the blog our new associate editor for the Middle East and North Africa, Anna Habib – editor.
Anna S. Habib is the Associate Director of Composition, at both the George Mason University home campus and at the branch campus in Songdo, South Korea & coordinator and instructor in the Graduate Writing Across the Disciplines courses for INTO Mason, Mason’s pathway program for graduate and undergraduate international students.
Anna S. Habib was born in Beirut, Lebanon, during the civil war to a Lebanese father and American mother. When she was four years old, her family fled to the neighboring island of Cyprus where she grew up in a community of refugees from surrounding countries. As a bi-cultural, bi-national child from a post-colonial context, she grew up with English, Arabic and French as native languages and Greek as a second language. These intercultural, translingual experiences inspired her to pursue a BA in English with a concentration in Cultural Studies, and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at George Mason University. She graduated from the MFA program in 2006. Her thesis, which she hopes to continue working on someday, is titled “A Block from Bliss Street: Growing up as a child of the Lebanese civil war.” She is currently pursuing her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric also at Mason, where she served as the Associate Director of the Writing Center for five years until she transitioned to her current position as Associate Director of Composition for Multilingual Writers.
Her research and publications have focused on the experiences of multilingual writers adapting to the expectations of the U.S. academy, faculty perceptions of writing by multilingual students, and designing writing courses that are attuned to the diverse needs of this population. She is currently working on an auto-ethnography that aims to explore and theorize individual experiences of trauma and displacement.
Please welcome to the blog our new associate editor for Europe, Dr. Stephanie Dreyfürst – editor.
Dr. Stephanie Dreyfürst, Director, Academic Writing Center,
I became interested in genre during my studies of German literature of the early Enlightenment period and have been doing research about historical genres as part of my job as director of the Writing Center at Frankfurt’s Goethe university.
WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship is proud to announce our second webinar: “WCA as Hero: A Scholar’s Journey to Publication.”
This event, covering strategies for drafting an article for WLN, including how to find time to write, how to understand the lit review process, and how to find or start a writing group, will be held on Friday, October 26, 2018, 3:00pm to 4:00pm E.S.T. and is hosted by WLN Associate Editors Elizabeth Kleinfeld, Sohui Lee, and Julie Prebel. There will be opportunities for Q & A.
Please welcome to the blog our new associate editor for Asia, Lingshan Song – editor.
Lingshan Song, Assistant Director, Writing Center
Lingshan is the assistant director of the Writing Center at Mississippi College (MC). She also teaches freshmen composition courses and the tutor training course at MC. Her research interests include writing center theory and practice, ESL tutoring, and cultural studies. Currently she has been a strong advocate for advancing writing center movement in China and connecting writing center professionals from China and US. Lingshan also serves as Outreach Coordinator on the Southeastern Writing Center Association (SWCA) board, TESOL Representative for the Association of Christians in Writing Centers (ACWC), and Oversea Representative for the Writing Center Association of China (WCAC).
As a native Chinese, Lingshan is trilingual (Mandarin, English, and Fuzhou Dialect). She enjoys reading, writing, teaching, travelling, making friends from different countries, and exploring diverse cultures. She feels honored to join the WLN editor team this year and very much looking forward to contributing to the community that seeks to connect writing centers across borders.
My participation in the 2018 Canadian Writing Centres Association Conference (CWCA) was like a putting the pieces of a puzzle together. I am an international Deaf student who has been to writing centers for more than a decade. As a Deaf writer, I was honored to share my story at the CWCA conference. I was also excited to meet writing center professionals and learn about the writing centers in Canada.
When I participated in the conference, the Keynote speaker was Dr. Sheelah McLean—a co-founder of the Idle No More movement. As I listened to Dr. McLean speak, I realized that there were commonalities between Indigenous students and Deaf students.
Historically, many Ingenious students grew up by attending White-centered schools, trying to assimilate into the White-centered culture, speaking standard English, and behaving like White people. The use of Indigenous language was banned by residential schools. In the same way, many Deaf students grew up attending mainstream schools without accommodation, trying to assimilate into hearing culture, speaking orally, and trying to behave like hearing people. The use of sign language was banned at mainstream schools.
When I wrote an essay about Deaf people, I was often asked to affix a lower case ‘d’ to the term “deaf people,” which signified a person’s inability to hear. However, I was asked not to affix a capital letter ‘D’ to the term “Deaf people” although it signified persons who identified with Deaf culture. This was an example of cultural repression because my editors were not familiar with Deaf culture, and the differences between people who are culturally Deaf people and those people who are non-culturally deaf people. This experience is similar to that experienced by Ingenious students who were often asked to fix their Indigenous language to conform to standard English, because of lack of cultural linguistic awareness and hundreds of year of cultural repression and genocide.
In my round-table discussion, I discussed the concept of translingualism. The term translingual originated from Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach (Horner et al, 2011)—which states, in part, “this approach sees difference in language not as a barrier to overcome or as a problem to manage, but as a resource for producing meaning in writing, speaking, reading, and listening” (p. 303). Although many scholars have addressed translingualism for multilingual speakers, little attention has been paid to multilingual signers. Since the translingual approach could be beneficial for indigenous student writers, I argued for the inclusion of “signing” in this definition as well, since because a translingual approach could also apply to Deaf writers. Continue reading “Placing a Piece of the Puzzle: Translingualism and International Deaf Writers”→
My mantra as co-director of the Herndon Writing Center (HWC) has long been “we’re always in beta.” Each year presents a unique challenge either within our center or our larger school community that we seek to address through the work of our center. Some years, we’ve sought to make our space more inviting for our school’s growing population of English Language Learners, while other years, we’ve worked to develop a community of writers and a culture of writing in our school.
This year’s challenge? How do we offer quality, ongoing tutor training and foster a sense of ownership in our center when we have an abundance of enthusiastic, dedicated tutors and a scarcity of time to formally come together to discuss tutoring best practices and make plans?
The Herndon Writing Center is a student-run, teacher-directed space where all students at our very large, very diverse suburban high school in Fairfax County, Virginia can work with a peer tutor on their writing. While there are many models of implementation for SSWCs, which include opening all day thanks to tutors who give up a study hall period or opening only before or after school, the HWC operates through a course called Advanced Composition, an advanced writing elective that was originally revised and repurposed by Amber Jensen of Edison High School to house writing centers in Fairfax County Public Schools. Students may apply to become tutors and enroll in Advanced Composition beginning in their Sophomore year, and once accepted, they may enroll in the course every year until they graduate.
Tomoyo Okuda graduated with a Ph.D. in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of British Columbia, Canada. Her research interests include second language writing, writing center studies, internationalization of higher education, and language policy.
Christiane Donahue (2009) once praised the writing center community as having the “strongest development in terms of exchange of teaching practice and pedagogical framing, always explored in context” (p. 222). This is evident from the fact that we can find writing centers in 63 countries, according to the St. Cloud State University’s Writing Center Directory.
I was always interested in why writing centers became so popular around the world and started collecting literature written about writing centers in different countries (as a side note, I focused on writing center development in Japan for my dissertation research, “The Writing Center as a Global Pedagogy: A Case Study of a Japanese University Seeking Internationalization”). A common topic found in international writing center literature was how the idea of the writing center needed adjustments to suit the cultural, religion, existing literacy practices of each country or institution. But I was more interested in the bigger picture—the socio-political/economic imperatives of writing center initiation, namely, the political landscape of higher education discourses and reforms fed into the decision to initiate or sustain a writing center (Salem, 2014). In this blog post, I would like to discuss three imperatives identified from my reading of international writing center literature (book chapters, articles, reports, websites).
Internationalization has become a powerful agenda for many universities around the world, and for non-English speaking countries, this means internationalizing higher education through the medium of English. Thus, we can see English-medium instruction programs (courses and programs taught in English) in what Harbord (2010) calls US-style universities: universities with “US accreditation, US charter, US-style curriculum, US grading system, a liberal arts approach, and some faculty from the US” (para. 9). Examples of US-style universities would be liberal arts colleges in Hungary, India, and Japan, and American branch universities such as in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France, Bulgaria, where the writing center is usually managed in conjunction with first year composition courses. Another internationalization initiative for universities is scholarly publications in English and for this purpose, some writing centers in East Asia offer services to help scholars write research manuscripts in English. For instance, according to Kim (2017), the government-supported globalization initiative called ‘Brain Korea 21’, which aims to foster international scholars, led to a wave of new writing centers in South Korean universities. Continue reading “Internationalization, Massification, and the Knowledge Economy: A Comparison of International Writing Center Trends”→
Dr. Karen-Elizabeth Moroski is the Co-Curricular Programs Coordinator for Writing and Languages at Penn State University, University Park Campus. Her research interests span affective neuroscience, trauma studies, queer theory, and writing studies—really, she loves the intersections of critical theory and embodiment. Karen’s particularly interested in how Writing Centers can work to engage/combat/heal the lives writers live before, during, and after their writing process: can we heal trauma through writing? She’s an Associate Editor for WAC Clearinghouse, serves on Executive Board for the Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Association, and was recently appointed to co-lead the first-ever International Writing Center Association Digital Content Team. Residing in Pine Grove Mills, PA, with her wife and their badly-behaved cats (Tag and Samoa), Karen loves riding her bike and singing out of tune.
Before I Begin…
I’d like to own that much of this post is a narration of a person journey wherein my experience is what’s being centered—though the issues challenging me throughout the post are areas of scholarship (and, yes, life) that can and should be centered in their own right whenever possible. I am conscious that this blog post may feel like “Here’s a white person explaining their whiteness, and how they’re challenging themselves to change”—and maybe it is that, in a way—but my pedagogical and intentional reason for crafting my post this way is to show an evolution of thought, self-reflection, and to model the type of calling out that more white academics and administrators need to do with ourselves and with one another.
I’m writing with full acknowledgement that my whiteness, my privilege, and my context have shaped how I interpret, express, and address the information I’m sharing—and that it’s scholars of color, not white allies or accomplices, who have done the most powerful and productive work on pushing the fields of rhetoric, composition, and writing center studies towards anti-racism and equity. (And I’ve included endnote references throughout to share moments of connection with my musings here today and the scholarship that informs them, as a blog post isn’t perhaps the best genre to go full-on, MLA8 in-text on ya’ll.)
I’m grateful to scholars like Vershawn Ashante Young,[i] Suresh Canagarajah,[ii] Asao Inoue,[iii] Aja Martinez,[iv] bell hooks,[v] and others who have given again and again the opportunity for white academics to learn from their work and to then act upon that learning. I write that sentence while wishing that the academy did not require scholars of color to write about and defend the dignity of their identities so that we could use their scholarship as teaching tools. That said, again, I want to express gratitude that it is work many scholars of color have done and continue doing as that work has challenged and engaged an entire field of study.
I am a work in progress; the writing center where I hang my hat is a work in progress; we hope to keep learning more and doing better, and we wish we were faster at that process.
Let’s Get To It, Then. I’ve been thinking a lot about translingualism and writing centers. I’ve been wondering what I mean (or should mean) when I say translingual, and I’ve been wondering how the answers to this question shape how I write about it, how I ask my tutors to engage with it, and how our writing center can explain its investment in translingual pedagogy to the university community. I’m wondering, too, how my context as a white academic person shapes these questions and their answers. At Penn State, we’ve been working on a grant proposal to create a Scholar in Residence for Translingual Learning and Tutoring, seeking to unite our language and writing tutoring programs to more effectively serve translingual writers—and over time, our writing center administration’s definition of translingualism has shifted from solely focusing on global languages and global Englishes to a wider, more equitable lens that embraces domestic Englishes, too. Continue reading “Toward an Anti-Racist, Translingual Writing Center”→
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 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.
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”→
Genie Giaimo, Ph.D., is the current Director of The Ohio State University Writing Center. Before her arrival to OSU, she was Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Writing Centers at Bristol Community College. Her research applies RAD-based methodologies to large-scale and often systemic issues within writing center administration, such as perceptions of the writing center in open access institutions, or the impact of ordinary and extraordinary stress on writing center workers. She has published articles in peer reviewed journals such as Language and Literature, Literature and Medicine, European Journal of Life Writing and Praxis: A Writing Center Journal. She is also the special editor of the WLN issue on Wellness and Self-Care. In the time that she doesn’t manage a staff of 52+ graduate and undergraduate consultants, she practices yoga and volunteers at Colony Cats—a volunteer-run organization dedicated to trap and release, as well as the treatment and adoption of stray and surrendered cats, in Columbus, OH.
WLN blog: Why is this an important issue? Giaimo: Writing Centers are not just spaces where writing occurs, or where education occurs; they are also spaces where emotionally charged exchanges happen and where burnout can occur among workers.
WLN blog:Do you see an increased need self-care and wellness in students? Giaimo: It’s hard to say, I think, anecdotally, that the recent Presidential election and the attendant uncertainty surrounding DACA, and other policies set in-place to protect vulnerable populations among us (such as persons of color, LGBTQ+, graduate students, among many many others) certainly has had an effect on the experiences and emotions of a number of students on campus. However, statistically speaking, Degner et al.’s piece noted the increase of mental health concerns, self-diagnosed or professionally diagnosed, among student populations entering college. So, yes, I think self-care and wellness is something that a number of universities are interested in fostering for their students and that student populations (as well as those outside universities) could benefit from being supported in this work. Continue reading “Working Towards the Trifecta: A WLN Special Issue on Wellness and Self-Care”→
In coordination with the 2018 ECWCA conference theme on occupational hazards: writing center labor, self-care and reflection, we welcome submissions that explore the multi-faceted ways in which writing center labor demands, deserves and enacts wellness and self-care practices. To date, research on tutor well-being—a perennial concern for writing center administrators—is relatively under-explored in writing center scholarship. While mindfulness in the writing center has been the topic of a number of presentations at regional and national writing center conferences (and a popular discussion thread on a recent Wcenter listserv email), there is relatively little published material on this topic (Mack and Hupp; Dueck). Similarly, Degner et al.’s 2015 article “Opening Closed Doors: A Rationale For Creating a Safe Space for Tutors Struggling with Mental Health Concerns or Illness” calls for more explicit training on self-care and tutor mental health after uncovering that 65% of survey respondents identified the lack of discussion on these subjects in their writing centers’ trainings.
Wellness and self-care, then, while popular topics both in writing center academic conversations, as well as in popular culture, are poised to become a mainstay of tutor preparation and training. Similarly, this topic is becoming monetized through for-pay productivity workshops and trainings. What, then, does the academic writing center community have to say on these subjects? How do we currently integrate wellness and self-care into our practices? How might we want to incorporate these practices into our centers? And what does our desire to do so say about the labor that we preform? We encourage contributors to consider, as starting points, current and local iterations of wellness and self-care trainings in writing centers, as well as potential best practices for developing these kinds of programming for our tutors, our administrators, and our clients. Continue reading “CfP || WLN Special Issue: Wellness and Self-Care in Writing Center Work, with Dr. Genie N. Giaimo”→
In spring 2017, St. Cloud State University’s Writing Center Administration certificate program offered its first two courses, “Writing Center Theory and Practice” and “Issues in Writing Center Administration.” Students became bonded early on. Friendships and collaborations for research projects and conference presentations grew during that semester and continued into summer term with the final two classes, “Staffing and Training” and “Case Studies in Writing Center Administration.” Because the program is delivered entirely online, I was surprised at the strength of the community, which was much more than I’d hoped for during the 2 ½ years it took me to slog through the morass of bureaucratic speed bumps on the way to program approval. As I said in the earlier article/interview, I’d had to secure approvals from 14 different individuals and committees along the way. This was an intense, real-world lesson in discovering audience expectations, a topic we discuss throughout the WCA program in all of the courses.
The most significant challenge in designing the WCA program has been providing sources, instruction, and assignments that allow students to personalize a learning experience most beneficial to each one of them. Last year’s students represented a range of experience from zero to nine years in WC administration. Some were new MA students; some were PhD students; some were professionals in the field. They represented public and private institutions at the high school, 2-year, and 4-year college levels. One student had developed an independent writing center and had tax-exempt status and a board of directors in place. One, a high school teacher, had never worked in a writing center before and knew just a little about them, but hoped to help build one at her school. This year, there are more graduate students and fewer professionals; however, we have, for the first time, an administrator from a private high school boys’ preparatory school and also an assistant director from a writing center in China. Caswell, McKinney, and Jackson note the development and variety of non-standard writing centers in their book, The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors, a longitudinal study of nine new writing center directors.
That our participants include writing center directors in a charter school and in a European boarding school is emblematic of the times. Writing centers have been sprouting up in secondary schools and in non-US settings at a growing rate. As this happens, we think we’ll see that more alternatives to the US university model will emerge as different though effective, ways to do writing center work. (199)
To reflect this diversity in the WCA certificate program, course materials cover a variety of common contexts and issues pertaining to writing center administration, like navigating institutional relationships, researching the writing center, creating assessment activities and reports, grant writing, hiring, training, and other shorter units. Assignments are flexible enough so students can create individualized documents that might be included in an application portfolio or provide a model for their home institution or for the type of writing center setting they are most interested in.