Dear CWCAB, I would like to partner with some on-campus colleagues, but campus politics and other units’ expectations are challenging my efforts such that my center is left on its own or in a collaboration that seems directive as opposed to collaborative. How can my center collaborate or partner with another unit in a way that actually feels like a partnership? Signed, Kay Oss

Overview

Experienced and new writing center directors often want to start partnerships, on or off campus, to strengthen their tutor training, resources, campuses, communities, or student/faculty/staff experiences. Some examples of writing center partnerships include… libraries (on and off campus), language programs, non-profit organizations, community centers, other universities/colleges/community colleges, other K-12 centers, fellow directors or researchers, campus programs, private tutoring services, other departments, and other student services on campus. These partnerships can lead to research projects, publications, long-term collaborations, student and/or faculty events, and networking opportunities, shared space, budget collaborations, and resource sharing. See below for advice about how to make writing center partnerships effective and efficient for all participants. 

The Summary and Better Practices

So, you want to start a WC partnership. Or, you’ve already gotten into a WC partnership. OR, you were given a WC partnership. Welcome.

Partnerships can be strong and healthy opportunities for writing centers to expand or achieve their mission IF the partners agree on the collaboration, division of labor, and purpose.

First, ask how this partnership achieves your mission. Does it? How? Both/all entities need to be able to carefully align their goals with the purpose of the partnership for it to be successful. Enthusiasm isn’t required but investment is. Secondly, it’s important to put the details of a partnership in writing, formally or–in many WC partnerships–informally. Thirdly, a responsible party should be assigned to the partnership from both/all units.

Building successful partnerships starts with pre-planning, as Scott Whiddon reminds us in his advice below. See the Common Strategies and resources listed here for more information!

Most Common Strategies

  • Create a collaborative Memorandum of Understand (MOU) or a charter (see samples below) for the work
  • Be sure that all of the stakeholders are in agreement about the purpose and time commitment to the partnership
  • Ensure that all of the stakeholders’ supervisors are in agreement about the work
  • Where to find partnerships:
    • Through our field publications: Reach out to people who have written articles, books, or blogs that have been helpful to you.
    • Through our organizations: Network at (virtual AND in-person) events and talk with those who are presenting on common research and administrative issues; find local events or networks sponsored by these organizations.
    • Through your local region: Email administrators at local K-12, university, or private tutoring services.
    • In your school/university/community: Many student success, tutoring programs, and libraries work together in partnership.

A CURATED LIST OF RESOURCES

The Advice

Scott Whiddon: “Partnerships across campus are hard, even for the best of folks and the best of plans. Schedules get filled, priorities shift, and emergencies happen. One of the things I try to do — and perhaps this might be drawn from my experience at SLACs and small colleges — is to take the time to chat about not only the project itself, but also the time, schedule, labor, and resources that go into such an endeavor. I often draft up an email of understanding, too — especially if multiple folks are involved — so that everyone is aware and can speak to timeline and responsibilities. I try to give folks, as best I can, lots of opportunities for input. FInally, I try to remind myself and others about reasonable goals for any project, and make sure that meetings and other requirements are respectful of people’s time.”

Lingshan Song: “I think it’s important to take the initiative and identify a unit or someone in that unit that understands the mission of your center and would be willing to truly collaborate with you. Once you identify a partner, sit down with the head person to set goals for your partnership and how both parties can contribute to achieving the set goals. Building a sustainable partnership requires contributions from both parties, so setting clear goals and making a specific game plan are essential to success.”

Godson Gatsha: “1. negotiating for partnership in good faith until both parties establish and sign an MOU, 2. ensuring that a matrix of responsibilities are clearly defined and implementation schedule is in place, 3. in a non-commercial partnership ensuring trust is part of the ‘DNA’ of both partners rather than legal matters, 4. making clear that each partner identifies a focal person for the implementation and that partner remains accountable and ensures regular reports on partnership engagements and progress are generated and shared with the sponsor of partnership activities  and communities of practice enjoying the spinoffs from the partnership.

The Listservs

WCenter Searchable Archives Advice

  • “Six or seven years ago, I built a really innovative and highly collaborative summer bridge writing course that involved our university’s librarians, and while the head librarian (who had been my primary contact during the program’s design and operation) was fully on board—and seemed to be a real believer in what we were up to—it wasn’t until the summer program ended that I learned that some of the librarians who had been working with our faculty and students were not at all happy with the new writing course and their role in it. So what I (and the head librarian) had thought would be a really good partnership turned out to be fraught with mistrust…So I think it’s really important to provide some mechanism to seek genuine, discreet input from the librarians as you think about doing some cross-training with them.” Kurt Bouman, 8-11-20

The Books

  • Centers for Learning: Writing Centers and Libraries in Collaboration, eds. James K. Elmborg and Sheril Hook, 2005
  • Partners in Literacy: A Writing Center Model for Civic Engagement, Allen Brizee and Jaclyn M. Wells, 2016
  • WAC Partnerships Between Secondary and Postsecondary Institutions, eds. Jacob S. Blumner and Pamela B. Childers, 2015

The Book Chapters

The Articles

The Multimedia Resources

The Databases

The Organizations

  • IWCA (The International Writing Center Association)

http://www.Writingcenters.org

  • ACTLA (The Association of Colleges for Tutoring and Learning Assistance)

http://actla.info/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2019_Online_Tutoring_Standards.pdf

What Have I Missed? What are concerns in your LOCAL contexts? Where should we be looking? Please share in the comments!


photo of StaciaAbout the Author

Dr. Stacia Moroski-Rigney is the new Director of Accreditation, Program Review, and Assessment at Michigan State University. She is also an affiliate graduate faculty member in Writing, Rhetoric, and Cultures (WRAC). Stacia co-authored The Pop Culture Zone: Writing about Popular Culture (1st ed.), contributed a chapter to COMPbiblio: Leaders and Influences in Composition Theory and Practice, and published articles in WLN and in SDC: A Journal of Multiliteracy and Innovation. She is a former President of SWCA, a former co-chair of the IWCA Summer Institute, and a former writing center administrator at Middle Tennessee State University and Lipscomb University. Stacia also works as a consultant for universities in first-year experience, writing programs, assessment, and writing centers.

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