Dear CWCAB,

What are some new services or approaches others are using to expand and move their writing centers forward?

Signed,

Ino Vative

My very first thought when I hear questions like this comes from the comedic masterpiece What About Bob. Bill Murray’s character is struggling with a number of mental health issues, including agoraphobia, and Richard Dreyfuss’s character recommends “baby steps” as a way to ease into the world. Writing centers’ bread and butter is working one-to-one with students, and nothing we add to our list of services should take away from that work. Reassigning a tutor to a new task takes away some of their time to work with students, so any new, innovative work needs to be balanced with other parts of our core mission. We should take baby steps, as it were, into other areas.

That said, it is also possible to become stagnant, to get stuck in a cycle where we do a good job reaching out to certain parts of a campus while failing to see other places on campus where we could be of use to students. So, while I think we should avoid innovation for the sake of innovation, I do think one very simple place to start is by looking at what departments and programs are not using your center’s services. Reach out to chairs and directors to make sure they know what the writing center does and go from there. This is relatively easy growth; it’s a baby step that provides the same things we already provide to new places.

This same approach can help you find other ways to contribute to the campus. Where are the holes that a writing center could fill? What do you hear from professors and students about how writing is on campus? What kinds of workshops could you offer that you aren’t currently? What classes could you offer to take a workshop to? Are there academic genres that writers on campus think need more attention? Are there classes you could discuss adding supplemental instruction to, using your tutors as supplemental instruction leaders?

Some new ideas are designed to simply draw more students to the space. My most successful new venture in recent semesters has been an open mic for creative writers. We have a fairly robust creative writing major, but at least half of those who choose to read their work have been students who enjoy writing creatively as a hobby. We tell students about our services, but the goal of the event is to build onto the culture of writing on campus and to give students a space to share their ideas.

Finally, it’s important to connect with other writing center professionals. If you can, try to join your regional affiliate of the IWCA, attend a conference, or meet informally with writing center professionals in your area. Funding is tight for these kinds of things, but there are many options for free or low cost webinars that the regional affiliates have put together in recent years.

Most Common Strategies

  • Reach out to campus leaders to see where you can fit into existing programs.
  • Find out what other writing center professionals are doing in your area.
  • Take workshops out of your center and into other peoples’ spaces.
  • “Read” the campus. Where is the good work happening? Where are the gaps? How can you help?

A CURATED LIST OF RESOURCES

The Advice

Rusty Carpenter: “Writing centers are evolving to meet students where they are by reevaluating and redesigning the systems used for scheduling and appointment tracking while becoming more data-driven and agile in the services and programs offered. Aligning appointment management systems with granular institutional data and robust reporting, along with strategic communication options, allows writing centers to 1) offer services designed to meet the needs of students, 2) reach students with the most significant needs in areas of writing and communication, and 3) design communication to align students with the information and resources they need based to be successful and to persist at the institution. While broad-based approaches are still a valid delivery, writing center systems will be reimagined to perform much more than schedule management in a move toward more responsive and inclusive designs.”

Wonderful Faison: “Universities that want writing centers to serve the entire student body can no longer depend on the department of English or the school/college of liberal arts to fund the WC or the people therein. Make the university fund the writing center. Meet with deans. Have them commit funds to tutor stipends, travel, and subsistence.”

Trixie Smith: “Many of our recent, and perhaps new, efforts have been in the areas of community engagement, which we emphasize in three areas:

  • Campus Engagement such as our Writing Engagement Liaison Program (WELP) which embeds writing consultants in programs and student services across campus, reaching students who might not traditionally come to the WC.
  • Local Engagement such as our Community Writing Center, a partnership with our local public library that includes open and appointment-based consultations, workshops, and youth programming.
  • Global Engagement such as a set of partnerships with universities across the African continent where we are working in collaboration to build research and writing support centers and programs.”

The Listservs

WCenter Searchable Archives

The Books

The Book Chapters

The Articles

The Multimedia and Other 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!


About 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.

Dr. Graham Stowe

About “Dear CWCAB”

We, in the writing center community, come from a variety of academic backgrounds, and the writing we tutor, the tutors who staff our centers, and the faculty who send their students are also from disciplines across the campus, the school, and the community. “Dear CWCAB” is provides answers and updates to perennially asked questions.  The author searches WCenter archives, journal articles, and Facebook groups and reaches out to “experts” to give brief answers and provide further resources. Over time, we look forward to the blog becoming a clearinghouse, centralizing a curated list of answers and resources for new WC administrators and for those starting new projects.

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