In today’s interview, Dana McLachlin, Coordinator of the Writing Center at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh, discusses the focus of AUW and how the writing center meets student needs.
Hi Dana! Can you tell us about the mission of Asian University for Women (AUW) and the student population?
AUW is a unique institution in many ways: we’re a liberal arts college for women in Chittagong, Bangladesh, and our students come from over 15 countries across Asia, including Afghanistan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Syria. AUW’s mission is to graduate service-oriented leaders who will collaborate across cultural, ethnic, and religious divisions to address social and political problems. Our liberal arts curriculum thus requires courses in Social Analysis and Ethical Reasoning to cultivate critical thinking and civic and political responsibility; our residential program and extracurricular activities also promote friendship and cooperation among students. Our mission is also to expand access to higher education for women, thus the majority of our students are the first women from their families to attend higher education, and most receive full scholarships to study.
How did you get involved with the AUW writing center? What was your experience with writing center work before AUW?
I originally worked as a writing tutor at the University of Richmond, in Richmond, Virginia in the United States. At UR, most of my writing tutoring was classroom-specific rather than in a center. I worked with a specific professor for first-year writing seminars, and gave written feedback in addition to meeting with students.
When researching postgraduate opportunities, I found out about AUW online, and jumped at the chance to live in Bangladesh and work at a women’s university. While I enjoyed writing tutoring at Richmond, I began to really love writing center work at AUW, largely because of our unique student body and context. Working with many students in different classes is also a unique challenge compared to being a class-specific tutor, where you may know the assignment and content well.
What does a typical day look like at the AUW Writing Center?
As with almost any office in Bangladesh, a typical day at the writing center involves many cups of tea and lots of conversation! We’re open 10:30-6:00 weekdays as well as Saturday afternoons (the second day of the weekend in Bangladesh). We normally start the day relatively quiet, but by the afternoon we’re busy with tutors and students coming in and out, and lots of chatting by the front desk. We’re really lucky to have a group of dedicated work-study students, who serve as peer tutors and administrative assistants. They are the lifeblood of the center and keep everything running smoothly, welcoming people as they walk in and creating a friendly atmosphere. We also have a group of staff (in the past AUW fellows and WorldTeach Volunteers) who do the bulk of our tutoring; they also run workshops and IELTS/GRE courses for students preparing for graduate school.