Webinar Invitation: Transitioning Your Writing Center Online

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Editor’s Note: We are sharing this message from Dr. Lisa Cahill of Arizona State University. Please consider attending this webinar. We would also like to thank Dr. Cahill and the Arizona State University Writing Center for hosting this free webinar. 

Greetings!

As many of us have recently moved our writing center operations to online formats (or are currently in the process of doing so), I’m writing to share information about a free webinar being offered on two different dates:  Sunday, March 22 (2-3 pm, Arizona time) and Monday, March 23 (12-1 pm, Arizona time) by Arizona State University.

Webinar Description:

The Arizona State University Writing Center is hosting a free webinar to share how it has operationalized the transition to a fully digital delivery model. Continue reading

How’re you doing?

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CWCAB friends,

We are in uncertain times.  Some of us are having to move our centers completely online for the first time while others of us might have to close for a while.

Come what may, we are a strong, helpful, and encouraging community.  Let’s come together and support each other.

In the Comments box below, let us know how your center is adapting to the present situation? Have you had to move your tutoring completely online? If so, what platforms are you using? How are you working out schedules, tech issues etc? What questions do you have as you adapt?

Are there any tips you have found helpful and could share with the rest of our community?

Please post your comments below or write to us at writinglabnewsletterblog@gmail.com and we will gladly share your thoughts here.

But before we go, here’s a little something out of Italy to cheer us all up and remind us of the power of creativity in resilience!

Meet the authors of WLN’s newly released D.E.C. on transfer in the writing center

D.E.C. Editors, Dana Lynn Driscoll, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, & Bonnie Devet, College of Charleston

Dr. Bonnie Devet contributed this piece. In her previous blog post, she provided an overview of the newly released Digital Edited Collection, Transfer of Learning in the Writing Center, which she co-edited with Dr. Dana L. Driscoll and with Design Editor, Jialei Jiang.  Here, Dr. Devet introduces us to the authors of the collection and their inspirations for researching/studying transfer in the writing center.  

The authors of WLN’s second Digital Edited Collection, Transfer of Learning in the Writing Center, can attest that different sources inspire their scholarship: from faculty comments, being a tutor in a center, conference presentations, and research. In this Digital Edited Collection, they examine the history of transfer in shaping centers, provide detailed scenarios about transfer occurring in tutorials and conclude by moving beyond the center showing that tutors’ skills transfer into careers.

Why do the D.E.C. authors think transfer of learning is vital to centers and how did they become interested in transfer?

Marcus Meade, University of Virginia

Marcus Meade discovered his interest in transfer from assisting student-athletes: “I had conversations with them about what they learned in athletics that might help them as writers and students. That started a long project related to transfer and writing instruction that, in part, focused on how wc work differs from the writing classroom in the conditions that might foster transfer.”

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Rewind & Reset: Lisa Ede’s “Research on Writing Centers: Some Essential Studies”

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Editor’s note: Every so often, we look through our blog archives to find posts that have a way of centering us as writing center practitioners.

This week, Lisa Ede’s 2016 post “Research on Writing Centers: Some Essential Studies” stood out. Ede provides a comprehensive list of scholars and trends in the writing center research. As we embark on a new year, this list reminds us of our field’s evolution and offers helpful sources to consider for those of us involved in writing-center related research, tutor-training initiatives or starting or expanding our writing centers.

What other publications could you add to this list? What sources have been most valuable to you as you integrate writing center practices and pedagogies in your own local contexts outside of the North American one. Let us know in the comments. Enjoy!

Click on this link to read Ede’s post.

CFP || Join the Twelfth Symposium on Writing Centers in Asia

Osaka University, Suita Campus – the venue for the 12th Symposium on Writing Centers in Asia.

The Writing Centers Association of Japan is now accepting proposals for its twelfth Symposium on Writing Centers in Asia. The theme for this year’s symposium is “Opportunities and Challenges for Writing and Writing Centers.” This symposium addresses “the role of writing centers in Asian educational institutions as well as the researching, teaching, and learning of writing.”

The Plenary Speaker will be Judy Noguchi (Kobe Gakuin University) presenting “Thoughts on Professional Writing for Mid 21st Century: ESL, DDL, and STEAM”. For more information, please visit “Writing Center Associations of Japan” or click here to download the symposium flyer.

To submit a proposal, click here. To register for the symposium, click here.

Deadline for submitting proposals: January 10, 2010

Symposium date: Sunday February 23, 2020 at Osaka University.

 

WLN’s 4th webinar| “Writing a Tutor’s Column: From Submitting to Revising” available for streaming!

WLN’s fourth webinar, “Writing a Tutor’s Column: From Submitting to Revising,” is now available for streaming! Please click here to view the recording. 

This webinar covers WLN expectations for Tutor’s Column submissions, and how to research, structure, and revise an article.

To access the June Webinar, “Finding Ideas for Scholarship in Everyday Writing Center Work,” please click here. Representation at the June webinar included a range of participants from community colleges, SLACs, and larger universities across the U.S. and from a number of international countries/cities including Germany, Canada, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Bogota, Liverpool, and Sao Paulo.

For access to all three of the previous webinars, you can visit the WLN Journals’ Digital Resources page.

WLN Workshop: Webinar #4 || “Writing a Tutor’s Column: From Submitting to Revising.”

WLN is proud to present our fourth webinar:  “Writing a Tutor’s Column: From Submitting to Revising.”  This webinar, covering WLN expectations for Tutor’s Column submissions, and how to research, structure, and revise an article, will be held on:

Friday, October 25, 2019, 1:00pm to 2:00pm P.S.T.
To register, click here

Hosted by WLN Associate Editors Elizabeth Kleinfeld, Sohui Lee, and Julie Prebel, the webinar welcomes directors and tutors to join the presentation and a lively question and answer session. There is no charge to sign up for the webinar, but registration is required.  Participants can register up to the day/time of the workshop. Continue reading

Multimodal and Multimedia Projects in the Writing Center by Douglas Eyman

Douglas Eyman is Director of the PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, the MA concentration in Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR), and the undergraduate Professional Writing Minor at George Mason University.  He teaches courses in digital rhetoric, technical and scientific communication, editing, web authoring, advanced composition, and professional writing. His current research interests include investigations of digital literacy acquisition and development, new media scholarship, electronic publication, information design/information architecture, teaching in digital environments, and video games as sites of composition. Eyman is the senior editor and publisher of Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, an online journal that has been publishing peer-reviewed scholarship on computers and writing since 1996. 

Anna S. Habib, Associate Editor, CWCAC

In this post, I hope to provide some concrete advice for working with multimedia and multimodal projects in the writing center, but I should start by noting that my advice (and even my definition of “writing”) comes from my work as editor of Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy and from my research interests in digital rhetoric – I’m not a scholar or practitioner of Writing Center pedagogies, but I am an ally and supporter of  the great work that Writing Centers accomplish. I’ll start with some history and some context; feel free to skip down to the “Advice and Preparation” section to get straight to the practical bits. Continue reading

WLN workshop: Webinar #3 || Finding Ideas for Scholarship in Everyday Writing Center Work

Friday, June 28th || 1:00-2:00pm PST

Please register in advance.

In this third WLN webinar in the workshop series, we’ll talk about how to find ideas for research and publication in the everyday happenings of your writing center. We will focus on how to recognize what you can contribute to the scholarly conversation, and how to frame your contribution in ways that fit WLN and are useful to other writing center practitioners. We will encourage interactive discussion at the end of this workshop and will invite your ideas to test our heuristic questions or strategies for preparing ideas for publication.

This webinar will be recorded. Participants can register up to the day/time of the workshop, but registration is required.

Questions? please contact WLN Associate Editors

Elizabeth Kleinfeld: ekleinfe@msu.denver.edu

Sohui Lee: sohui.lee@csuci.edu

Julie Prebel: jprebel@oxy.edu

New Resource for Writing Centers || Writing Lab Newsletter’s Digital Edited Collection

Karen Gabrielle Johnson is an Associate Professor and Director of the Writing Studio at Shippensburg University. Ted Roggenbuck is an Associate Professor and Director of the Writing and Literacy Engagement Studio at Bloomsburg University.

 

WLN Blog: This new WLN resource will be very helpful. What is the progenitor of the project?

Karen: The Digital Edited Collection (DEC) developed over a two-year span in response to our call for proposals for a WLN special issue on tutor education. This project began in the spring of 2016 when I responded to an email sent by Mickey Harris through the WCenter listserv. In her email, Mickey invited colleagues to contact her if they were interested in serving as guest editors for a WLN special issue. I conversed electronically with Mickey about the logistics of serving as a guest editor for a special issue on tutor education, noting Mickey’s prediction that this topic might generate a great number of responses that could possibly result in a monograph.

Excited about a tutor education special issue and a possible follow-up project, I contacted Ted Roggenbuck to join me. Ted and I had previously collaborated on several projects, conference presentations, and joint tutor education seminars, so I was hoping he’d agree to join me on this particular project. I’m so glad he did. My natural inclination leans toward collaborative professional projects rather than solitary ventures, and Ted’s energy, fresh perspectives, and organizational skills made the work enjoyable and invigorating.

Writing Lab Newsletter co-editors, Karen and Tod

 

Mickey was correct; we received an overwhelming number of viable proposals for special issue articles, making the selections for one special issue incredibly difficult. We began to consider two special issues and entertained the idea of a monograph. Yet, when we began to research the possibility of publishing a WLN monograph that laid the groundwork for future monographs to follow, we encountered a number of challenges that included high printing costs and complications in disseminating the monograph. These roadblocks seemed to impede sharing of the exceptional scholarship we found in the proposals we received. But because we believed the authors had such good research, praxis, and resources to share, we felt compelled to identify alternative forms of publication. Through many conversations, informed by our belief that scholarship should be free and available to the public, we decided to pursue an open-access publication that is digitally available and could take advantage of digital affordances. After identifying how such a collection of research could be published, we contacted Richard Hay who graciously offered to support us as we worked to create an online, multimodal publication that offered numerous possibilities for engaging readers, sharing resources, and incorporating visual and audible elements on the WLN website. As we worked with authors, we collectively imagined how to transform largely text-based chapters into multimodal ones. During this process when we realized our technical skills were not sufficient to match our idealized vision for a multimodal publication, we contacted Crystal Conzo, who agreed to become the Design Editor and make our ideas become reality. Continue reading

The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors : An Interview with Lauren Fitzgerald and Melissa Ianetta

Andrea Rosso Efthymiou, guest contributor 

Devoted to fostering research and conference participation for peer writing tutors, the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW) is gearing up for its 2017 conference at Hofstra University. In this post, NCPTW 2017 Chair, Andrea Rosso Efthymiou, interviews this year’s keynote speakers, Lauren Fitzgerald and Melissa Ianetta, co-authors of The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors (OGWT). In their interview, Fitzgerald and Ianetta discuss their personal processes as long-time collaborators, the choices they made writing and editing OGWT, and of course, writing center tutoring.

Andrea: Can you describe your writing process as co-authors of this book? How did you work together as co-authors? Did you work on separate sections individually or did you actively write each section together? Or was the process altogether different?

Actually, we used a range of collaborative and individual composing strategies to write The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors (OGWT). Our approach depended on the stage in the process and the immediate writing goal. Some of these processes were very organic and highly collaborative – with the controlling concept for the book which we articulated for the prospectus, for instance, we worked intensively together for a couple of days. The process was so natural and so focused that we really don’t know any more who came up with what idea.

However, some parts of the process are very individual, so that one of us takes responsibility for a chapter or subsection. We’ll talk through the chapters, then each of us goes away to compose, and we trade drafts. We respond to one another’s work and then the original author responds to the commentary and revision. We’ll then trade again and, at that point, we often have lost track of who wrote what. There was a time, for example, when Melissa praised lavishly a change in a much-revised chapter – she really thought Lauren had taken things in an exciting new direction. And her enthusiasm was only minimally dampened when Lauren told her that the revision was hers –Melissa herself had written the text of which she spoke in such admiring terms.

This instance of the composing process, however, is only one part of the larger research process that comprises our professional partnership. We chose to write this book in part because, together, we’ve been writing and talking about writing centers for many years: our first shared work was a set of paired conference reports for Writing Center Journal (WCJ) on the 2005 IWCA conference. And while we published two separate conference accounts, the process we used there laid the groundwork for the process we still use. We talk, draft, respond, revise, and talk again. This is the process we used when working with a large group of collaborators on “Polylog: Are Writing Center Administrators WPAs?” and, most importantly, when co-editing WCJ. Our editorial conversations not only shaped journal issues, but framed our understanding of the field: our two special issues – on peer tutor research and the landmark essays of the field, respectively – lie at the foundation of OGWT. And, finally, we still use that process today –we’re using it right now, as we answer these questions, in fact! Continue reading

Tech in the Center: Beyond The Basics

When I speak with another writing center administrators, I’m fascinated by the patchwork of apps, programs, and social media platforms in use to connect with students and clients. In addition to the standards–such as WCOnline and Google Docs–we’d love to hear from you and share with our community:

  • What’s your best and most innovative technological discovery?
  • What program or app helps you organize the flow of people, information, and events?
  • What interesting or new things are you doing with well-known technologies?
  • What website or service could you no longer live without?

We’d like to post a series short testimonials on what works best for you. Please e-mail Amy Hansen at hansenae@appstate.edu with your answers. Include as much information as you can: links, photos of the technology in action, of you, your staff, or your writing center, and most importantly, a short (300-400 word) description of the technology, how you use it in your writing center, and what logistical or communicative need it meets.

File cards of bravery: First-year writing anxiety

Brian Hotson

Brian Hotson is editor-in-chief of the WLNBlog and Director of Academic Learning Services at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, NS.

Each August, our centre holds a two-day Summer Writing Workshop. Its main purpose is to provide incoming, first-year students an opportunity to experience writing at a university level prior to September. It’s also a chance for students to make friends and meet professors. There is a lecture from which students use as a means to write a short paper, the instruction of the two days focussed on this paper. Usually 70-75 students—of an incoming class of 900-1200 students—register. The program is voluntary with a fee of $200, which includes materials and meals.

As an icebreaker on day one, I give each student two file cards. On one card, I asked them to write their name and something they’d like others to know about themselves. On a second card, I ask them to write a question they like to ask a professor (we have a Q&A with professors at the end of day two), and what they are most afraid of in coming to university. Many of our students are first generation students. Their expectations of themselves are very high, without any experience of how such expectations might be met.

I have kept these cards over the years. Each is a personal account of a young person on the threshold. The anonymity of the cards provides a startlingly frank openness into these students’ emotion. For me, it’s not the fear that is insightful, but the bravery of their openness and their willingness to use this openness to try something new.

 

(2016)

University is a chance to learn from mistakes. Drafting is an ongoing second chance, a means to understanding the process of thinking, as well as thinking about thinking. I read these cards before my opening talk of the workshop. I try to insert into the talk words from the cards, and let the other staff presenting during the workshop know of the contents of the cards. This one I keep pinned to my bulletin board.

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Chats and Webinars–an online writing center discussion

In a previous post,  Dr. Sarah Prince and Beth Nastachowski, MA, of Walden University started a discussion about online writing centers. In addition to starting a new discussion group–the OWC email discussion list–they’re happy to share some thoughts about two of their successful online services: chat and webinars.

Because Walden offers its paper reviews asynchronously, offerings like synchronous chat and live webinars not only provide students with supplemental writing instruction but also give them the rare opportunity to interact in real time. The chat service is designed to quickly answer students’ writing questions while they are actively constructing their drafts. In contrast, Walden Writing Center’s bimonthly webinars offer more in-depth instruction on topics ranging from scholarly writing, style and grammar tips, and practical writing skills. Although these services aim to serve students at different points during the writing process, they both were created with the same goals in mind: to provide human connection and real-time writing instruction to distance students engaged in what can often feel like an isolating writing process.

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Chat Service Overview

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-11-17-41-amWe use a live Chat feature through LibApps to give students a chance for live interaction and an opportunity to get questions answered immediately. Our Chat widgets are embedded on our writing center’s homepage and in slide-outs on every page of our website to make Chat accessible in multiple places. Because online students often crave immediate, personalized support, this service’s goal is to reach students who may not be inclined to e-mail us with their inquiry (though our policy is to answer all e-mails within 24-hours) or to try to search through our web content.

Before the current successful iteration of Chat, we piloted chat a few times with limited success. It originated as a pilot called Tutor Talk in the summer of 2013 in a separate platform that was not integrated with our website. It was at one set time each week and targeted undergraduate students only. When this pilot did not gain interest, we opened it up to all students toward the end of 2013, but we still had little participation. Finally, when we discovered that our current platform had the option for Chat, we revisited it in early 2015. We offered it at varying times on varying days of the week, and we also were more intentional with the way in which we marketed it (when we had targeted advertising in an all-student communication, we had better results.) Now, in 2016, we’ve had anywhere from 150 to almost 400 students use the Chat service each month (the numbers vary depending on term starts, student communications and advertising, etc.)

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Introducing the Online Writing Centers (OWC) Email Discussion List

sarah_princeToday’s post comes courtesy of Dr. Sarah Prince, of Walden University. Together with Beth Nastachowski, MA, Dr. Prince is starting a new discussion group–the OWC email discussion list. Today’s post is about the OWC–stay tuned for part two, coming next week, about best practices for online centers!

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.

Please join us today at the Online Writing Centers (OWC) email discussion list!

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.

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In Other Words–a book review

arihn%20imageToday’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. Andrew says that “the book does not discuss writing centers directly, but the topics it does discuss overlap with the work of the writing center in many ways (language acquisition, translation, identity issues, genre and style, etc).” 

Jhumpa Lahiri, the acclaimed novelist whose first book won her the Pulitzer Prize at age thirty-two, has released her first work of non-fiction: a collection of essays about learning Italian aptly titled In Other Words. The essays are animated by her passion, wide-eyed if a bit innocent, yet crafted by a masterful writer whose love of language is evident in every line.

Spoiler alert: the book never discusses writing centers. Rather, it is a personal narrative of language acquisition. Lahiri, whose life is devoted to the craft of writing, recounts her experience with Italian as one might recount a love affair. Lahiri embraces not only moments of exhilaration, but also those moments that disturb and disrupt, and even those that hurt; I suspect the writing center community will find much to identify with.

51wnsrzeh6l-_sx315_bo1204203200_In all, the book contains twenty-one essays, two short stories, and one longer, lyric afterword. Essays are short, most clocking in at less than five pages. In Other Words was first written in Italian and later translated into English, and both are presented side by side, making its 233 pages appear deceptively long. A fast and focused read, I could easily imagine this book being useful for teaching, or initiating conversations in a writing center (topics include language acquisition, the processes of reading and writing, the intricacies of identity, translation, genre and form, and the creative process).

The essays are short and episodic, focusing on one element of the language-learning process at a time. Many focus on a central metaphor or analogy. For instance, early in the book she compares learning Italian to swimming across a lake. For Lahiri, studying Italian in America was like swimming near the shore, good exercise but not exciting. She could always touch ground with her feet, revert back to speaking English. “But you can’t float without the possibility of drowning, of sinking. To know a new language, to immerse yourself, you have to leave the shore.” Throughout the book, she revisits and revises this analogy, swimming through the deep parts of the lake, allowing the lake to become an ocean.

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Research on Writing Centers–Some Essential Studies

Lisa_professional_portrait_2011,_Nancy_FroehlichLisa Ede directed Oregon State University’s Writing Center from 1980 to 2010.  She retired from OSU at the end of fall term 2013. You can read a graduate student’s history of OSU’s Writing Center here.  Lisa also was a co-director of the 2007 and 2008 IWCA Summer Institutes and a leader at the 2006 Institute and has published several articles on writing centers.  
The post below is an excerpt from a talk that Ede gave at the Canadian Writing Centres Association Conference this past spring. Ede’s talk focused on the role that collaboration can play in energizing writing center communities. As part of that discussion, Ede emphasized the strong research tradition that both grows out of and supports the daily work of writing centers. In order to convey a rough sense of this tradition and show its development over time, Ede constructed a chronologically organized list of important book-length contributions to writing center studies. In this excerpt Ede introduces this list, which begins with the earliest monograph that Ede found and continues to the present. Here is Ede’s discussion of the list and the list itself.

I should mention two caveats about this list. I hope to explore the reasons why collaboration is a particularly enabling term and construct for those of us who work in writing centers, wherever they are located—in the US, Canada, or around the world.

I decided to construct a chronologically organized list of important book-length contributions to writing center studies. The list begins in 1984 with the earliest monograph that I found and continues to the present.

I should mention two caveats about this list. The first is that while I think this list includes most important book-length studies that in one way or another focus on writing centers, I cannot claim that it is comprehensive. The second is that because this list does not include articles, book chapters, or other briefer studies, it is only the tip of the iceberg, as it were. To get a full sense of research on writing centers, you would need to turn to the contents of such journals as The Writing Lab Newsletter (founded in 1976 and recently renamed WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship), The Writing Center Journal (founded in 1980), and Praxis: A Writing Center Journal (founded in 2003). Writing center research is also published in a variety of journals that focus more broadly on work in rhetoric and composition—journals such as College Composition and Communication, College English, WPA: Writing Program Administration, and similar venues.

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“Does anyone know…?”: The National Census of Writing responds

gladstein_jill_profileAs a perfect kick-off to our upcoming fall semester, Jill Gladstein writes about the amazing work she and her colleague Brandon Fralix have done creating and curating the invaluable National Census of Writing. Their work was supported by a prestigious Mellon Foundation grant and is a game-changing resource for conversations in the field.  

Often someone posts a question on WCenter or via social media asking about common practices in the writing center. Where is your writing center located? How many consultations did you hold last year? Are your consultants undergraduates, graduate students, or professional tutors? How are they trained and paid? Who directs the writing center? Sometimes people request this information with urgency in order to save a threatened writing center or other times people request this information out of curiosity to provide context for how their individual writing center fits into the larger landscape of writing centers. The answers to these questions provide perspective for folks working in and out of our centers, but we have been limited by the lack of response to these data requests.

Last fall my colleague Brandon Fralix from Bloomfield College and I, with the assistance and support of many, launched the National Census of Writing database.

We sent individuals at over 2500 institutions a 200+ question survey covering eight broad topics.

survey

Our goal was to complement individual research projects and larger projects such as the Writing Centers Research Project and WAC Mapping Project by providing a large set of data that would be easily accessible via the internet. We wanted to make it easier for people to create a data-informed practice within their writing program or center.

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Tutor Perspectives on Dress Code in the Writing Center

Editor’s Note: This post was inspired by a conversation on the WCenter listserv in November about dress code in writing centers. In this post, current tutors share their perspectives on dress codes within their writing centers and their personal considerations when they choose what to wear to work.

Headshot (2)Shannon Henesy- Shannon is a junior studying English and Creative Writing at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. She is the Assistant Director of Salem College’s writing center.

In Salem College’s Writing Center, “appropriate dress code” does not constitute particular wardrobe pieces, per say, but rather takes into account the preferences of the individuals who work there.  Prior to opening in the fall, all of the writing center consultants discussed with our director, Dr. Katie Manthey, how strict dress codes are inherently problematic.  The question which arises from assigning a dress code asks who gets to make the decision as to what is appropriate and what is not; additionally, this ordinance can cause discomfort or disassociation in certain individuals.  We all consider ourselves equal in our writing center, and we collectively came to the decision to not enforce a rigid dress code.  Instead, we choose to present ourselves in clothing in which we feel comfortable.  We believe that the attitudes we put forward contribute to “professionalism” more than the clothes we wear.

That being said, I am certain to have different considerations I take into account than the rest of the consultants.  Personally, I prefer to dress in a manner that makes me feel confident, approachable, and put-together.  An outfit which adheres to these qualifications can vary depending on my mood.  Overall, I want to wear clothes that do not set me apart from the students which come in to be tutored; I want the consultant and the student to be on equal footing, including what we wear.

 

image1Zubayr Chohan– Zubayr is currently working on an Education After Degree (Secondary) at the University of Alberta in Canada and has previously earned a BSc. He is a tutor at the University of Alberta Centre for Writers.

I think that as a male, my decisions on what I wear are less motivated by questions of safety, and instead stem from a desire to be professional. Although we work in a Peer Writing Centre, I still try to dress in a way that might make me seem older, more “professional” in an attempt to be regarded as more of an authority in the field.

I find that the days I wear a t-shirt or hoodie rather than a collared shirt are the days I feel like I may be deemed as less capable or knowledgeable on my subject. That is not to say I wear a suit and tie to the centre, however I have found myself making a conscious decision to dress myself accordingly on tutoring days.

I’d also like to comment that I don’t feel that clients themselves should have a dress code.

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Ethnographic Films: Supporting Visual Assignments

FestaEditor’s note: Dr. Elizabeth Festa is the Associate Director at the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication at Rice University. I thoroughly enjoyed her presentation at IWCA 2015 and asked if she’d be willing to share more about the Center’s unique workshop.

Earlier this spring, our Center supported a graduate course in ethnographic research methods. The students were assigned to make short ethnographic digital films informed by a theory they had encountered in the course. The instructor wanted to introduce them to current film projects that embrace more experimental approaches to work in the discipline. I was intrigued by this opportunity to address visual argument beyond the familiar topics of slide design, poster design, and data presentation; ours is a relatively new center (we opened in 2012) and supporting visual communication is an important part of our mission.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 12.47.38 PMI designed a 2 ½ hour workshop in which we discussed some recent examples of visual ethnographic work (or film/videos of anthropological interest). I participated in a 3 hour film screening 8 weeks after the initial workshop to offer feedback on the students’ films alongside the instructor and film scholars and filmmakers from the Visual and Dramatic Arts Department. I was fortunate to share our vision for the workshop through an Ignite session at IWCA 2015 and later, to benefit from a broader conversation about visual engagement in writing centers at the lively roundtable facilitated by Daniel Emery, Holly Bittner, and Rachel Wolff.

The workshop that we developed was inspired by a film by Stephanie Spray that the course instructor, Cymene Howe, had seen at the “Ethnographic Terminalia” series at the AAA conference. The collective’s mission is to “develop generative ethnographies that do not subordinate the sensorium to the expository and theoretical text or monograph.” Defining “terminus” as “the end, the boundary, and the border…a site of experience and encounter,” the series encourages audience engagement, interaction, and discovery.   Spray’s film, much like an interactive digital media installation produced for the series by anthropologist and artist Lina Dib, an instructor in Rice’s Program for Writing and Communication, appropriates the visual as a responsive medium through which viewers might explore the nature of human experience.

We began our workshop by contrasting two very short digital stories by anthropologists,  “Participant-Observation” by Wynne Maggi and “The Machine is Us/ing Us” by Michael Wesch to demonstrate the difference between projects that depend primarily on narrative telling rather than filmic showing to make a point and those in which image and sound convey content and argument.   In the course of the workshop, we limned some of the historical values and principles of ethnographic film and contemplated how more recent digital projects draw upon, eschew, and/or transform these values. We referenced a variety of samples, not all of them ethnographies, to illuminate a range of interests, audiences, and tactics including photojournalistic work such as that produced by Media Storm; experimental projects at MIT’s Docubase ; non-profit “client work”; and activist, participatory and applied visual projects.

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