How to Start and Run a Writing Center With No Budget, or How We Did the Impossible!

Editor’s note: today’s story comes from Cortney Barko and Melissa Sartore, professors at WVU Tech. Their journey bringing a writing center to campus–only to find the process harder than they first anticipated–is a fascinating one!

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Cortney Barko

We work at West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) in Montgomery, WV. WVU Tech was founded in 1895, and it is now part of West Virginia University—a land grant institution that serves southern West Virginia. Our enrollment currently hovers around 1,200 students. There are 40+ academic programs; however, WVU Tech is well known for its engineering program, and many students come here to major in engineering.

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Melissa Sartore

When we began our tenure-track jobs at WVU Tech in 2011, we found a Writing Center in dire straits. As instructors of History (Sartore) and English (Cronberg Barko), we both knew that a Writing Center was an important resource for students in our disciplines. Very few students were actually using the Writing Center, and the existing tutors were being put through a never-ending tedious training process that ultimately drove them away. By the end of our Spring 2012 semester, our Writing Center was down to one poorly paid tutor who would not be returning in the fall, and hardly any students were coming for tutoring. As a result, we were told that there would be no funding for the Writing Center in the Fall 2012 semester. Essentially, the Writing Center had come to an end.

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The History of the WLN: an interview with Dr. Muriel “Mickey” Harris

Editor’s note: I asked our fearless leader, Dr. Muriel “Mickey” Harris, to share a bit of history with us, especially for those of us who began directing in the past few years. I’m sure you’ll find Mickey’s responses to be as friendly and informative as I did! Here’s Part One of the conversation (Part Two can be read here.)

IN THE BEGINNING

An informal snapshot of Dr. Muriel "Mickey" Harris
An informal snapshot of Dr. Muriel “Mickey” Harris

The Writing Lab Newsletter began in 1977 as a list of names and addresses gathered after a session at the Conference on College Composition and Composition, in Kansas City, Missouri.

Given that the CCCC planners didn’t expect many people to show up at a session on the little known topic of writing centers, we had a small room in which to gather. But very quickly there was standing room only, and the feeling of delight and amazement was palpable as we all looked around and realized we had colleagues who shared our interest in one-to-one tutoring of writing!

The very first issue!
The very first issue!

As the session ended and people waiting for the next session began filtering in, I grabbed a notepad and asked those who were leaving to sign up, and I’d try to keep us in touch with each other. Needing a name to place at the top of the list, I called it The Writing Lab Newsletter, since “lab” had a “hands on, anything goes” connotation that we liked.

Continue reading “The History of the WLN: an interview with Dr. Muriel “Mickey” Harris”