It’s so great to read all the posts so far. I’m Susan Thomas, the founding director of The University of Sydney Writing Hub (a name that Mickey Harris helped me settle on after much deliberation). I’m an American-trained Writing Program Administrator who never thought for a second that I’d be this far away from home directing a writing center!
I’d like to offer a little background information on the Hub in hopes of opening up a dialogue on some of the challenges of starting a writing center–particularly in environments where writing is viewed as “remedial” or a “content-free zone.” I’ve certainly had my share of ups and downs over the past seven years–and have shed plenty of blood, sweat, and tears to make this dream a reality. But the difficulties and setbacks were all forgotten the first time I walked into the Hub and heard that unmistakable buzz of groups of students and peer tutors talking about writing.
I’ve pasted below an extract from my current research project, but I will soon upload a link to our new Writing Hub video. For now, here is a link to our homepage: http://sydney.edu.au/arts/teaching_learning/writing_hub/index.shtml
I look forward to interacting with you all and learning more about writing centers on a global scale!
All the best from Sydney,
The University of Sydney Writing Hub was established in 2009 as the teaching and research home of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Writing (WRIT) Program and Writing Centre. Since “centre” in Australia carries a different connotation from that in North America, the name Hub was chosen to reflect Burke’s idea of communication as spokes radiating from a wheel, implying multiple pathways and modalities that undergird, shape, and define the writing process. The Writing Hub is different still from North American Writing Centers since it administers seven credit-bearing courses (five undergraduate and two graduate), and offers drop-in writing assistance for students across the Faculty. While most North American Writing Centers are located in academic departments, the Writing Hub is an independent unit that sits within the Teaching and Learning Network of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
Writing Hub courses are required for some degrees across the Faculty and electives for others. While many of our students come from within our own Faculty, we attract a wide range of students from other faculties, including Science and Engineering, particularly in Summer and Winter School (three to six-week intensives during semester breaks). Our flagship course (WRIT1001) and our new cross-cultural writing foundations course (WRIT1000) are offered year-round, in both twelve-week main semesters as well as in Summer and Winter School. Our (new) advanced and graduate courses are offered on rotation, but at least once per year. All Hub courses meet for three contact hours per week in some combination of lecture, tutorial, or seminar, with all courses featuring a hybrid model of delivery (incorporating face-to-face and online instruction). Small group meetings (tutorials) are held in a 24-person, custom-designed computer classroom.
Drop-in peer writing assistance is available to students enrolled in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and/or a WRIT course. This restriction is purely financial, and we anticipate expanding our services to include the wider University community as funding becomes available.
In addition to courses and peer tutoring, the Writing Hub offers writing workshops for faculty, often facilitated by international experts, and two seminar series: “How I Write” (borrowing from Stanford University’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric), featuring high-profile writers discussing their craft; and “Rhetoric in the Real World,” featuring presentations on applications of rhetoric outside the academy. The Writing Hub also offers consultancy services to area businesses, with all profits re-invested in the Hub to support student programs.
Before the Writing Hub was created, the Faculty offered only two undergraduate writing courses: one housed in English (developed by me), and the other in Linguistics (developed by Professor William Foley, a sociolinguist), with no writing support services for undergraduates. When the Hub was created, Bill andI redesigned these two existing courses as the pilot WRIT courses, which have now undergone several iterations.
The Hub represents a departure from the way writing is usually conceived of and taught in Australia, in that it emphasizes writing as a discipline with a classical rhetorical framework. There is a particular focus on invention and the multimodalities that support discovery in the writing and research processes.