An Open Letter to the New Writing Fellows

It’s been busy for the Writing Fellows Program, and I’m pleased that our annual recruiting of new Fellows has come to a satisfying end.  We received 70 applications and at the end of last week—after a round of face-to-face interviews—our director, Emily Hall, sent congratulatory emails to the 28 undergraduates who will join the program in the fall.

The process of reading applications and interviewing candidates has been bittersweet for me, since I’m graduating and leaving the program this semester.  I’m very excited for the new Fellows and the adventures that await them, but disappointed that I won’t get to know them. Since I can’t resist offering a few last gems of Assistant Director didacticism, the letter that follows is meant to caution, but uplift.  I hope it’s useful to its intended audience. (more…)

Reflections on Leadership: Notes on NCPTW 2009

Mount Holyoke College

Mount Holyoke College

From the 6th through the 8th of November, four of the University Writing Fellows—Nick, Rebecca, Eamon and Jennifer—attended the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing, held this year on the beautiful Mount Holyoke College campus.  This year’s theme was “Leadership and Peer Tutoring: Hope, Vision, Collaboration, Action.” Nick, Rebecca and Eamon presented original research that they conducted last year in English 316, the course on writing theory and practice taken by all new Fellows.  Their panel, “Questioning Authority: Exploring Traditional Institutional Boundaries in Peer Tutoring,” dealt with power dynamics and how institutions, predetermined ideas about student writers, and the doctrines of Composition and Rhetoric pedagogy are complicated, productively, by the sometimes unpredictable outcomes of the tutoring situation.  Jennifer had modified her research into a workshop presentation titled “Collaborating with Campus Communities: Peer Revision in Students’ Social Settings”; in it, she asked session participants to consider the ways Writing Center resources could be mobilized in service of bringing peer revision strategies to students in the residential, social, extra-curricular, or non-curricular environments they inhabit.

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A “temporal object, and a transitory possession”: Authority and The Idea of a University

I’m the Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program, that branch of the Writing Center that focuses most explicitly on undergraduate learning, teaching and writing. The Writing Fellows, undergrads who come from across the university, are assigned to writing intensive courses. They read and critique drafts of two formal papers, providing both marginal and end comments to help students identify strengths as well as areas for possible revision. The Fellows then meet with students individually to discuss options and strategies for revision. Each Fellow also conducts an original research project that examines through quantitative and qualitative analysis a problem or issue in peer tutoring or Writing Center practice.

The bulk of my job is spent working with the Fellows as they develop their skills as researchers, peer tutors and writing specialists. On occasion, however, I get to leave HC White and go on trips. Later this week, four Fellows and I will travel to Mount Holyoke College for the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing. (We will post about our travels for your delectation on November 16.) This year’s conference theme is “Leadership and Peer Tutoring: Hope, Vision, Collaboration, Action,” and each of the Fellows will be presenting aspects of their formal research.

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