Searching for a Writing Center Assistant Coordinator: 1 Job, 2 Views, 8 Months

By Margaret Mika and Daniel Harrigan

Margaret Mika

Dan Harrigan

Margaret Mika has directed the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Writing Center since 1999 and  currently serves as Wisconsin’s Writing Center Consortium Coordinator. She is amused and shocked to note that her Center tenure spans two centuries. Her professional interests never fail to include tutor hiring and training processes, and writing center directors’ overlapping roles as teachers, administrators and employers.

Dan Harrigan is the Assistant Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Writing Center. He was a UW-Madison Writing Fellow before graduating in May 2016 with double majors in English and Journalism.


The end of the semester—and graduation—is in sight, which means job hunting and job hiring may lie directly ahead.  Some writing center directors may be re-filling an established professional assistant’s position or hiring a full-time assistant for the first time.  Meanwhile, experienced tutors may be eyeing job ads for full-time professional center administrators.

From our very diverse perspectives—director and job applicant/new hire—we reflect on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Writing Center’s recent search for an Assistant Coordinator (AC) and his first months on the job. In offering a view into the other’s world, we hope to lure readers into commenting about our experience and their own. (more…)

Writing Center as a Storycenter : A “New” Metaphor for Tutors

By Adedoyin Ogunfeyimi

Adedoyin Ogunfeyimi, a Fulbright scholar from Nigeria, completed his Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Ogunfeyimi explores the place-based notion of ethos and focuses on how disenfranchised groups often invoke their cultural ethos to negotiate a hospitable ecology for their survival. While doing his doctorate in Wisconsin, Ogunfeyimi tutored at the writing center for five years, drawing on his research interest to create hospitable writing sessions for a diverse range of student-writers. Presently, he teaches writing courses and participates in a data-driven writing research project at the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

What If . . . ?

What if we also begin to think about the writing center as a storycenter, a place where student-writers come, meet, and share their stories? What if we begin to think about the work that we do in the writing center as storytelling, a way of encountering student-writers and their writings as repositories of stories? And if we must recast our writing center location as a storycenter, what might this “new” metaphor afford us, open up for us, and how might it shape how we see, engage, and interact with student-writers who frequent or visit the writing center?

Writers’ Stories in the Writing Center

Adedoyin Ogunfeyimi

Not until I began to reflect on the role of storytelling in my writing class did I consider these questions while working with the student-writers at the writing center. But I had always engaged with these writers from this metaphorical lens. That is, I had paid attention to the stories that the writers brought to my writing sessions and shared about themselves and (through) their writing experiences. Some of these stories touched on their college transition experiences, commemorated their migration struggles, reminisced about their community advocacy, contested their racialized identities and bodies, narrated their escapes from war-torn nations, etc. Through these stories and their vast rhetorical purposes, I came to understand that my work in the writing center had always figured as a storytelling project, that is, as an opportune moment seized upon by the writers to share their writing and writerly experiences, and, more importantly, as a way of encountering the writers as storytellers.

When I met with these writers in the writing center, I always looked forward to the moments they would tell their stories. I anticipated these moments because their stories and the ways they crafted such stories often helped to repurpose, reorder, and reshape our writing sessions. And because these stories showed the writers’ ways of writing about and seeing their worlds, their stories also constituted the meaningful ways of ordering and talking through their writings. For instance, these writers invoked their stories to clarify the directions of their drafts, redirect the conversations for better understanding, and contextualize their writing purpose. (more…)

Writing Doesn’t Need to Feel Like A Near-Death Experience

Edited by Annika Konrad with contributions by Emily Hall, Laura Strickland, Mike Passint, and Julia Boles

a headshot of a woman with blonde hair and white skin

Annika Konrad

Annika Konrad is a Ph.D. Candidate in Composition and Rhetoric and Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I learned that writing doesn’t need to feel like a near-death experience. I’ve come to actually enjoy it more. By workshopping a vast diversity of papers, I’ve acquired new skills that help me better isolate issues within my own writing.”

This is a comment that a student left on their course evaluation for UW-Madison’s Spring 2016 Rose Pathways Writing Workshop (RPWW). RPWW (which has previously been written about on this blog here) is a one-credit peer-facilitated writing workshop hosted each spring in partnership between the UW-Madison Undergraduate Writing Fellows Program and Chadbourne Residential Co llege. UW-Madison’s Undergraduate Writing Fellows Program prepares selected undergraduates to serve as peer tutors in writing-intensive courses across disciplines, providing extensive written comments on drafts of student papers and holding individual conferences with those student writers. Chadbourne Residential College is a residential learning community on campus where the UW-Madison Writing Center has hosted a satellite location for individual consultations since it became a learning community in the 1990s. (more…)

Tending Other People’s Texts: Writing Center Tutoring and MFA Workshops

By Sarah Dimick

Sarah is a Ph.D. candidate in literary studies at UW-Madison, and has taught at the Writing Center since 2013.  Before coming to Madison, she received an MFA in poetry from New York University.

Headshot of Sarah Dimick

Sarah Dimick

Last winter, during a late afternoon appointment, a graduate student in the history department asked me how he might make the final chapter of his dissertation more compelling.1  We’d already discussed what I think of as skeletal concerns: the order of his paragraphs, the clarity of his topic sentences.  We’d already examined his thesis and his conclusion for coherence.  I asked if he was concerned that the intellectual contribution of this chapter wasn’t sufficiently groundbreaking, that other scholars in his discipline might not feel he was making a substantial intervention.  “My argument’s brilliant,” he told me, “but this chapter is totally dry inside.  I want to write the kind of history that makes people turn pages, to write a story where the characters come alive.  How do you do that?”

A few weeks later, I met with an undergraduate student in an advanced physics course who was trying to condense the caption beneath one of the figures in her lab report.  “The challenge,” she explained, “is that I’m trying to say so much in so few words.  It’s like writing a haiku about a gravitational field.  Each word has to be so precise.”

And this past fall, a senior applying to medical school pulled three crumpled pages of paper out of her backpack.  She spread them on the table in front of us, each one containing a different opening paragraph to her personal statement.  “My academic advisor said the first paragraph needs to give the admissions committee a sense of my voice,” she said.  “But after writing all of these, I’m not sure any of them are me yet.  And I’m worried my voice isn’t the kind of voice med schools like anyway.  I guess what I’m saying is that I need to find a voice.  Really soon.  Before this is due on Tuesday.” (more…)

Waterloo Journal: Building WAC Support Where There Is No WAC

By Stephanie White

Stephanie White is an Instructional Developer at the University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence. She consults with instructors about teaching writing and communication and assists with teaching development programs for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Stephanie holds a PhD in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she taught composition, tutored in the Writing Center, and served as TA Assistant Director of Writing Across the Curriculum.

Stephanie White, back when she would spend hours writing and taking selfies to procrastinate in the Wisconsin Historical Society library.

I’ve been reading Adam Gopnik’s ageless Paris to the Moon off and on over the last year, savouring it in small portions like a bottle of good Scotch. Gopnik’s descriptions of life in Paris for a non-Parisian family, originally published as a series of New Yorker essays called “Paris Journals,” are warm and acute. They’ve made me think again about the “outsider” perspective, about why travel writing is so powerful and why anthropologists rarely study their home cultures. And they’ve made me consider my own perspective as a Canadian returning home to Ontario after spending twelve years in the U.S. So I thought I’d invite you to read my own journal entry here about life as a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) consultant in a university culture where WAC is rarely mentioned.

Going Alt-Ac

I just celebrated my one-year anniversary as “Instructional Developer, TA Training and Writing Support” at the Centre for Teaching Excellence at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario. My manager took me to lunch to celebrate, and we marveled that it had only been and had already been a year since I left a teaching position in the English department here at UWaterloo to take on this role. The shift to an alt-ac career wasn’t something I saw coming, but when I read the job description for a newly created position with a focus on writing instruction, I couldn’t resist applying and was thrilled to be offered the job.

I now spend my days helping run two different graduate student teaching development programs, supervising graduate-student workshop facilitators, and facilitating TA training in departments across campus. At the same time, I teach workshops and consult with instructors, departments, and even whole faculties (what you’d call colleges in the U.S.) about designing, teaching, and responding to written assignments. (more…)

Online Tutor. Classroom Teacher. How Written Feedback Shifts

By Matthew Fledderjohann

Matthew is a PhD student at UW-Madison studying composition pedagogy, revision theory, and apocalyptic rhetoric. He is currently serving as the Online Writing Center Coordinator for the UW-Madison writing center.  He has been a writing center tutor at Purdue University Northwest and DePaul University.

Matthew

Whether I’m responding to a piece of writing as a composition teacher or as a writing center tutor, my comments look similar. I plug in Microsoft Word’s two-toned comment bubbles and write things like, “Hmm . . . I’m not sure how this sentence connects to the purpose of the paragraph. Could you make that connection clearer, cut this sentence, or fit it into the next paragraph?” I use different colors to highlight lower-level error patterns. I compose a summative note about my overall impressions of the piece and recommendations for revision.  I email the commented-on document back to the writer.

(more…)

Sharing Your Most Cherished View: A New Metaphor for Dissertation Writing

By Hyonbin Choi

Hyonbin is a Ph.D. candidate in Literary Studies at UW-Madison, writing her dissertation on modernist long poems. She has been a Writing Center instructor since 2013, and currently serves as a TA co-coordinator. She also moonlights as a translator of children’s and YA literature from English to Korean.

Writing your dissertation—or any long research project—is mostly a lonely affair. One dissertator once said to me that it feels like you’re stranded on an island trying to survive, while an occasional surveillance aircraft flies over to check on you. Or even worse, not even that.

Hyonbin

As Rick Ness pointed out in a previous blog post, metaphors of dissertation writing are often associated with survival, climbing mountains, or pulling through a grueling boot camp. These metaphors of perilous adventures or life-threatening situations have the danger of intimidating and overwhelming dissertators. And yes, parts of dissertation writing are strenuous and even conditioned with fear. I mean, who can say they haven’t run for cover when the hum of a surveillance craft sounds from afar? (more…)

Empirical Research in the Writing Center – What’s so RAD about it?

By Angela Zito

Angela Zito has worked as a tutor with the UW-Madison Writing Center since 2013 and currently serves as a TA Co-Coordinator. She is a PhD candidate in English Literary Studies working on a dissertation titled “Student Learning and Public Purpose: Accounting for the Introductory Literature Course.” 

Angela, the author

This past fall I led an ongoing education seminar for seven of our graduate writing tutors called “Empirical Research in the Writing Center – What’s so RAD about it?” I cringe at the punny question every time I write it, but I find the implications of the interrogative alluring…curiosity, skepticism, maybe derision…and I appreciate how functional its readiest answers are:

What’s “RAD” about it is that it’s replicable, aggregable, and data-supported research.

What’s “RAD” about it is that empirical research is making its presence known as some hip new thing in writing center studies.

What’s “RAD” about it is that it seems radical to position empirical research within this discipline. (more…)

Reading Out Loud in the Writing Center: Reflections and Questions

By Neil Simpkins

Neil is the current TA Assistant Director at the UW-Madison Writing Center. He previously worked at the Agnes Scott College writing center as a tutor and coordinator. He is in the Composition and Rhetoric Ph.D. program at UW-Madison.

picture of neil staring at the camera wearing glasses

Neil Simpkins

Prior to attending UW-Madison, I tutored at the Agnes Scott College Center for Writing and Speaking. At Agnes, tutors generally read and annotated drafts of the paper quietly while the student read to herself, got a cup of tea, or relaxed in the center. When I moved to UW-Madison, one of the biggest changes in practice that I adapted to was asking students to read drafts out loud. It felt like such a big question to ask, especially for students new to the Writing Center! As a practice I had never used, having the student read aloud also felt strange to me. But reading aloud also externalized the piece, gave the writer a fresh perspective, and fit well with the constraints of our business-like space of separated cubicles. Ever since that shift I have had a lot of questions about this practice. How does reading out loud—or not reading out loud—shape the space of the writing center, student experiences of tutorials, and the learning that happens in our sessions? (more…)

Expanding our Repertoire of Responses: CARM in Tutor Education

By Mike Haen

Mike Haen is a first-year tutor at the UW-Madison Writing Center and a second-year PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric. He teaches English 100 and has worked as a writing center tutor at UW-Milwaukee and Marquette University.

Five years ago, I was an undergraduate tutor-in-training at Marquette University. All prospective tutors at the Ott Memorial Writing Center are required to complete a semester-long training course, in which undergraduates familiarize themselves with writing center pedagogy and reflect on their writing processes. For me, the most memorable moments in that class required us to attend closely to tutoring interactions. We did this by (1) observing experienced tutors in sessions, (2) role-playing imagined interactions with classmates, and (3) transcribing a few minutes of tutoring talk.

(more…)