Yes, we’re open!

Come on in!If you’ve braved the humidity early this past week and found a way through the dust balls of construction lining Park and University to Helen C White, you may have noticed that YES! The Writing Center IS open for the summer. Actually, we have already finished our first, and surprisingly busy, week of appointments. Personal statements, cover letters and resumes have been filling up our half hours, while new and returning ongoing dissertators and thesis writers have been establishing relationships with instructors they will be spending a quality hour with for the next eleven weeks (or more…).

After a week of swiveling around in my chair at the desk, I’ve already started to notice a couple of things that I really enjoy about working in the summer. First, escaping the humidity for a couple glorious hours of air conditioning has been nice  – as a reminder, our computer lab is open whenever we are open this summer if you need a cool and quiet place to get some work done.

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The Future of Writing Centers

Each semester, instructors at the UW-Madison Writing Center sign up to participate in one of several “ongoing education” meetings on a topic they find interesting or pertinent to their professional development. As an extension of Katie’s ongoing education last semester on the history of writing centers, Melissa and I recently co-facilitated an ongoing education on (cue scary music) the future of writing centers (cue menacing laughter). The topic—and parenthetical remarks—were inspired by Terrance Riley’s (1994) “The Unpromising Future of Writing Centers,” which we read along with Christina Murphy’s (2006) “On Not ‘Bowling Alone’ in the Writing Center, or Why Peer Tutoring Is an Essential Community for Writers and for Higher Education.”

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“Grammar and its (Dis)Contents”

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On February 12, the Writing Fellows Program hosted its annual Joint Writing Center/Writing Fellows Staff Meeting.  The meeting focused on grammar and how Writing Center instructors and Writing Fellows can and should address students’ concerns about grammar in their sessions.  This year, our staff of 50 undergraduate Writing Fellows, close to 50 graduate WC instructors, and numerous academic staff was joined by writing center tutors from Edgewood College and UW-Waukesha.  The addition of tutors from other institutions created wonderful opportunities for exchanges of experience and knowledge.

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Socially Just Writing Center Instruction in the New Decade

Happy New Year from the UW-Madison Writing Center! Our semester has gotten off to a busy start—already, we’ve added extra shifts to our regular schedule. And last Friday, we kicked off 2010 with our first staff meeting. The topic of the meeting was social justice and Writing Center work, which will be the subject of this week’s blog.

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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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Every Writer Needs a Reader

One of my responsibilities as the Writing Center’s office administrator is to publicize its services and programs across the UW campus. As anyone in marketing will tell you, it’s important to determine a target audience in the communication process. What I’ve found at the Writing Center, however, is that everyone here at the university is in our target audience.

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Back to Basics: Hope and Fear

Hello, readers! Katie Lynch here, Lead TA of the UW-Madison Writing Center. As Lead TA, I am a member of the administrative team that makes decisions about both the daily operations of the Writing Center and its long-term goals. I also meet with students, staff the receptionist desk on occasion, and teach several of the WC classes.*

One of my priorities has been to help Writing Center instructors feel united by a common purpose and shared goals. To that end, I’ve implemented a theme for the semester: “Back to Basics.” I’d like to take this opportunity to talk a little more about that initiative.

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