Spotlight on Madison Writing Assistance: Voices from a Community Writing Assistance Program

By Elisabeth Miller with Nancy Linh Karls

Elisabeth Miller is the TA Coordinator of the Madison Writing Assistance (MWA) program and has had the great pleasure of working as an instructor at nearly all of MWA’s locations over the past four years. She also serves as the Assistant Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program at UW-Madison and is a Ph.D. candidate in Composition and Rhetoric. Nancy Linh Karls is the Director of MWA. She also serves as the UW-Madison Writing Center’s resident Science Writing Specialist as well as Director of the Mellon/Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camps. 

Whether it’s a resume, a job application, a grant proposal, a college application essay, a letter to a landlord, a medical memoir, or even a zombie apocalypse novel, Madison Writing Assistance (MWA) can help with it — and with much, much more! Offering free, one-to-one writing assistance to Madison residents of all ages, MWA seeks to meet people where they are: in their neighborhoods and on writing that matters to their lives and livelihoods. (more…)

International Writing Centers and Environmental Humanities

RobDunes

Rob Emmett at the Kohler Dunes, Wisconsin with Elisabeth, 2010.

By Rob Emmett

Writing centers can launch lives in new directions, across continents and oceans. The years I spent working at the Writing Center while in graduate school in Madison certainly set me on a path to my current work at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC) in Munich, Germany. The RCC is an interdisciplinary, international center for research in environmental history and allied fields that aims to raise the profile of this work in public discussions of environmental issues, in the spirit of our namesake, the influential author of Silent Spring. The project is exceptional in many ways–one being that its directors, Christof Mauch and Helmuth Trischler, represent Munich’s oldest public university (LMU Munich) and the research division of the Deutsches Museum, respectively. For the last year I have served as Director of Academic Programs; I support the center’s research fellows, develop collaborations in environmental humanities with other centers, and teach in our international environmental studies program, among other things. (more…)

Senior-Thesis Writing Groups: Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat

By Elisabeth Miller and Stephanie White

Sunday evenings at Starbucks... (photo by Bryce Richter)

Sunday evenings at Starbucks... (photo by Bryce Richter)

On a Sunday morning in February, five students brave the icy winds howling off Lake Mendota, knock the snow and slush off their boots, and straggle into the student union toward a table near the windows looking over a snowy Memorial Union Terrace. That night, another five students wrap up their weekends by braving the same wind and snow to gather in a Starbucks near campus. And throughout the week, two other groups meet on campus, taking time from the busy schedules to gather with groups of their peers to work together on their writing. The students talk about their weeks and laugh about Facebook status updates before getting down to business, and throughout their meetings, the students’ warmth towards each other is as palpable as the snow outside. Indeed, these are no one-off study groups cramming for an impending midterm. These are groups of undergraduate honors senior-thesis writers meeting to encourage, support, productively challenge, and reinforce each other’s work as they work on projects that include discussing the idea of modernity in sculpture, analyzing data from a sleep lab dealing with parasomnia, studying rock formations in New Zealand, examining the archives of Asian-American publications on our campus, and much more.

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Now is The Writing Center Website of Our Discontent, Made Glorious Summer by This Sum of Our Work

By Christopher J. Syrnyk, Assistant Professor of Communication, and Faculty Liaison, Advance Credit Program for Communication Courses, Oregon Tech

Christopher Syrnyk, former UW-Madison Writing Center TA, current Assistant Professor at Oregon Tech

Christopher Syrnyk, Assistant Professor of Communication, Oregon Tech

At Oregon Tech, where I became an Assistant Professor this fall in the Communication Department, I volunteered during a recent Communication department meeting to take on the role of the department’s Web Content Manager. Volunteering for this role, of course, reminded me that I had promised Brad Hughes to write a blog post for Another Word about a project that four TAs and I undertook to revise part of the UW-Madison Writing Center’s website.

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The Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium

madison_wc_colloquium_photos_smaller1I’ve long argued that writing centers at research universities should prepare interested doctoral students to lead strong, innovative writing centers and WAC programs when they move into their faculty careers.  And that we should do this in systematic and sustained ways.  Being a dedicated, successful, experienced writing tutor is of course a necessary part of that preparation, but that alone is not sufficient.  Professional development for future writing center directors is something our Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison takes seriously—my colleagues and I are proud that this past year, in 2011 alone, seven more of our PhD alums, at various stages of their careers, were offered positions as writing center directors or assistant directors around the country, joining many other distinguished UW-Madison alums who direct writing centers.

This question—of how research universities can prepare graduate students to become writing center directors as part of their faculty careers—has been an important topic of discussion when the writing center directors from the universities in the Big 10 conference meet once a year (I’m always hoping that some athletic competition will break out during meetings of Big 10 writing center directors, but, alas, none yet).  We’ve talked several times about what we can do—intentionally and systematically–to prepare our grad students to lead strong writing center and WAC programs.  As an outgrowth of these discussions, at the 2010 IWCA conference in Baltimore, several members of the Big 10 group spoke about the opportunities we have and the challenges we face as we prepare graduate students to be future writing center directors.

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Madison Writing Assistance: Writing and Tutoring across the Community

By Elisabeth Miller and Anne Wheeler, Graduate Co-Coordinators of Madison Writing Assistance.

Anne Wheeler

Anne Wheeler

Elisabeth Miller

Elisabeth Miller

As of the Fall 2011 semester, Madison Writing Assistance (MWA) was active at 7 Madison area libraries and community centers, conducted nearly 200 sessions, employed a staff of 10 people from several different disciplines and programs within the UW-Madison Graduate School of Letters & Science, and involved multiple community volunteers and partners. In any given week, a Madison resident might receive help with his or her resume, learn to use Facebook, get feedback and assistance on a letter to a landlord, or compose a recipe for MWA’s weekly cookbook workshop. In the same week, as MWA’s consultants testify, we also have the opportunity to meet and interact with people and work on writing in a way that augments our graduate school experience and contributes massively to our teaching and research. (more…)

Welcome to a New Writing Center Year!

WAC workshop for writing-intensive TAs

WAC workshop for TAs teaching writing-intensive courses

From all of us in the UW-Madison Writing Center programs, welcome to a new academic year!  We’re off and running on an exciting new year.

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Cultivating Potentials for Social Change Through Writing Center Talk

image002 This week I invite you to join in a discussion I’m facilitating through the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium. On Tuesday, April 6th (5:30-7:00pm, Helen C. White Hall 6176, the University of Wisconsin-Madison), I’ll be facilitating a workshop titled “Cultivating Potentials for Social Change,” and throughout the week, I’ll be responding to and inviting readers to discuss these questions:
arrowPoint Why do you value writing center conferencing, and what do you see as exciting possibilities in this talk?
arrowPoint What might “social change” look like in a writing conference?
arrowPoint Have you, for example, through writing center conferencing, built a cross-racial relationship, come to better understand and redistribute power, come to think more critically or with commitment about issues of injustice and equity?

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Community Writing Assistance Program Part of Back-to-Work Efforts

The Community Writing Assistance Program—the branch of the Writing Center that offers free help with writing of all kinds to local community members—is expanding its services! In the next few months, thanks to a generous grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Division for Libraries, Technology and Community Learning, CWA will start offering instruction at two new locations: the Hawthorne Branch Library and the Meadowridge Branch Library (dates and times to be determined). Assistance at these branch libraries—and at the central branch of the Madison Public Library, where drop-in appointments currently are available on Mondays from 1:00-4:00—will focus on back-to-work writing: resumes, cover letters, and more.

Meanwhile, thanks to a grant from the Evjue Foundation, CWA instructors Michael Dimmick and Rob McAlear continue to help with all kinds of writing—job-related, academic, personal, and practical—at the bustling South Madison Branch Library on Monday evenings from 5:00-7:30 and on Saturday afternoons from 1:30-4:00.

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The UW-Madison Writing Center Turns 40

Last October the Writing Center held an open house to celebrate the Center’s 40th birthday. Well over 100 students and colleagues came from across campus to—

  • chat with our staff
  • peruse posters about our programs
  • sample our podcasts and our online consultations and videos of in-person consultations
  • nibble on birthday cake from Lane’s Bakery
  • and hear short presentations reflecting on the Writing Center’s history and its impact across campus and beyond

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