Special People, Inquire Within: Recruiting Season in the Writing Center

By Matthew Capdevielle

Matthew Capdevielle is the Director of the University Writing Center at the University of Notre Dame. He worked in the Writing Center at UW-Madison while pursuing his doctorate in English Composition and Rhetoric.

The author, feeling special at “Special Person Night” at his daughter’s school (Photo by Ms. Morgan, Rosie’s teacher)

Standing in front of the tutor photo board in the Writing Center, I marvel at the collage of faces, the collection of extraordinary—truly special—people we have working in the Writing Center at Notre Dame. Each and every one of these tutors has surprised me in the most wonderful ways with their insights, their humor, their true brilliance. And with each of these magnificent individuals, our relationship started with our very first conversation in an interview, a conversation that left me wanting to hear more.

Springtime is recruiting season in the Writing Center at the University of Notre Dame. This is the time when we begin to face the fact that several of these beloved veteran tutors will be graduating soon and heading on to other adventures. It’s a sad time, to be sure. There’s no getting around it—about a third

The ND Writing Center Tutors (including honorary WC Tutor St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers)

of our staff will say goodbye to us within a few weeks. And of course, they are wholly and entirely irreplaceable. And yet, as a director, I have to consider our resources, our scheduling demands for the next academic year.  So even as I stand looking at the photos of their faces, the thought creeps in, We’re going to have to hire at least 12 new tutors. Probably eight sophomores, two juniors, and one or two seniors.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in this endeavor. I have these very same tutors to collaborate with in the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring process, for in our Writing Center at Notre Dame this process is our largest-scale collaborative project. And in many ways, this is the most exciting work that we undertake together. The recruiting process presents us all with a unique occasion to reflect deeply upon our mission, on who we are, and who we want to be. Involving the current tutors in this process is not only an effective way of sifting through the hefty stack of applications or simply an efficient system of divvying up the workload of recruiting.  In my view, tutor involvement in the process is an essential component of our identity formation as a center. There is no better way of centering the Writing Center than to decide together who will join us next year. At our writing center, current tutors are deeply involved at every step in the process. (more…)

The Bicameral Writing Mind: Writing Tutors as Writers

By Leigh Elion

Leigh Elion has been a Writing Center tutor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since the fall of 2010, where she has also served as TA Coordinator, Coordinator of Writing Center Multicultural Initiatives, Outreach Coordinator, and Summer Writing Center Director. She is also a PhD candidate in Composition and Rhetoric, writing a dissertation that explores the role of the visual within contexts of gentrification.

I’m angry with Paul Silvia.

Don’t get me wrong. He seems like a very nice person. When he came to UW-Madison in 2013 to speak with our Writing Center tutors, he was funny, generous, and insightful. Silvia is a psychology professor at UNC-Greensboro. His book, How to Write a Lot, offers a number of practical strategies for becoming a more prolific, efficient writer. He encourages writers to make writing a regular habit, to plan and schedule our writing time, to make writing as much of a commitment and priority as other professional obligations, to give up our false writing idols of favorite pens/chairs/weather/moon phases and instead worship at the altar of just getting it done. (more…)

Which Shoes Should You Choose? A Meditation on Indecisiveness in Writing

By Zach Marshall

Zach Marshall

Zach Marshall

Zach Marshall is the 2015-16 TA Assistant Director of the Writing Center at UW-Madison, where he has been a tutor since fall 2012. He is also a PhD candidate in English literary studies writing a dissertation on American literature, slavery, and media culture.

It has recently come to my attention that I don’t know what to do when I work with writers who experience a certain kind of writing anxiety.  As a writing tutor, part of my job is to provide motivational scaffolding to the writers I work with—encouraging them when they make progress, recognizing the challenges of writing, and exhorting them to future progress.  Another part of my job is to help writers who struggle to produce writing think about the habits that create roadblocks for them, such as trying to get all of their writing done in one day.  However, there’s a kind of writing anxiety that some writers experience that has challenged me recently because I’m not sure it can be resolved by encouraging them or advising them to adopt better habits.  The type of anxiety I’m thinking of is when writers feel unable to make decisions they must make in order to write.  Let’s call it “indecisiveness in writing.” (more…)

Crossing the Barrier: Advocating for Students, Educating Faculty

By Alexandra Asche

Alexandra Asche

Alexandra Asche. Photo by Kari Adams.

Alexandra Asche is the Student Assistant Director at the Writing Center of the University of Minnesota, Morris, a public liberal arts college. She works with Director Tisha Turk, who served as a UW-Madison Writing Center instructor and Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program while earning her PhD. Alexandra has been a consultant in UMM’s Writing Center since 2014 and the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper since 2015. In her spare time, she studies English and Psychology.

When I first started planning this post, I intended to write about the UMM Writing Center’s formal outreach to faculty. However, as I looked through the previous posts on this blog, I found that others have already written about how to plan this sort of outreach. I also noticed, though, that I was in the peculiar position of being a student consultant and administrator attempting to educate professors who, to say the least, vary highly in their degrees of interest and investment in our small campus writing center.

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Using Peer Writing Groups For the Senior Thesis and Beyond

By Rebecca Steffy

Author Photo by Carrie Castree.

Author Photo by Carrie Castree.

Rebecca Couch Steffy is a Ph.D. candidate in Literary Studies at UW-Madison, where she also serves as a TA Coordinator for The Writing Center and Co-Director of the English 100 Tutorial Program. Her research focuses on the relationships between community formations and aesthetics in contemporary poetry and performance. 

This year, I have the privilege of coordinating the UW-Madison Writing Center’s Senior Thesis Writing Groups, small peer-led writing groups that meet weekly or bi-weekly throughout the daunting semester- or year-long process of writing a senior thesis. I help spread the word that senior thesis writing groups are forming at the beginning of each term, lead orientation meetings to better inform interested students about how the groups work, and facilitate the first meeting of each group to guide them in establishing a set of shared expectations for working together. Then I keep in touch throughout the semester by email or a shared check-in document, and by dropping by another meeting later in the semester. Our model aims at maximizing the rich benefits of writing groups for senior thesis writers with a minimum of direct instructional hours from our staff. (more…)

Rethinking Patience

By Rachel Azima

Rachel and Cameron

Rachel and Cameron at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Rachel Azima is the director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Writing Center.  While completing her Ph.D. in English, she worked for 13 semesters in the UW-Madison Writing Center. 

When I took my first writing center director position, I inherited a set of interview questions that I have continued to tweak, semester by semester. One question I have retained is one I imagine many folks might ask prospective consultants: what are some qualities you feel a consultant should have (and, as a follow-up, how do you embody them)?

An answer I have often received—and that tends to make me wince a little—is “patience.” This probably seems like an odd response to get hung up on; “patience” is one of those words that seems pretty reliably positive. It reminds me of “community” in Joseph Harris’s “The Idea of Community in the Study of Writing,” in which he invokes Raymond Williams’ discussion of community as a term that “seems never to be used unfavourably” (13). (more…)

Peer Tutoring and the Serious Work of Undergraduate Scholarship

Samantha Stowers, Julia Boles, Chelsea Fesik, Samantha Lasko, and the author after their presentation.

Samantha Stowers, Rachel Herzl-Betz, Julia Boles, Chelsea Fesik, and Samantha Lasko.

By Rachel Herzl-Betz

Rachel Herzl-Betz is an Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she has been a tutor and administrator since 2012. She is also a PhD candidate in Literary Studies, with a focus on Victorian Literature and Disability Studies. 

I’ve always been a fan of academic conferences. At their best, they offer an unprecedented chance for scholars, students, and practitioners to step out of their individual institutions and connect with the wider intellectual community. We often become so ensconced in our own contexts that we forget the possibilities being put into practice one state, one city, or even one neighborhood away.

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A Case for Compulsion? On Requiring Whole-Class Writing Center Visits

By Jessica Citti

Jessica Citti, Ph.D., has tutored in the writing centers at UW-Madison and the University of Iowa, where she also taught composition, rhetoric, and technical communication. She is now the Writing Skills Specialist at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, where she provides one-on-one writing consultations for students and coordinates the HSU Writing Studio.

I remember learning the word “volition” in college. A friend used it over the phone (a phone with a cord, attached to a wall) and I was impressed. Volition. A word from the medieval Latin: volō, I wish, I will.

Jessica Citti

Jessica Citti

Later, after tutoring in writing centers at large public universities in the midwest, I came to think of this word in relation to writing center visits. While an occasional referral might be appropriate, students should come of their own volition. Stephen North sums up the problem with mandatory visits in “The Idea of a Writing Center,” suggesting that such requirements—while well-intentioned—don’t carry lasting impact: “Occasionally we manage to convert such writers from people who have to see us to people who want to, but most often they either come as if for a kind of detention, or they drift away” (440). (more…)

Showcasing Undergraduate Research

By Emily Hall

At a large university we are regularly exposed to the original and sometimes groundbreaking research that takes place across campus. Mostly, this research comes from the work of professors and graduate students, many of whom have grants, research funds, and laboratories to support their endeavors. Less frequently do we have the opportunity to learn about the innovative research produced by our talented undergraduates.

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Filling in the Gaps: Storytelling and Close Looking

By Samantha Timm and Chelsea Fesik

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to teach a class as an undergraduate?  In this post, Samantha Timm and Chelsea Fesik will explore what it has been like to fall down the writerly rabbit hole and into the strange and wonderful world of peer mentoring and peer teaching.  With one foot in the realm of the student, and the other in the realm of the teacher, we have had to think deeply about our positionality as peer writers, tutors, and instructors.  How do these different identities shape the ways that we connect with our students?  How have our academic backgrounds shaped our styles of teaching?  This post will explore a myriad of questions, partially for your entertainment, dear reader, but also in order to make sense of what these experiences mean in our own lives.  Buckle up, and enjoy the ride!

What we do: 

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