By Sarah Groeneveld. The day I met Laura (a pseudonym) was a memorable one. It was a slow day at the Writing Center last January, and I had a free hour in the middle of my shift. Laura was scheduled to meet with me later, but had mistaken the time of our appointment and had shown up early. Therefore, we were able to spend a wonderful two hours talking about three things that we both share a passion for: teaching, animals and questions about difference. But what is memorable to me about meeting Laura is that about five seconds after sitting down next to her, I suddenly noticed a gigantic head and deep brown eyes staring at me from underneath the desk. Laura introduced me to Monty (another pseudonym), a German Shepard who helps Laura navigate the world – not only physically, but in ways that Laura explained to me in the following weeks and months.
By Rebecca Furdek. I was privileged to attend the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW) at Florida International University in Miami earlier this month with my co-Writing Fellows, Alexis Brown and Patrick B. Johnson. As the title of the Conference, “Tutors, Tutoring, and the Teaching of Tutors” suggests, the over 100 individual, panel, and workshop presentations were devoted to broadening the never-ending conversation of how to be an effective tutor or tutor instructor.
This semester, I’ve been thinking a lot about revision. Well, okay, I always think a lot about revision; it’s essential to my writing center work, my classroom teaching, and my own writing (I am the queen of Shitty First Drafts, as described in the second chapter of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird). But lately I’ve been thinking about it even more than usual. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to ask writing consultants — tutors, writing fellows, writing center instructors, even teachers — to do, on a regular basis, the kinds of things we ask writers to do: to share and revise our own work.
I mean, let’s face it: writing is hard, and sharing writing is hard, and accepting comments on writing is really hard, and revising… you get the picture. But these are the things that we ask writers to do all the time. And while I think there is value in normalizing those activities (“Of course I’m asking you to read your paper out loud, everybody does that here, it’s no big deal”), I also think there is value in remembering that for a lot of writers this stuff is difficult and intimidating and counterintuitive, because remembering that will make us more sympathetic and generous in our comments and interactions, and it will also allow us to speak with the conviction of personal experience when we say “Look, I know this revision thing sucks, but it is so worth it.”
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a long and distinguished history of public service. The guiding philosophy of this commitment to public service, called the “Wisconsin Idea,” is often described as “the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state.” Since I have a scholarly interest in the Wisconsin Idea, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between the Wisconsin Idea and writing centers. I’ve only begun to explore the connections, but I’m excited about the possibilities.
The Wisconsin Idea has been receiving renewed attention on our campus in light of the University’s designation of this academic year as “The Year of the Wisconsin Idea.” If you’re unfamiliar with the Wisconsin Idea, you can browse a redesigned website, which provides information about the Idea, its history and a timeline of its development, along with stories from current faculty, staff, and students about how their service to the state, nation, and world correspond with the Wisconsin Idea.
The undergraduate Writing Fellows and the staff of the Writing Center came together last Friday to build community and share scholarship at our annual Joint Staff Meeting. The meeting was conference-style, featuring panels of Writing Fellows’ original research on various topics related to tutoring and teaching writing. It was an inspiring experience, and renewed our (already strong) love for our writing community that has been cultivated around these programs and sustained by our shared passion for writing and tutoring.
The particular dynamic of this meeting reminded us, yet again, how unique and – okay, we’ll say it – awesome the Writing Fellows program is. Here were undergraduate students, usually considered the lowest rung on the academic ladder, presenting advanced and relevant research to graduate students, academic faculty, the works! The Fellows program offers a challenge to the normative academic hierarchy, and it’s refreshing to find those spaces on campus that are open to engaging with undergraduates on an intellectual level. We felt that the Fellows presenting rose admirably to that opportunity; we were so impressed with their poise and professionalism!
Although I’m not a coffee drinker, I l – o – v – e coffee shops! The misty aroma of coffee hanging in the air (so much better than the actual taste), newspapers flung about, a chance to eavesdrop on some really fascinating conversations (oh come on, you do it too). Ah, but what I love most about coffee shops is the art. Stroll into any coffee shop worth its artificial sweetener and you’ll find an eclectic, continually rotating collection of locally-produced pieces — pieces that, to my untrained but appreciative eye, are every bit as good as the stuff hanging in fancy museums. More affordable too, if they happen to be for sale.
By Molly Rentscher. As my first semester in the Writing Fellows program reaches a half-way point, I find myself reflecting on the rewards and challenges of being a Writing Fellow. I am thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive experiences the program has provided me and quite frankly, how much fun I am having. The course for which I fellow is a First-Year Interest group (FIG): a “learning community” of about 20 students who are enrolled in a cluster of three classes that are linked by a common theme. As a new Writing Fellow in a Literature in Translation FIG course, I feel as though I have not only been initiated into a peer mentoring program, but a unique writing community of first-year students.
This past Friday, the Writing Fellows program held its first Ongoing Education (OGE) session of the semester, on the topic of “professional writing and writing professions.”
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.
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…)