On Friday, February 17 the Writing Fellows Program hosted our annual Joint Staff Meeting with the Writing Center. Seven Writing Fellows gave presentations based on research they conducted for their English/Interdisciplinary Courses 316 class. Writing Center instructors served as moderators for each presentation and posed questions designed to help audience members delve more deeply into the issues. As usual, the presentations were highly engaging and the discussions were lively and enlightening. There was a genuine spirit of camaraderie as we discovered what we can learn from one another and how our experiences in the Center and in the Fellows program intersect and diverge. Our meeting was enhanced this year by the presence of several distinguished visitors: Michael Mack, professor of English and Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Taryn Okuma, Professor of English and Director of the Writing Center—both from American Catholic University in Washington, DC; and visiting scholar Dr. Katrin Girgensohn, faculty member and Director of the Writing Center at European University-Viadrina in Germany.
The presentation titles suggest the broad range of topics discussed:
Irene Smail: “’Go to the Writing Center’: Stigma and Student Perceptions of the Center.” Moderator: David Aitchison
Jingcai Ying: “Write More Confidently.” Moderator: Anne Wheeler
Sam Hsieh: “Negotiating Spaces, Contesting Power: Writing Tutor Experiences and Safer Houses.” Moderator: Elisabeth Miller
Aliza Feder: “Funny Fellows: How Humor Encourages Learning in the Writing Tutorial.” Moderator: Renee Turgeon
Claire Parrott: “Writing Comments and the Crisis of (Peer) Authority: the Collaborative Dilemma.” Moderator: Paul Hansen
Logan Middleton: “Diss-Ability: Navigating Disabled Identity in the Writing Center Conference” and Nora Brand: “Learning Disabilities in the Writing Center: Tutor Strategies.” Moderator: Sarah Groenveld
To give readers a flavor of what insights and discoveries came out of the meeting, here are responses from a number of attendees–
“I would really love if there were more chances for everyone to get together like this! It’s so helpful hearing instructors’ ideas and insights, and I love feeling like we’re all on the same team.” (Writing Fellow)
“Logan Middleton’s presentation . . . planted a new way of thinking in me. . . . I’m now thinking about how all individuals have unique ways of interacting with their environment, and with writing, and about how I can ask questions that illuminate those relationships, rather than thinking about certain students having disabilities or special needs.” (Writing Center instructor)
“When Aliza talked about how humor could help mitigate the tutor’s authority, I recognized that I’ve used humor for that reason. I could also think of examples of how humor helped lead to new discoveries/knowledge in a tutoring session. But I don’t think I was necessarily aware that humor was the catalyst. Going forward, I believe it’ll be helpful to think about consciously using humor as another tool to help students.” (Writing Fellow)
“I was intrigued by [Claire’s] discussion of the “dual nature” of being a Writing Fellow and of the implications of that duality for written feedback. Her talk challenged me to think critically about how I view myself as an instructor and grader.” (Writing Center instructor)
“I was really struck by how seriously we all were taken. It was really nice to see that Writing Fellows were treated as important, both in terms of what we had to say in our presentations, but also those who participated in discussion, or were asked for their opinions as Writing Fellows. To me, that was really comforting and encouraging to know that not only the students we work with, but also the staff of the Writing Center see us as valuable peer tutors.” (Writing Fellow).
“The presentation on ‘stigma’ was especially helpful, and I’ll be incorporating some of it into my work as a TA.” (Writing Center instructor)
I attended the presentations and discussions on “ESL” students and students with “disabilities” one after another. I felt like a common thread was the idea of empowerment – encouraging students to take charge of their writing as authors. (Writing Fellow)
“Sam’s presentation got me thinking about the differences between myself and students with marginalized identities. It also got me thinking about the possible feelings of doubt and reluctance that can arise in a conference because of these differing identities, which is something that I sometimes forget about.” (Writing Fellow)
“I was thoroughly impressed with the poise and maturity of the writing fellow presenters. They were great!” (Writing Center instructor)
“I really enjoyed hearing the perspectives of the graduate students at the staff meeting. Many of them shared ideas from their own research as they asked questions and commented, and it was interesting to get a glimpse of what our kind of research could look like when taken to the next level.” (Writing Fellow)
Thanks to all for presenting, listening, sharing, and for being such committed tutors and instructors!