Joint Staff Meeting 2012: Bringing It All Together

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

Jingcai Ying

Jingcai Ying

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

Aliza Feder

Aliza Feder

Claire Parrott: “Writing Comments and the Crisis of (Peer) Authority: the Collaborative Dilemma.” Moderator: Paul Hansen

Claire Parrott

Claire Parrott

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

Nora Brand

Nora Brand

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!

5 thoughts on “Joint Staff Meeting 2012: Bringing It All Together

  1. This is always one of the most inspiring and compelling staff meetings of the year for me as a Writing Center tutor. I’m consistently blown away by how talented, thoughtful, and motivated the Writing Fellows are, and it inspires me to continue to be that motivated in my own Writing Center work. Thanks for sharing about the meeting!

  2. It was fantastic to hear the research from my fellow students, and inspiring to see them present with such intelligence and poise!

  3. This was–as always–a great meeting. The research that the Fellows do always impresses me with its thoughtfulness and scope. And the Fellows’ enthusiasm for learning about writing and teaching/tutoring writing is really inspiring and motivating.

    I’m a big fan of Writing Fellows programs–and not just because I was a Fellow at my undergraduate institution. The program offers so many teaching and learning opportunities for those involved–students, tutors, professors, etc.–on a range of subjects (especially writing!) and from a variety of perspectives.

    Thanks, Emily, for all you do to help the Fellows succeed.

  4. If I may be unoriginal for a moment, I, too, would like to say how much I enjoy this meeting each year, and that I always come away with a deeper appreciation for the Writing Fellows.

    This year, I particularly enjoyed Aliza Feder’s presentation, and it was great to hear how other Fellows approached using humor as a means of building rapport and effecting a productive session.

    I particularly enjoyed Claire Parrott’s presentation, too. It gave me yet another dimension with which to think about peer work, collaboration, and the negotiation of writing knowledge; I very much enjoyed Claire’s focus on the commenting feedback she has been working on, too.

    I, also, particularly enjoyed Logan Middleton and Nora Brand’s co-presentation on identity and strategies for working with students with disabilities: their presentation shed light on an area of writing/center teaching that has been gaining increased scholarly attention in recent years.

    If you hadn’t guessed, I particularly enjoyed all of their presentations. The thoughtful, scholarly research that made these presentations possible continues to demonstrate the importance and vibrant tradition of undergraduate research at UW-Madison, and the Writing Fellows consistently make important research contributions which foster a strong, engaging culture of writing at UW-Madison. Thanks Writing Fellows!!!

  5. I have been looking forward to the joint staff meeting since my arrival in September and it was even more impressive than I thought it would be! It is a great idea to let writing fellows present their research and to offer all others the opportunity to learn from them.
    In my tutor education seminar in Germany my students also have to write research papers but I always hesitated to encourage them to conduct empirical research. I feared that this might be too difficult. However, my students always wanted to conduct empirical research. Therefore, I am very grateful for this experience at the joint staff meeting. It opened my eyes for the learning possibilities that those projects offer for all writing center staff and it showed me how valuable it is for undergraduate students to conduct small empirical research projects. This is such an inspiration for my future tutor training classes!
    Thank you writing fellows and thank you Emily and Cydney for preparing them!

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