Chasing the Sun: What’s New in the UW-Madison Writing Center

By Brad Hughes.

Brad Hughes is the director of the Writing Center and director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is delighted to be starting his 30th year directing the Writing Center.

Alumni Park and Memorial Union Terrace construction, with Helen C. White Hall in the background. Photo by Jeff Miller, University Communications.

Alumni Park and Memorial Union Terrace construction, with Helen C. White Hall in the background. Photo by Jeff Miller, University Communications.

Welcome to a new academic year at UW-Madison’s Writing Center! With contributions from my wonderful colleagues, I’d like to celebrate some of our program’s accomplishments during the summer of 2013 and share some of our plans for the fall.

Summer in Madison always means construction on campus. The historic Memorial Union—one of two student unions on campus, right next door to our Writing Center’s home in Helen C. White Hall on the shore of Lake Mendota—is in the midst of an exciting (but seemingly endless) multi-year remodeling and reconstruction project. Because of that construction, Helen C. White Hall looks as if it’s under siege, encircled by road detours and fenced-off sidewalks. But student-writers have still been finding their way to us all summer long. And our staff have been busy collaborating and venturing out—as always—to offer instruction across our campus and around the city of Madison. Here are a few highlights of what we were up to during the summer and what we’re looking forward to this fall . . .

Exciting New Looks

  • During the summer, our Writing Center blog, Another Word, underwent a dramatic makeover, thanks to Mike Shapiro. As you read our blog, please try resizing your windows on whatever device you’re using, or try turning your smart phone or tablet a different way and watch the screen resize! Our new WordPress theme, Zoren, uses “responsive web design,” which means that it does a great job of resizing our blog for different screen sizes and resolutions on tablets and laptops and mobile devices. Our new theme’s design also allows us to feature a large photo at the top of every post. We hope you like it!

The previous design of our blog, in use since its debut in 2009.


The new design of our blog.

The new design of our blog.

  • Please take a look at our new page for all of our locations and hours, which consolidates information from four other pages, integrates our Twitter feed, maps our locations, and features images from all of our different locations. Redesigning a single page may seem like a small thing, but a lot of care and thought and creativity went into that redesign to communicate crucial information in an appealing and clear way.
  • Starting in May 2014, our Writing Center will undergo a dramatic remodeling of our computer classroom, thanks to an Instructional Lab Modernization grant from the University. The new space will feature a glass wall to open up that space to the main room of the Writing Center, a large central conference table with Macbook computers, half-round tables for consultations around the perimeter of the room, and web-conferencing equipment so we can use that room for video chats with guest speakers for our Madison Area Writing Center Colloquia.

The Summer Writing Center

Mary Fiorenza

Mary Fiorenza

We were very lucky to have Mary Fiorenza, the associate director of English 100, share her talents with the Writing Center by directing the Center during the summer of 2013. Some highlights from a great summer:

  • Our dedicated summer staff was booked nearly solid for most of the 3-week and 8-week sessions, working with seniors on medical school applications, students in summer classes, incoming undergraduates getting a head start on their Wisconsin Experience, and graduate-student dissertators making headway on their projects. Besides one-on-one tutoring during the day, we served students in our College Library satellite location two nights each week, tweeted, ran workshops, did Outreach, and supported a dissertation camper via Skype after she returned home to Minnesota.
  • Our summer Outreach staff worked with a dozen different programs and classes, co-teaching sessions for undergraduates and pre-college students in the Schools of Education, Medicine and Public Health, and Engineering; training undergraduate counselors in the PEOPLE program to provide useful feedback on writing; and pitching the Writing Center’s services to courses in Comm Arts, History, and Consumer Science.
  • Thanks to generous support from the UW-Madison Graduate School and from the Mellon Foundation, the Writing Center held three very successful summer dissertation camps again in May and June of this year, led by Nancy Linh Karls, Virginia Piper, Kevin Mullen, and Kristiane Stapleton.

Madison Writing Assistance

  • Our Madison Writing Assistance (MWA) Program, led by Elisabeth Miller and Nancy Linh Karls, is a community-literacy project, providing thoughtful, responsive readers to help members of the Madison community who are working on all kinds of writing. MWA offers this assistance in six different sites across the city: Sequoya Library, Goodman South Park Library, Pinney Library, Meadowood Neighborhood Center, Hawthorne Library, and Lakeview Library.
  • Thanks to funding from the Evjue Foundation and from the Anonymous Fund at UW-Madison, MWA ran for an 8-week session during the summer of 2013. MWA instructors held roughly 100 sessions addressing writing projects from a novella based on the story of Cupid and Psyche to letters to doctors and landlords to FAFSA applications to memoirs to poetry to—as always—many, many resumes, cover letters, and job applications.
  • We partnered with the Goodman South Park Library to hold the 10th annual Celebration of Writing on Saturday, June 22nd. The event featured an Open Mic and three free writing workshops: a Spanish poetry writing workshop, an English poetry writing workshop, and a writing workshop for kids.

Writing Fellows

  • Again this summer, a group of our undergraduate Writing Fellows worked with the Summer Collegiate Experience Program, a wonderful summer academic program for incoming first-year undergraduates.
  • During the fall semester, 55 undergraduate Writing Fellows will be working with student-writers and faculty in a wide range of writing-intensive courses, including courses in Philosophy, Education Policy Studies, Global Studies, Hebrew Studies, Geography, French Literature in Translation, Political Science, Languages and Cultures of Asia, Psychology, Classics, Library and Information Studies, Scandinavian Studies, Curriculum and Instruction, and English.
Sailboats on Lake Mendota near Helen C. White Hall, UW-Madison, after a storm. Photo: Jeff Miller.

Sailboats on Lake Mendota near Helen C. White Hall, UW-Madison, after a storm. Photo: Jeff Miller.


Writing Across the Curriculum

This summer, the L&S Program in Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) was very busy with workshops and consultations.

  • During the University’s Teaching and Learning Symposium in May, we showcased faculty from Library and Information Studies, Biology, Digital Studies, and Chemistry who teach with writing in innovative ways, and we gave attendees a chance to plan and share ideas for their own writing assignments.
  • As facilitators for the Teaching Academy’s Summer Institute at the University’s Arboretum in June, we consulted with faculty members in Mathematics, Environmental Studies, Pharmacy, Life Sciences Communication, and many other departments, and we offered several workshops for participants on teaching with writing.

Stephanie White, assistant director of WAC, at UW-Madison Teaching and Learning Symposium, May 2013

  • We offered WAC workshops on designing effective writing assignments and on responding to and evaluating student writing through the University’s Delta Program, a community of graduate students, post-docs, instructional staff, and faculty dedicated to professional development in teaching and learning.
  • Stephanie White, who has just finished her two-year position as assistant director of the WAC program, was a guest speaker in an online inter-institutional course focused on teaching online classes, an online course sponsored by CIRTL.
  • Over the summer, the WAC program continued to be an active partner in the wonderful campus teaching-and-learning program for new faculty, MTLE—Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence.
  • Last week, the WAC program designed and led training for 75 graduate TAs from across campus who are teaching their first writing-intensive (Comm-B) course this fall.
  • We introduced the WAC Program and the Writing Center during an orientation for all new faculty from across campus.
  • Along the way, we’ve consulted with faculty and TAs in Political Science, Communication Arts, Library and Information Studies, the School of Business, Pharmacy, Kinesiology, Mechanical Engineering, History, Journalism and Mass Communication, Hebrew Studies, Nursing, Languages and Cultures of Asia, Counseling Psychology, French, Gender and Women’s Studies, Classics, and more.


Professor Ethelene Whitmire, School of Library and Information Studies, on Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Panel at Teaching and Learning Symposium (TLS), May 2013

Professor Ethelene Whitmire, School of Library and Information Studies, on Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Panel at Teaching and Learning Symposium (TLS), May 2013

Dr. Michelle Harris, Biocore Program, on WAC Panel at TLS

Dr. Michelle Harris, Biocore Program, on WAC Panel at TLS

Professor Jon McKenzie, English and Digital Humanities, on WAC Panel at TLS

Professor Jon McKenzie, English and Digital Humanities, on WAC Panel at TLS


Professor Catherine Middlecamp, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, on WAC Panel at TLS

Professor Catherine Middlecamp, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, on WAC Panel at TLS


The Odyssey Project

This fall we’re delighted to launch a new partnership with the University’s wonderful Odyssey Project, which is led by Professor Emily Auerbach. Two of our Writing Center consultants, Sagashus Levingston and Kevin Mullen, will be working with Odyssey students on writing projects throughout this academic year. As its website explains, “The UW-Madison Odyssey Project provides adults” in the Madison community “facing economic barriers with a chance to start college.” “Odyssey provides 30 students each year with a challenging college humanities class with award-winning faculty. Students receive free tuition, textbooks, childcare, and a weekly dinner through support from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, grants, and private donations. Adult students read, write about, and engage in lively discussions of Emily Dickinson, Martin Luther King, Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, Gandhi and more. Through exposure to these great works of literature, philosophy, history, and art, Odyssey students gain six credits in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, skills in critical thinking, a sense of empowerment, and a voice.”

UW-Madison Odyssey Project, Class of 2013.

Graduation for the UW-Madison Odyssey Project, Class of 2013.


New Website for Using CS/CR Builder in Writing Center Tutor Education

During the summer, we created a website to help writing center tutors and professionals learn to use new software (CS/CR) for creating simulations to use in tutor education.  CS/CR is a free authoring program, developed by the Writing Center and the Engage Program in the Division of Information Technology at UW-Madison, that tutors and directors can use to develop simulations of tutorials and of critical-reading activities. You can then incorporate these web-based simulations into part of tutor education. For more information about CS/CR and to try out some sample simulations, see–

  • wln_logoHughes, Bradley, and Melissa Tedrowe. “Introducing Case Scenario/Critical Reader Builder: Creating Computer Simulations to Use in Tutor Education.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 38.1-2 (2013): 1-4. Print.
  • Our new website on Using CS/CR Builder in Tutor Education (2013).




Fall Outreach

  • Our Writing Center’s outreach program, led this semester by Mattie Burkert, takes tutors from our staff into classrooms and meetings across campus to introduce the Writing Center to students and to co-teach custom instruction about writing—planned and taught collaboratively with course faculty and TAs—in courses across campus.
  • Our Outreach team has already participated in 16 resource fairs and orientation events during Welcome Week before classes began. Over the course of the week, we interacted with over 1000 students from diverse disciplines such as Pharmacy, Biotechnology, Social Work, Urban and Regional Planning, Nursing, and English.
  • This fall, our instructors will be giving presentations and co-teaching writing lessons in classrooms all over campus, from introductory-level undergraduate courses in Classics, Global Studies, and Environmental Studies, to seminars for upper-level undergraduates in History, Political Science, and Religious Studies, to graduate courses in Public Health and Education, Biomedical Engineering, and Curriculum and Instruction.
  • We will also be leading sessions focused on skills like resume-building and cover letters for job-seekers in fields that include Business, Neuroscience and Library and Information Studies.
  • Finally, we are working with faculty and classroom instructors across the university to help them improve their feedback on student writing, as well as to develop strategies for helping students use the Writing Center to the fullest.

The Return of Senior-Thesis Writing Groups

After a successful first year under Stephanie White and Elisabeth Miller’s leadership, the senior-thesis writing groups will be back this fall! This year Chris Rogers and Michelle Niemann will coordinate these  self-sustaining writing groups. In informal weekly meetings, seniors working on theses in a variety of fields will support each other through the challenging process of presenting their high-level research in a compelling way. For more about our senior-thesis writing groups, see this blog post from last spring.

A New Ongoing-Education Project

Experienced tutors on our staff have to complete an ongoing-education project each semester. This fall, one of the options for this ongoing education will give a group of tutors the opportunity to gather in-depth feedback from students about their experiences in our Writing Center. Tutors will lead and record small focus-group sessions with students who have come to the Writing Center at least once to find out what was helpful and what wasn’t, why they came back or why they didn’t. In a spring staff meeting, all Writing Center staff will watch parts of the filmed focus group conversations and reflect on what we can do better.


We’ve got a great lineup of blog posts coming your way this fall, written by our current staff and by former tutors. New posts appear each Monday during the academic year, so please stop by regularly!

Thanks so much for reading these updates about our Writing Center’s programs. While you’re here, would you please add a comment to this post? What’s new with your writing center? What do you think about the new look of our blog? And if you have any comments or questions about what we’re up to in Madison, please join in this conversation by adding a comment. We’d love to include your voice here. Best wishes for a great academic year!

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