Reaching Out Across the Campus & the Curriculum: A Brief Introduction To Writing Center Outreach

Hi everyone. In this post I wanted to give a brief overview of Outreach for instructors, students, and teachings assistants working in the Writing Center (WC) as well as others interested in Writing Center teaching. My hope is that my post will interest all these audiences, be it by helping an instructor learn more about us and how to contact us to arrange an outreach or to inspire TAs in our own writing center to become a member of our Outreach staff.

In a nutshell, Outreach plays a small, but important, role in Writing Center’s mission to help undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines become more effective, more confident writers by visiting classes and organizations across campus. Below I’ll list the fundamental ideas about writing we discuss during an outreach visit (no matter the topic) and then give an overview of our different Outreach options. But, I first want to list a few of our “co-teaches” from this semester—quite a variety and the most exciting part of our work in my mind!

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Cultivating Potentials for Social Change Through Writing Center Talk

image002 This week I invite you to join in a discussion I’m facilitating through the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium. On Tuesday, April 6th (5:30-7:00pm, Helen C. White Hall 6176, the University of Wisconsin-Madison), I’ll be facilitating a workshop titled “Cultivating Potentials for Social Change,” and throughout the week, I’ll be responding to and inviting readers to discuss these questions:
arrowPoint Why do you value writing center conferencing, and what do you see as exciting possibilities in this talk?
arrowPoint What might “social change” look like in a writing conference?
arrowPoint Have you, for example, through writing center conferencing, built a cross-racial relationship, come to better understand and redistribute power, come to think more critically or with commitment about issues of injustice and equity?

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The Future of Writing Centers

Each semester, instructors at the UW-Madison Writing Center sign up to participate in one of several “ongoing education” meetings on a topic they find interesting or pertinent to their professional development. As an extension of Katie’s ongoing education last semester on the history of writing centers, Melissa and I recently co-facilitated an ongoing education on (cue scary music) the future of writing centers (cue menacing laughter). The topic—and parenthetical remarks—were inspired by Terrance Riley’s (1994) “The Unpromising Future of Writing Centers,” which we read along with Christina Murphy’s (2006) “On Not ‘Bowling Alone’ in the Writing Center, or Why Peer Tutoring Is an Essential Community for Writers and for Higher Education.”

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Community Writing Assistance Program Part of Back-to-Work Efforts

The Community Writing Assistance Program—the branch of the Writing Center that offers free help with writing of all kinds to local community members—is expanding its services! In the next few months, thanks to a generous grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Division for Libraries, Technology and Community Learning, CWA will start offering instruction at two new locations: the Hawthorne Branch Library and the Meadowridge Branch Library (dates and times to be determined). Assistance at these branch libraries—and at the central branch of the Madison Public Library, where drop-in appointments currently are available on Mondays from 1:00-4:00—will focus on back-to-work writing: resumes, cover letters, and more.

Meanwhile, thanks to a grant from the Evjue Foundation, CWA instructors Michael Dimmick and Rob McAlear continue to help with all kinds of writing—job-related, academic, personal, and practical—at the bustling South Madison Branch Library on Monday evenings from 5:00-7:30 and on Saturday afternoons from 1:30-4:00.

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The UW-Madison Writing Center Turns 40

Last October the Writing Center held an open house to celebrate the Center’s 40th birthday. Well over 100 students and colleagues came from across campus to—

  • chat with our staff
  • peruse posters about our programs
  • sample our podcasts and our online consultations and videos of in-person consultations
  • nibble on birthday cake from Lane’s Bakery
  • and hear short presentations reflecting on the Writing Center’s history and its impact across campus and beyond

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Socially Just Writing Center Instruction in the New Decade

Happy New Year from the UW-Madison Writing Center! Our semester has gotten off to a busy start—already, we’ve added extra shifts to our regular schedule. And last Friday, we kicked off 2010 with our first staff meeting. The topic of the meeting was social justice and Writing Center work, which will be the subject of this week’s blog.

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A “temporal object, and a transitory possession”: Authority and The Idea of a University

By Mitch Nakaue

I’m the Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program, that branch of the Writing Center that focuses most explicitly on undergraduate learning, teaching and writing. The Writing Fellows, undergrads who come from across the university, are assigned to writing intensive courses. They read and critique drafts of two formal papers, providing both marginal and end comments to help students identify strengths as well as areas for possible revision. The Fellows then meet with students individually to discuss options and strategies for revision. Each Fellow also conducts an original research project that examines through quantitative and qualitative analysis a problem or issue in peer tutoring or Writing Center practice.

The bulk of my job is spent working with the Fellows as they develop their skills as researchers, peer tutors and writing specialists. On occasion, however, I get to leave HC White and go on trips. Later this week, four Fellows and I will travel to Mount Holyoke College for the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing. (We will post about our travels for your delectation on November 16.) This year’s conference theme is “Leadership and Peer Tutoring: Hope, Vision, Collaboration, Action,” and each of the Fellows will be presenting aspects of their formal research.

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