Toward a Writer Future: New Writing Fellows Leading Campus Collaboration

By Ishita Aghi and Erika Gallagher

Ishita and Erika are undergraduate assistant directors in the UW-Madison Writing Fellows Program for 2017-18.

At UW-Madison, the Undergraduate Writing Fellows program is composed of 50 students who assist other undergraduates with academic writing in courses across the College of Letters & Science. Fellows are undergraduate tutors from a variety of disciplines who possess a passion for helping others. They undergo extensive training and ongoing education, complete their own original research, and work directly with professors to help their students become better writers.

As Undergraduate Directors for the Writing Fellows program, we have experienced the joys of learning and collaborating as new Writing Fellows. All new Writing Fellows complete a writing-intensive training course, English 403: Tutoring Writing Across the Curriculum, in which they read extensively from the field of writing studies, participate in lively discussions, and conduct original research about writing and/or tutoring writing. In addition, during their first semester in the Program, they begin the work of a Writing Fellow, assisting 8-15 students with drafts of two different papers over the course of the semester. They do all of this while being full-time students themselves. Serving as a Writing Fellow can be challenging: Fellows must manage a hectic schedule of commenting and holding individual conferences with students and communicating regularly with course professors. Continue reading

The Tutoring Corona: New Perspectives on Professional Development for Tutors

By Bradley Hughes

Brad Hughes is delighted to be starting his 34th year as director of the Writing Center and his 28th year as director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The staff of the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison warmly welcomes you to our blog for a new academic year!

Brad, about 10 years ago.

As in many other parts of the US, on August 21st eclipse fever touched many of us here in Madison, Wisconsin. In southern Wisconsin, the eclipse was, alas, not total–just about 85%. Even though it was cloudy that day in Madison, I joined a number of colleagues who had spontaneously gathered at the peak, a little after 1:00 PM, outside our campus building (Helen C. White Hall, which houses the undergraduate library, a number of academic departments, and the Writing Center) to see what we could see without ruining our eyes. We shared a pair of eclipse glasses, which, to my amazement, allowed us to view the eclipse through the clouds. It was stunning—like a crescent sun, I thought. And I loved the fact that it was a communal experience—as we shared the glasses, we talked and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. Continue reading

Honoring Tutor Excellence at UW-Madison’s Writing Center, Spring 2017

By Bradley Hughes

Brad Hughes is the Director of the Writing Center and the Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he is the editor of Another Word, the UW-Madison Writing Center’s blog.

It’s graduation and award time, and the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is delighted to honor two of our wonderful tutor colleagues, who are the recipients of our first annual teaching awards for graduate teaching assistants on our Writing Center staff. Every semester there are between 45 and 50 doctoral-level teaching assistants on our staff, in addition to c. 50 undergraduate writing fellows. Through all of the Writing Center’s programs, each year we work with over 6000 undergraduate and graduate student-writers from across the university and in the community through our Madison Writing Assistance Program.

We invited all of the teaching assistants who were on our staff in the fall of 2016 and spring of 2017 to nominate colleagues or themselves for these awards. All of the nominees were then invited to submit a 300-word statement reflecting on their Writing Center consulting and to include a summary of evaluations from their Writing Center students. The primary criterion for these awards is demonstrated excellence in individual consultations in the Writing Center, with both undergraduate and graduate-student writers. The selection committee read the nominees’ statements and evaluations from Writing Center students for evidence of–

  • dedication to students
  • success in tutoring
  • ability to work with writers in various disciplines and at different levels
  • evidence of student learning
  • innovation in tutoring
  • and reflective tutoring practice.

The selection committee (Nancy Linh Karls, Emily Hall, and Brad Hughes) then selected the recipients for our two awards. We had many very strong nominations and statements, and we honestly wish we had 20 awards to give! Continue reading

Writing Center as a Storycenter : A “New” Metaphor for Tutors

By Adedoyin Ogunfeyimi

Adedoyin Ogunfeyimi, a Fulbright scholar from Nigeria, completed his Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Ogunfeyimi explores the place-based notion of ethos and focuses on how disenfranchised groups often invoke their cultural ethos to negotiate a hospitable ecology for their survival. While doing his doctorate in Wisconsin, Ogunfeyimi tutored at the writing center for five years, drawing on his research interest to create hospitable writing sessions for a diverse range of student-writers. Presently, he teaches writing courses and participates in a data-driven writing research project at the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

What If . . . ?

What if we also begin to think about the writing center as a storycenter, a place where student-writers come, meet, and share their stories? What if we begin to think about the work that we do in the writing center as storytelling, a way of encountering student-writers and their writings as repositories of stories? And if we must recast our writing center location as a storycenter, what might this “new” metaphor afford us, open up for us, and how might it shape how we see, engage, and interact with student-writers who frequent or visit the writing center?

Writers’ Stories in the Writing Center

Adedoyin Ogunfeyimi

Not until I began to reflect on the role of storytelling in my writing class did I consider these questions while working with the student-writers at the writing center. But I had always engaged with these writers from this metaphorical lens. That is, I had paid attention to the stories that the writers brought to my writing sessions and shared about themselves and (through) their writing experiences. Some of these stories touched on their college transition experiences, commemorated their migration struggles, reminisced about their community advocacy, contested their racialized identities and bodies, narrated their escapes from war-torn nations, etc. Through these stories and their vast rhetorical purposes, I came to understand that my work in the writing center had always figured as a storytelling project, that is, as an opportune moment seized upon by the writers to share their writing and writerly experiences, and, more importantly, as a way of encountering the writers as storytellers.

When I met with these writers in the writing center, I always looked forward to the moments they would tell their stories. I anticipated these moments because their stories and the ways they crafted such stories often helped to repurpose, reorder, and reshape our writing sessions. And because these stories showed the writers’ ways of writing about and seeing their worlds, their stories also constituted the meaningful ways of ordering and talking through their writings. For instance, these writers invoked their stories to clarify the directions of their drafts, redirect the conversations for better understanding, and contextualize their writing purpose. Continue reading

A Peace Corps-Writing Center Partnership at UW-Madison

By Micah Kloppenburg

Micah Kloppenburg

Micah Kloppenburg

Micah Kloppenburg is a graduate student in Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was the university’s campus recruiter for the Peace Corps in 2015-16.

From 2009 to 2011, I served as a Peace Corps Agriculture Volunteer in northern Nicaragua. I lived in a small, idyllic village of 100 farming families at the foot of the climbing cerros called El Carbón. Here, I learned about and worked in the field of community food security. I thought everything I had done to become an aware, educated, and experienced individual had prepared me for this work as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

The following two years of service and their challenges and tribulations helped me understand the gap between individual preparation and what community work truly requires. My friends, my host-family–our community–helped me understand an important life-lesson in community work; that hubris is an individual quality best transformed into humility with learning and laughter. Though seemingly simple, this is a lesson that I believe is a critical step to becoming an engaged global citizen. And, as the UW-Madison Campus Peace Corps Recruiter in 2015, this was the underlying lesson I shared with students through stories, workshops, and presentations on what it means to grow from student to global citizen as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Continue reading

Our Blog Receives the John Lovas Award from Kairos!

By Bradley Hughes

Brad Hughes is director of the Writing Center and Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he is the editor of Another Word, the UW-Madison Writing Center’s blog.

Two of the nominators--Professor Kate Vieira (left), University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Professor Annette Vee, University of Pittsburgh.

Two of the nominators–Professor Kate Vieira (left), University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Professor Annette Vee, University of Pittsburgh.

In May of 2016, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writing Center staff was thrilled to learn that our blog, Another Word, which you’re reading now, received the 2016 John Lovas Award, a major national award. This award honors the best use of blogs and other open-publishing tools of the Internet for knowledge-creation and community-building in rhetoric and composition. The award is given each year by the journal Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, which is the longest running e-journal in rhetoric and composition and one of the top journals in digital rhetoric.

The UW-Madison Writing Center’s blog, which began in 2009, features weekly posts about writing center theory, research, and practice, collaboratively written by current members of the Writing Center’s staff, including undergraduate and graduate students, and by alumni and friends of the Writing Center. In a typical month, the blog draws over 58,000 page views from around the world. The nomination for this award came from 39 PhD alumni from our department (led by Annette Vee, who is on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh) and by other friends of our blog from around the country.

At the risk of seeming self-congratulatory, we thought our blog readers might enjoy reading the letter nominating our blog for this prestigious award. We also thought this would give us a chance to thank Kairos, our nominators, Rik Hunter who played a key role in designing and launching our blog in 2009, and the many, many authors and commenters who have contributed to our blog over the past seven years. Thank you all! Continue reading

Two More Cultures: Or, Fostering a Writing Culture at a STEM University

By Shaundrea Hirengen and Christopher J. Syrnyk

Shaundrea Hirengen, an alumna of the George Fox University Writing Center, is starting her second year as the coordinator of Oregon Tech’s Peer Consulting Center. Christopher Syrnyk, a UW-Madison Writing Center alum, is an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition and director of the University Honors Program at Oregon Tech.

Christopher sporting vintage Wisconsin fan hat (photo by the author).

Christopher sporting vintage Wisconsin fan hat (photo by the author).

Shaundrea and her dog Sampson (photo by author).

Shaundrea and her dog Sampson (photo by author).

Shaundrea and I sat down to talk before the start of Fall term (Oregon Tech is on a quarter system, and the academic year starts at the end of September) about how we can do more to foster writing culture, through good writing center practices at our Peer Consulting Center, and how, in doing so, we can connect our campus. By “writing culture” we had in mind all the ways to use writing to refocus student work, to help students process an idea, and even how to refine and revise an orientation to thinking about a product they are diligently working to figure out or produce. About our Peer Consulting Center, Shaundrea has this to say: “The Peer Consulting Center at Oregon Tech is unique for a number of reasons. We are a predominantly STEM university, so the majority of students who make use of our services come to work on math, physics, chemistry, and engineering courses, but also writing. However, our mission is to support, guide, and help students develop the skills and knowledge necessary to build a solid foundation in all of their courses. Our tutors are a well rounded and eclectic group of students—Mechanical Engineering majors who dabble in biology and Computer Science Engineering Technology majors who write fiction. Continue reading

Writing Center Moonshots

By Bradley Hughes

Brad Hughes is the director of the Writing Center and the director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is delighted to be starting his 33rd year at UW-Madison. This post is adapted from his keynote address at the Midwest Writing Centers Association Conference, held in Iowa in March 2016.

Do you know what moonshots are? They are really ambitious goals–or the process of trying to achieve those kinds of goals. The term refers to US President John Kennedy’s 1961 speech, at Rice University in Houston, about space exploration, when Kennedy boldly promised that the United States would land a person on the moon by the end of the decade. Moonshots are really audacious projects, ones that are, in fact, so difficult that they are unlikely to succeed. As Kennedy said in that now famous speech: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” In his State of the Union address in January 2016, President Obama invoked the term when he announced the start of an ambitious new “Cancer Moonshot,” an initiative designed to advance cancer care and prevention.

moonI am inspired by ambitious goals, and I hope that you are too. In fact, I think that establishing ambitious goals and working collaboratively to achieve them are important parts of leadership in an academic culture. I want to think together with you all about what could be moonshots–ambitious goals–for you as a tutor, for your writing center, for the writing center profession. I will try to challenge you to think in some new ways about your writing center work. Later in this post, I’m going to invite all of you to think and talk about setting an ambitious goal for improving your own tutoring or for improving your center or for strengthening the writing center profession. Maybe while you read this post (you can multitask, right?), you can begin freethinking about something substantial that needs improving in your tutoring, something important and challenging that you need to learn, some significant ways in which you or your center needs to stretch or grow or improve. Your moonshot should be challenging and ambitious but can be small in scope–it doesn’t have to involve a journey to Mars. Continue reading

“Something Magical in Meeting with a Group of Like-Minded People”: Graduate Writing Groups in the Writing Center

By Chris Earle, Elisabeth Miller, and Bradley Hughes

Chris Earle is currently a co-Coordinator in the Writing Center at UW-Madison where he is completing a dissertation on the writing and activism of imprisoned individuals. In the fall, Chris will be joining the faculty in English, Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Nevada, Reno. Elisabeth Miller has been a Writing Center instructor at UW-Madison for the past five years and is currently co-coordinator of the Madison Writing Assistance community literacy program. She is currently completing her dissertation on literacy and disability, and in fall 2016 she will be joining the faculty in English, Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Nevada, Reno. Brad Hughes is the director of the Writing Center and director of Writing Across the Curriculum at UW-Madison.

Every week this spring semester, roughly 90 graduate students keep coming back to Helen C. White Hall on the UW-Madison campus. They slog through ice and snow on winter mornings; they eschew sunny spring afternoons and evenings all to participate in the Writing Center’s Graduate Writing Groups. Modelled after UW-Madison Writing Center’s Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camps and Writing Retreats, these groups began in Summer 2014. As Sarah Groeneveld previously detailed, the Graduate Writing Groups are designed to provide space, time, and support for graduate student writers throughout the semester.

Each group, enrolling anywhere between 20 and 30 graduate students, meets for three hours every week. These students come from a wide range of disciplines: Electrical Engineering, Psychology, Neuroscience, French and Italian, Educational Policy Studies, Art History, Environmental Studies, Spanish and Portuguese, East Asian Studies, Geography, Sociology, Political Science, English, Forestry, History, Library and Information Studies, Curriculum and Instruction, German, and many, many more. An experienced member of the Writing Center’s staff serves as a facilitator (this semester, the authors of this post).

We open each week with a focused goal-setting activity and small- or large-group discussion about the writing process, about challenges they’re facing in their projects, or about whatever else writing related is on people’s minds. At the close of each session, the facilitator brings the group back together for the last few minutes to share progress and to set goals for the week. But the majority of the time–about two-and-a-half of the three hours–is dedicated to writing time during which writers can make substantial progress on their dissertations, article drafts, grant proposals, fellowship applications, and more. In this way, the groups follow what Sohui Lee and Chris Golde in their recent article in The Writing Lab Newsletter term the “Just Write” model. Continue reading

A Wonderful Program to Work Across the Disciplines, Universities, Countries, and Institutions

By Franziska Liebetanz

Franziska Liebetanz is since 2011 the director of the Writing Center at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) Germany. She is a member of the Board of the European Writing Center Association and the “Gesellschaft für Schreibdidaktik und Schreibforschung.” She was one of the first peer tutors in writing in Germany and wrote together with Ella Grieshammer, Jana Zegenhagen and Nora Peters the first book of writing consultation at universities. “Zukunftsmodell Schreibberatung. Eine Anleitung zur Begleitung von Schreibenden im Studium.” She publishes together with Simone Tschirpke, Nora Peters, David Kreitz and Sascha Dieter a journal about writing and writing research, „JoSch“.

Last year we have had a great opportunity to improve and to develop our Writing Fellow Program at the European University Viadrina. In 2007, Katrin Girgensohn founded our Writing Center. At this time only a couple of universities in Germany had Writing Centers and one was now located next to the Polish border in Frankfurt (Oder). In 2011 she went to the USA to visit American Writing Centers; mainly she spent her time at the Writing Center of the University Wisconsin-Madison. From Madison she brought the idea of a Writing Fellow Program back to our Writing Center. Due to our Mission statement, we thought this writing program in the disciplines would be a good contribution to our work.
Our mission statement says

The Writing Center is the umbrella institution for all activities that deal with the key competences of ‘writing’ at the European University Viadrina. It supports students and graduate students alike to communicate with confidence and persuasion, using writing as a medium for critical thinking. All writers, experienced as well as unexperienced, benefit from conversations about writing processes and texts. (

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