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

Writing Center Outreach and Leading from the Middle

By Angela J. Zito

Angela is a PhD Candidate in English and currently serves as the Writing Center Outreach Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Last week, the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network held its annual conference in Montreal, Quebec, where the keynote speaker Randy Bass called upon all of us in attendance (and the programs and institutions we represented) to help steer higher education in the direction of increasingly inclusive and integrated learning by “leading from the middle.”

the author, Angela

It (leading from the middle) is a different kind of narrative for how the academic community can effectively re-situate students and their education at the center of a university’s mission—a narrative that doesn’t rely solely on classroom-level innovation (which is limited in scope and access) nor on institution-wide structural change (which is slow-moving), but rather pulls these forces together in collaborative action through the scholarship of teaching and learning and the experimental redesign of program-level instruction and assessment.

I am not a faculty developer or instructional designer, like most of the folks attending the POD Conference—I’m the current graduate Outreach Coordinator at the UW-Madison Writing Center. But leading from the middle, I realized as I listened to Bass’s address, is precisely what our Outreach and Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) programs strive to do—and to do better—every semester at our university. Continue reading

Increasing Intercultural Competence through Consultant Education

By Christa Tiernan and Kelly Wenig

Christa Tiernan has directed the Writing and Media Center at Iowa State University since June 2015. Before then, she worked at the writing centers at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (2013-2015), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2007-2013), and the University of Virginia (2004-2006). Christa holds a PhD in English: Literary Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2014), an MA in English Literature from the University of Virginia (2006), and a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of California, San Diego (2003).

Kelly Wenig has served as the Intercultural Learning Specialist at the Writing and Media Center at Iowa State University since May 2017. In 2016-2017, he served as the center’s research assistant. Kelly holds a PhD in History from Iowa State University (2017), an MA in History from the University of Cincinnati (2008), and a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (2006).

Christa Tiernan. Image courtesy of Christopher Gannon, Iowa State University.

Kelly Wenig. Image courtesy of Christopher Gannon, Iowa State University.








The recent upsurge in international student enrollment in American public research universities has prompted us to think about the adaptability of writing centers during periods of changing university demographics. How do writing centers respond to enrollment trends?

Let there be no mistake: the demographics of American public research universities are changing. As state appropriations for these institutions are being reduced further and further, international students are being recruited in larger and larger numbers, their tuition being perceived as a partial solution to shortfalls in funding (Redden). Since 2011-2012, the United States has witnessed a sharp increase in international student enrollment. According to the Institute of International Education, in 2014-2015, international student enrollment in American institutions of higher education increased 10%, and in 2015-2016, there were over one million international students in the United States. Continue reading

LeMahieu elicits student skepticism.

Blame the Writing Center

By Michael LeMahieu

Professor Michael LeMahieu, Clemson University

Michael LeMahieu is Associate Professor of English at Clemson University and coeditor of the journal Contemporary Literature. He is the author of Fictions of Fact and Value: The Erasure of Logical Positivism in American Literature, 1945-1975 (Oxford UP, 2013) and coeditor of Wittgenstein and Modernism (U of Chicago P, 2017).

In the summer of 2011, I found myself in an unexpected position. I had just accepted an offer from the college dean to serve as Director of the Pearce Center for Professional Communication. This, some of my most trusted colleagues told me, was a mistake. Professional communication wasn’t my field. I still hadn’t finished my first book. The tenure clock was ticking. My kids were three and five.

So why did I do it? I blame the UW-Madison Writing Center. And that mistake forms part of a longstanding pattern of my experience in the Writing Center unexpectedly influencing my decisions.

Continue reading

A large, beige speech bubbles contains 8 smaller, differently colored speech bubbles within it.

Let’s Chat: Considering “Friendly Talk” in the Writing Center

By Tori Thompson Peters

Tori has long brown hair, is wearing tortoise-shell glasses, a black shirt, and is smiling

Tori Thompson Peters

Tori is a PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric at UW-Madison where she works in the Writing Center. 

Last year, I had several appointments with an advanced writer named Linda Park who was working on an article for publication about language and cultural barriers in our healthcare system. As we were discussing the project, Linda explained to me that even though she was studying communication between doctors and patients with limited English proficiency (LEP), the language barrier didn’t appear to be the primary problem in these scenarios. Rather, it was an issue with cultural literacy, or doctors in the U.S. being unfamiliar with different expectations for communication.

Continue reading

Writing the Body: Writing Centers and Pronouns

By Neil Simpkins

Neil is a Ph.D. candidate in Composition and Rhetoric at UW-Madison. He works at the UW-Madison Writing Center and teaches English 201.

Neil Simpkins

During my sophomore year of college, I was starting my gender transition, coming out to my friends and family about my disability, and taking a class about disability studies and personal memoir. In that class, we read Eli Clare’s Exile and Pride, Harriet McBryde Johnson’s Too Late to Die Young, and Meri Nana-Ama Danquah’s Willow Weep for Me (among others), and I drank it all in. I had already started reading every book I could get my hands on to help me understand what I was going through, to help me put to words knowledges about myself that I’d never been able to articulate. I wasn’t ready to come out as trans or to switch pronouns–it was way too early for that. I was simply seeking the words that would help me move through my feelings. Continue reading

Orange and Sardines: Art and Ekphrasis in the Writing Center

By Erica Kanesaka Kalnay

Erica Kanesaka Kalnay

Erica Kanesaka Kalnay is a Ph.D. candidate in Literary Studies at UW-Madison and has taught at the Writing Center since 2015. Her research focuses on children’s literature and aesthetic theory. In her spare time, she is also a creative writer and visual artist.

“I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not…”
— Frank O’Hara

In “Why I Am Not a Painter,” a famous ekphrastic poem by Frank O’Hara, the poet recalls drinking a few beers with the expressionist painter Michael Goldberg. As they drink, he watches Goldberg create a painting inspired by the word “sardines.” When the painting is finished, O’Hara observes that no sardines appear anywhere on the canvas. He goes home and writes a poem inspired by the color orange. The word “orange” does not appear anywhere in the finished poem, either. Continue reading

Writing Group as Community: The Case of DePaul’s Writers Guild

 By Jen Finstrom and Matthew Fledderjohann

Jennifer Finstrom

Jennifer Finstrom is the Outreach Coordinator for the University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL), a peer writing tutor, and a writing group facilitator. She is also an instructor in the First-Year Writing Program and the Honors Program and a poet. 

Matthew Fledderjohann

Matthew Fledderjohann is a fourth year PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric at UW-Madison currently working on a dissertation on how writers revise in response to experiences of radical dissonance. This is his third year with the Writing Center at UW-Madison. 

Jen Finstrom and Matthew Fledderjohann served together as graduate assistants and then professional staff at DePaul University’s University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL) for four years. During that time, Jen began in her capacity as a facilitator for Writers Guild—the UCWbL’s creative writers’ writing group—and Matthew was a regular participant.

The following is a conversation between Jen and Matthew about Writers Guild, its unique qualities, and what its success suggests for writing centers’ facilitation of writing groups in general.

Matthew: Hi, Jen!

Jen: Hi, Matthew!

Matthew: Thanks for agreeing to engage in this reflective dialogue with me about Writers Guild! Writers Guild is a group that has been influential for both of us across the years, and I’m excited about this opportunity to share some of its vibrancy with the wider writing center community. To start things off, could you describe what Writers Guild is?

Continue reading

Writing with Evidence in the Age of Alternative Facts

By Leah Pope Parker

Leah Pope Parker

Leah Pope Parker has been a tutor in the UW-Madison Writing Center since 2014, where she also served as the Coordinator of Writing Center Outreach during the 2016–17 school year. Leah is also PhD candidate in English Literary Studies.

Conversations about evidence in writing center pedagogy traditionally focus on the genre of the research paper, where evidence includes the ideas, data, and quotations located through research that must be incorporated effectively into the prose of the paper. However, if we think about evidence more broadly within writing center teaching, as any aspect of writing that claims the authority of truth or expertise in order to achieve the objectives of the written document, then nearly every conference presents an opportunity to talk about evidence. Traditional forms of evidence (such as facts, figures, and the citation of authoritative perspectives) turn up not only in thesis-driven research papers, but also in literature reviews, scientific reports, and resumes. Forms of anecdotal or narrative evidence are also deployed in application essays, cover letters, and personal reflections. Even choices made around primary sources in class assignments that specifically do not call for secondary research can be considered a practice of writing with evidence. Thinking about evidence in all of these modes means that nearly every writing center conference presents us with the opportunity to encourage our students to think critically about their sources and the assumptions that writers and readers make around evidence and truth. 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