Acknowledgments & Alignments: Writing from a Center Place

By Mary E. Fiorenza

Mary E. FiorenzaMary E. Fiorenza would like to acknowledge Wendy Bishop’s “You Can Take the Girl Out of the Writing Center, But You Can’t Take the Writing Center Out of the Girl” for providing her with a way to see her writing center origins and consider how they influence her thought and practice as a teacher and administrator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As associate director of English 100, a writing program for first-year students, her current writing center relationship is primarily through its proximity to her office. That said, a brief disclaimer: This blog post uses the word center as an image, but writing centers are not directly addressed.

 The night before I turned in my dissertation was a kind of waking dream, and not a good one. Perhaps you have experienced a similar dream or night. Looking back, I see now that I might have rescheduled the appointment. I still had two days of a grace period left. But I remember feeling now or never. The dissertation had been defended; it needed to be gone. I worked through the night with periodic naps. I had corrections to finalize, paragraphs to rework, sources to check, citations to format, proofreading. And I still needed to write my acknowledgments.

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The Rhetoric of Composition: How We Talk When We Talk About Dissertations

WC_BlogrickNBy Rick Ness

Rick Ness is a PhD Candidate in Literary Studies at UW-Madison and a writing center tutor. Rick has led graduate writer’s groups and has co-taught the Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camp. His research focuses on the simultaneous emergence of British Romantic literature and biopolitical, medicalized societies.

Last January, I co-taught The Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camp with Nancy Lynn Karls and Neil Simpkins. During the camp I was perusing the collection of dissertation guide books in the Writing Center, and I noticed some common visual and verbal metaphors: mountains, journeys, and light bulbs (and while technically not a metaphor, a towering stack of books is a popular image). Continue reading

Using Peer Writing Groups For the Senior Thesis and Beyond

By Rebecca Steffy

Author Photo by Carrie Castree.

Author Photo by Carrie Castree.

Rebecca Couch Steffy is a Ph.D. candidate in Literary Studies at UW-Madison, where she also serves as a TA Coordinator for The Writing Center and Co-Director of the English 100 Tutorial Program. Her research focuses on the relationships between community formations and aesthetics in contemporary poetry and performance. 

This year, I have the privilege of coordinating the UW-Madison Writing Center’s Senior Thesis Writing Groups, small peer-led writing groups that meet weekly or bi-weekly throughout the daunting semester- or year-long process of writing a senior thesis. I help spread the word that senior thesis writing groups are forming at the beginning of each term, lead orientation meetings to better inform interested students about how the groups work, and facilitate the first meeting of each group to guide them in establishing a set of shared expectations for working together. Then I keep in touch throughout the semester by email or a shared check-in document, and by dropping by another meeting later in the semester. Our model aims at maximizing the rich benefits of writing groups for senior thesis writers with a minimum of direct instructional hours from our staff. Continue reading

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Water Damage, Writing Technologies, and Alternative Modes of Feedback

By Kathleen Daly

Kathleen Daly is a PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric and is currently serving as the Assistant Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program at UW-Madison. Her doctoral research looks at technologies that underwrite digital archive projects in order to explore questions of archival materiality, accessibility and discoverability.

Kathleen Daly is a PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric and is currently serving as the Assistant Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program at UW-Madison. Her doctoral research looks at technologies that underwrite digital archive projects in order to explore questions of archival materiality, accessibility and discoverability.

Kathleen Daly

Two weeks ago, I spilled water on my laptop. Despite my frantic attempts to dry it off, a few drops of water seeped in through the keyboard and into the internal components, rendering my computer entirely useless. While I wait for my computer to be repaired, I have been taking advantage of the Equipment Checkout System (ECS) available through UW InfoLabs. Through ECS, I am able to rent a laptop that is the exact same make and model as my personal computer. However, these laptops have a loan period of only three days with no options for renewal. This means that every three days, I have to check out a different machine.

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Access as a Lens for Peer Tutoring

By Annika Konrad

Annika Konrad is a Ph.D. Candidate in Composition and Rhetoric and an Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program at UW-Madison. Her doctoral research focuses on the rhetorical practices that blind and visually impaired people use to gain access. When Annika was an undergraduate at UW-Madison, she was a Writing Fellow.

Annika Konrad is a Ph.D. Candidate in Composition and Rhetoric and an Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program at UW-Madison. Her doctoral research focuses on the rhetorical practices that blind and visually impaired people use to gain access. When she was an undergraduate, Annika was a Writing Fellow at UW-Madison.

Photo credit: Annika Konrad

“Why didn’t we start with access?” one student asked during a discussion near the end of the semester in English 403, an honors seminar for new UW-Madison undergraduate Writing Fellows. Writing Fellows at UW-Madison are trained undergraduates who serve as peer writing tutors in courses across disciplines. As a first time teacher of the course, I had added a day to the end of the course focused on disability, a move that I knew was not ideal for treating difference. While disability is often excluded from lists of disadvantaged groups, scholars in disability studies have long warned that access should not be approached as accommodating “problemed bodies” (Yergeau et al, 2013), but instead as an effort that requires and benefits all parties (Dolmage, 2014; Price; 2011). I was worried, then, about tacking disability onto the end of the calendar. Continue reading

Tutoring Sessions as Safe Spaces: Affective Writing and the personal Personal Statement

By Julia Meuse

Julia Meuse has been a tutor at the Writing Center since fall of 2012. She is also a PhD candidate in English literary studies writing a dissertation about office spaces and white-collar labor in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature.

Julia Meuse

Julia Meuse

The term “safe space” has entered the popular American lexicon in recent years, nowhere more prominently than in institutes of higher education. College campuses around the country have taken laudable steps towards creating spaces where LGBTQ students, women, students of color, and members of other marginalized communities can feel comfortable freely expressing themselves in a tolerant and welcoming environment. Writing centers are in some ways safe spaces by necessity; the very nature of our work demands it. Successful tutoring sessions are more likely to occur when the student feels at ease discussing their work. The Writing Center here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison takes seriously its commitment to ensuring all student-writers feel comfortable expressing themselves and we’re continually working to enhance our tutorial practices in a way that cultivates student empowerment.
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Where the Humanities Meet the Sciences: The Impact of Writing Center Instruction on Students in the Sciences and Their Careers

By Ambar Meneses-Hall

Ambar Meneses-Hall

Ambar Meneses-Hall

Ambar Meneses-Hall has been a Writing Center tutor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since fall of 2015. She is also a PhD candidate and dissertator in English literary studies, with a focus on American and African American Literature.

“I believe that the work that we do changes lives,” says Amy Huseby, an experienced writing tutor and Outreach Coordinator for the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As another Writing Center tutor and student I could not agree more. Amy has many good stories about the positive impact that Writing Center instruction has on UW students from all majors and walks of life, but one in particular stands out. Amy has worn many hats at the Writing Center; she has been a Skype instructor, an e-mail instructor, an Outreach instructor, and a Main Center and Satellite instructor. She is currently the Coordinator for the Writing Center Outreach program. Here is the story that will melt any cynic’s heart: Continue reading

A Game of Solitaire with Many Players: US Writing Centers from a German Perspective

By Stephanie Dreyfürst

Stephanie Dreyfürst, founder and director of the Writing Center at Frankfurt’s Goethe-University, holds a PhD in Early Modern German Literature. She is interested in everything that has to do with (academic) writing, reading, and thinking. Her favorite areas of research include WAC/WID programs, genre, rhetorics, and the acquisition of academic writing competency. She’s an avid lover of opera and a proud member of the board of the German Skeptics.

Recently, I was on a six-week long research trip which led me to different Writing Centers in the US. My main focus was on researching the effects the local Writing Fellow programs have on faculty, students, and the writing fellows themselves. But aside from that task, I couldn’t help noticing the similarities and differences between different Writing Center “cultures” in the States and in Germany. When I came to my first stop (the über-impressive Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison), I was welcomed with incredible warmth and open arms. Three wonderful colleagues from two other German Writing Centers (Viadrina University Frankfurt (Oder) and Leibniz University Hannover) were also staying at UW Madison at the same time. The amount of work that Bradley Hughes and his team had put into the preparation of our visit was immense: We felt like members of the team immediately and were able to talk to many incredibly interesting people and learn a lot. Continue reading

Peer Tutoring and the Serious Work of Undergraduate Scholarship

Samantha Stowers, Julia Boles, Chelsea Fesik, Samantha Lasko, and the author after their presentation.

Samantha Stowers, Rachel Herzl-Betz, Julia Boles, Chelsea Fesik, and Samantha Lasko.

By Rachel Herzl-Betz

Rachel Herzl-Betz is an Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she has been a tutor and administrator since 2012. She is also a PhD candidate in Literary Studies, with a focus on Victorian Literature and Disability Studies. 

I’ve always been a fan of academic conferences. At their best, they offer an unprecedented chance for scholars, students, and practitioners to step out of their individual institutions and connect with the wider intellectual community. We often become so ensconced in our own contexts that we forget the possibilities being put into practice one state, one city, or even one neighborhood away.

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a wordle of words from our running notes for this post

Queering RAD Research in Writing Center Studies

By Neil Simpkins and Virginia Schwarz

Neil and Virginia are in the Composition and Rhetoric PhD program at UW-Madison and tutor in the university writing center. Neil is working on a dissertation proposal exploring how disabled students experience writing-intensive classrooms. Virginia studies program and classroom assessment and is designing a dissertation study on contract grading.

In the Spirit of Inquiry…

At the 2015 IWCA Collaborative in Tampa, FL, we set out to have a roundtable discussion about the current push for RAD research in the writing center community. Many writing center scholars have called for more RAD research (empirical inquiry that has replicable methods, aggregative results, and data-driven conclusions) as a response to “lore-driven” conclusions about writing center theory and practice. In other words, writing center scholars are making a deliberate effort to design more and more studies that ask how we know that our “best practices” are actually serving student writers. Continue reading