By Kim Moreland
Kim Moreland is the current Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a Ph.D candidate in the Composition and Rhetoric program and is writing her dissertation on agency and authorship in networks. She has been teaching in the Writing Center since 2008.
In this post, I’d like congratulate my mentor and colleague, Emily Hall, Director of the Writing Fellows Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the winner of the NCPTW 2013 Ron Maxwell Award. This award is “given annually to a professional in the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing organization who has contributed with distinction to undergraduate student development through promoting collaborative learning among peer tutors in writing.” I can’t imagine a more appropriate or worthy recipient for such an award; Emily’s contributions to the field of peer tutoring are truly inspiring, and, for many of the students who have worked with her, myself included, life-changing. (For additional information about the award and to see the illustrious group of previous recipients, go here.)
“Learning originates with an undergraduate student, not with an institutional authority.”
Emily has been involved with the Writing Fellows Program at the UW since it started in 1997 and has served as its director since 1999. Her work with undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty has had a profound impact on teaching and writing throughout much of the university. The program currently has 51 active Fellows who are working with over 500 undergraduate students this semester.
The program is designed so that students and professors receive the benefits of peer tutoring, and so that undergraduate students can play a role in the teaching mission of the university. As Emily writes, “Learning originates with an undergraduate student, not with an institutional authority.” As undergraduate peer tutors, Writing Fellows are assigned to a particular course each semester. They work closely with professors and work with the students on two assignments, first giving extensive written feedback and then meeting with the students in conference. This gives Fellows a teaching role that is usually reserved for graduate students. Under Emily’s extraordinary leadership, hundreds of students as well as many professors have benefitted from collaborating with peer tutors.
The Fellows also undergo extensive training through English 316, a 3-credit honors seminar in Writing Across the Curriculum. In this course, Emily collaborates with Fellows, teaching them to be smart readers of drafts and skilled commenters. This course not only gives Fellows support and strategies for their tutoring, but it is aimed to empower them as scholars of writing and tutoring. Under Emily’s thoughtful guidance, all Fellows complete an original research project related to the tutoring of teaching and writing. These projects recognize the voices of peer tutors, shaping their own tutoring practices as well as the practices of others as they present their work to colleagues and at national conferences. Emily’s tremendous dedication to undergraduate research and her belief that peer tutors must reflect and critically examine the field of writing studies have been a crucial component of our program.
What her nominators had to say:
In the 15 page nomination packet submitted by former graduate assistants and Fellows, one of the words that comes up often is “transformational.” These former students report how working with Emily has not only transformed their own lives, but also how Emily has influenced them to continue to transform the lives of others in their careers as leaders, teachers, and scholars.
Here are just a few short excerpts, but those of us who have worked with her will likely be able to relate to all of these statements:
“The story of my undergraduate education at UW–Madison can be summed up in three short words: Writing Fellows Program…. I gained an incredible amount: a more personalized understanding of teaching as something inherently collaborative and—if it’s to be truly transformational—intimate; an appreciation for tutoring as not just an exercise in co-opting tutees into seeing writing as I do, but as a venue in which I can challenge myself to adapt to the specific needs of each student.”
“I try to empower my students to challenge their insecurities and to believe that their contributions to academic discourse, when carefully developed and considered, are as valid as the existing scholarship. While I am thankful for Emily’s undeniable influence on my resume, I am even more thankful for the example she showed me of what it looks like to invest in young people for who they are and for what they can accomplish.”
“It was her teaching that intrinsically motivated me to work hard and achieve ambitious goals. Her impact on my life has been steadfast. Emily’s commitment to the quality of the Writing Fellows Program has remained with me as I teach. I’m proud to say that I am committed to passing on Emily’s collaborative, warm, firm, and rigorous leadership.”
“Writing is personal and analyzing one’s writing is oftentimes uncomfortable; therefore, reflecting on the diversity of perspectives, people, and educational contexts we encounter as writers and tutors can be overwhelming. Emily’s ability to mediate potentially uncomfortable conversations and her capacity to praise individuals in meaningful ways created a safe space for all tutees and tutors. As a professional writing tutor and disability services liaison at a community college, I am thankful for Emily’s thoughtful leadership and my strong theoretical foundations as a Writing Fellow.”
“Following Emily’s lead, I give advanced students the freedom to explore and to grapple with complex new ideas, the rigors of scholarly writing, and academic research. At the same time, I provide strong guidance and support, creating a relationship in which students are comfortable approaching me for assistance with their writing and research. I’ll always be grateful to Emily for guiding me toward a model of teaching founded on a partnership between instructor and students.”
As our Writing Center director Brad Hughes sums it up, “Emily truly exemplifies the best traditions of peer tutoring and collaborative learning that the NCPTW award represents.”
Thanks so much and congratulations, Emily.
Rebecca B. Entel
Michelle R. Sizemore
Julie Nelson Christoph