Opening Doors: Another Year Begins in the Writing Center
Bronwyn T. Williams, Director
My New Year’s resolutions always take place in late August. Like many of us in on university campuses, my yearly cycle begins with the new academic year. It is in August that the annual campus rituals, of new students arriving and new announcements going up on bulletin boards, signal the chance to begin again, to have a new set of experiences. It’s a time that I find myself reflecting on the year just completed and thinking about what I want to accomplish in the year ahead. Sometimes these are explicit promises to myself – such as making sure I get that article revised by the end of September. Sometimes my resolutions are more implicitly contained in the revising of course syllabi or the rethinking of policies for the new year. Either way, the resolutions and rituals that mark the start of the academic year are always restorative and energizing to me.
In the Writing Center one of our important rituals takes place when the new group of consultants show up for the coming academic year. On Thursday we all met as a group for the first time at the Writing Center Orientation to get to know each other and to plan for the year ahead. Eleven new graduate students will be working in the Writing Center this year.
They are a diverse group of people – from cooking enthusiasts to dancers to sports fans to rock climbers to world travelers to musicians. Some grew up in Louisville, while others grew up on the other side of the globe. Yet while their backgrounds and interests distinguish them from each other, their love of writing and their desire to teach others to be stronger writers is what brings them all to the Writing Center. Work in a Writing Center, to be successful, must be grounded in an ethic that draws from principles of service, care, empathy, patience, and respect. Only when consultants approach working with students from these principles, can the consultants and students work together to create more effective, critical, and creative writing. I told the new Writing Center consultants the other day that a Writing Center works best when it functions for both the staff and student writers as a site of inquiry, collaboration, and respect. From the conversations with the new consultants at Orientation it is clear that these are people who will be able to help student writers build on their strengths, and learn not just how to write a better paper, but to be better writers overall.
The commitment of these new consultants to helping others with their writing is impressive and makes it clear that we should have yet another successful – and fun – year in the Writing Center. It is a year that I hope will build on the successes of 2011-12. Among the highlights of the past year for the Writing Center were the following:
- We had 4866 visits to the Writing Center in the most recent academic year, including visits to our Virtual Writing Center and to our new office downtown at the Health Sciences Campus
- Writing Center staff conducted 70 presentations about our services and 26 in-class workshops on writing issues.
- We held our first Dissertation Writing Retreat. Ten Ph.D. students representing four different colleges and six different disciplines spent a week in the Writing Center working on their dissertations and receiving individual consultations with Writing Center tutors,
- We have a new Assistant Director position to focus on working with graduate student writers, paying particular attention to the needs of international students. Tika Lamsal will staff the position and split his hours between the main Writing Center and the office on the Health Sciences Campus. In addition the Writing Center, in collaboration with the Graduate School conducted a series of writing workshops for graduate students on both the Belknap and Health Sciences Campuses.
- Writing Center staff worked with a number of University programs, giving presentations and conducting workshops, including the Porter Scholars, A&S Advising, UofL Athletics, the Career Center, the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program, Family Scholar House, the Delphi Center, and the International Center. The presentations given by the Writing Center staff resulted in many students then visiting the Writing Center for the first time.
- During the 2011-12 academic year a number of Writing Center consultants presented their scholarship at conferences including the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the Southeast Writing Centers Conference, the Kentucky Philological Association Conference, and the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing. In addition, Assistant Director Barrie Olson had a piece accepted for the Writing Lab Newsletter.
- Our exit survey indicated a high level of satisfaction with the Writing Center, by both quantitative and qualitative measures. Highlights included:
- In answer to the statement: “My Writing Center consultation addressed my concerns about my writing project,” more than 96% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (74%) or “Agree” (22%).
- In answer to the statement: “What I learned during my Writing Center consultation will help me with future writing projects,” more than 92% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (65%) or “Agree” (27%).
- In answer to the statement: “I plan to use the Writing Center again,” more than 93% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (81%) or “Agree” (12%).
- In answer to the statement: “The Writing Center staff were welcoming and helpful,” more than 97% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (80%) or “Agree” (17%).
On Monday morning, at 9 a.m., we will open our doors at the University Writing Center to begin another academic year. When we open those physical doors, we are also opening other kinds of doors. For the students, faculty, and staff who visit the Writing Center we hope to provide the kinds of response and suggestions that will open the doors to realizing the full potential of a piece of writing. For the consultants in the Writing Center we want to open doors to becoming effective teachers of writing. For the University community we hope to open the doors to being a positive focus and force for all the writing, in all its many forms, that takes place on campus.
In the weeks to come you will see more blog posts from other members about the Writing Center staff. People will be writing about their experiences in the Writing Center, but also about their experiences as writers and their thoughts about writing in general. So stop back by and join the conversation about writing and writers.
We’ve had a good year, but I expect to have an even better year to come.