Looking Forward – and a Last Look Back – As We Get Ready For a New Year in the Writing Center
Bronwyn T. Williams, Director, University Writing Center
When I talk about working in the Writing Center to new consultants at our orientation, I make the point that the work we do has to be grounded in an ethic of care, an ethic of service, and respect for students. I never feel like this is a hard sell – people who didn’t already feel this way don’t usually apply to work in a Writing Center – and this year was no exception. After a day of conversation with the new group of consultants, I realized that they were all deeply committed to these ideas when they walked through the door.
Working in a Writing Center is always a matter of striking balances. You need to listen to students and ask questions that help them discover for themselves how best to improve their writing, while not withholding expertise and advice that will give them insights on how to revise their work. You need to be patient and not rush writers in a session, but you also can’t waste time and not get anything accomplished. You need to attend to the concerns writers identify during a session, but also bring up other issues you see in their work. You need to be friendly and reassuring, but also professional and honest. What struck me about the new group of consultants at our orientation was how quickly they identified these issues of balance on their own, and the productive conversation we began about how best to draw on these various qualities when working with students.
A number of our new consultants come to us already having worked in other writing centers or as teachers, and all of them have the talent and enthusiasm necessary to be effective writing teachers. They bring a diverse set of interests and backgrounds to their work. Yet all of the new consultants understand, from the beginning, that our goal in the Writing Center is to not only help students with their immediate writing projects, but also help them develop skills and strategies writers that will benefit them throughout their university lives and beyond. Some of the new consultants are native Louisvillians, while others come from places including California to Virginia to Georgia. We talked at orientation about the ways that the Writing Center works with all writers in the UofL community – students, faculty, and staff – on any writing project, at any point in the writing process. I left orientation excited about the year ahead and confident that UofL writers will gain a great deal from visiting the Writing Center this year.
A Last Look Back
While late August is always a time of excitement as the new academic year begins, it also is a moment when we can take a last look back at the year we just completed. We had an exceptional year at the Writing Center, thanks to a great group of consultants and assistant directors and especially thanks to the work of Associate Director Adam Robinson.
A few of the highlights of the 2012-13 academic year were:
Writing Center Consultations: The Writing Center had a successful year of more than 5,400 consultations on the Belknap and Health Science Campuses and through our Virtual Writing Center. This was a 10 percent increase in visits over the previous academic year.
Exit Survey Results: Our exit survey indicated a high level of satisfaction with the Writing Center, by both quantitative and qualitative measures. Highlights of the survey are:
- In answer to the statement: “My Writing Center consultation addressed my concerns about my writing project,” more than 96% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (70%) or “Agree” (26%).
- 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” (64%) or “Agree” (28%).
- In answer to the statement: “I plan to use the Writing Center again,” more than 96% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (78%) or “Agree” (18%).
- In answer to the statement: “The Writing Center staff were welcoming and helpful,” more than 97% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (78%) or “Agree” (19%).
Presentations and Workshops: During the academic year, Writing Center staff conducted 75 in-class workshops on writing issues (and increase of 51 over 2011-12) and 76 presentations about our services (an increase of 15 over 2011-12).
Dissertation Writing Retreats: The Writing Center held two Dissertation Writing Retreats during the spring and summer of 2013. In the May retreat, funded by SIGS, 14 Ph.D. students representing four different colleges and nine different disciplines spent a week in the Writing Center working on their dissertations. In July the Writing Center collaborated with College of Education to hold a retreat on three consecutive Saturdays, in order to provide opportunities to graduate students from that college who work full-time jobs. Nine students took part in this retreat.
Assistant Director for Graduate Student Writing/Health Sciences Campus: In Fall 2012, the Assistant Director for Graduate Student Writing was established. This full-time GTA position (20 hours/week) is dedicated to the support of graduate students, paying particular attention to the needs of international graduate students on both the Health Sciences and Belknap Campuses.
Writing Center Blog and Social Media: The Writing Center Blog, to which all members of the staff contribute posts during the year, was viewed more than 5,000 times in 2012-13. In addition, the number of visits to our Facebook page and our Twitter account have both grown substantially during the past year.
Campus Outreach: Writing Center staff worked with a number of University programs, giving presentations and conducting workshops. These programs included the Porter Scholars, A&S Advising, UofL Athletics, the Career Center, the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program, Family Scholar House, the Delphi Center, E.S.S.E.N.C.E, Housing and Residence Life, First Year Initiatives, the Dental School, Student Affairs, Information Technology,TRIO, Ekstrom Library, and the International Center.
Now, to Look Forward
The accomplishments of the past year are things that we’re eager to repeat – and build on – in the year to come. We’re all eager for the year to get started and to work with all writers in the UofL community.