Feasible Futures of Writing Centers
Cassie Book, Associate Director
This week the University Writing Center hosted an exciting event with our regional affiliate of the International Writing Center Association, the Southeastern Writing Center Association (SWCA). The event,“Directors’ Day Out,” is an opportunity for regional Writing Center Professionals to gather and discuss issues across contexts. Each Directors’ Day Out has a unique theme.
The preceding Kentucky Directors’ Day Out happened in October 2014 at Bellarmine University. Through the theme of “Writing Center Assessment,” we focused on ways to demonstrate our institutional audiences the Writing Center’s effectiveness, impact, and value. We talked about measurable goals, data, and timelines, but also how to share our stories. Scott Whiddon and Rhyan Conyers, from the Transylvania University Writing Center and Institutional Research and Effectiveness respectively, shared their experience collaborating.
Building on sharing stories, our 2016 Directors’ Day Out embraced, broadly, creating a culture of writing in our local contexts. Specifically, how can we push forward our writing center values such as interdisciplinary, writerly agency, non-evaluative response, and dialogic learning into our larger institutional structures? Bronwyn Williams presented the “Future Creating Workshop” as a model for constructing “feasible utopias.” The workshop has three parts: 1) Critique and complaining 2) Dreaming of utopias and 3) Realization and feasibility. We first pinpointed both specific problems and underlying issues. Then, we imagined institutional worlds with unlimited time, money, and influence. For instance, we proposed built-in time for writing and professional development each week, a writing center dog, and writing center satellites (“pods”) for each department across the university. Finally, we stepped back to articulate realistic steps toward our utopian visions, which is why we call it a feasible utopia. For example, one center plans to initiate collaboration with the Athletics department, while another will start the social media hashtag #MarkupMondays to share messy rough drafts.
Although creating feasible utopias was our main emphasis for the day, most also relished the opportunity to speak “our language,” i.e. writing center language. We informally shared experiences, networked, and motivated each another. We enjoyed lunch in the new University Writing Center space while chatting with the UofL writing consultants. Though we recognize that not everyone speaks “writing center language,” we’re hopeful that building community among Writing Center Professionals can help us extend our writing center values within each of our own campuses and communities.