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How’s Your Writing Center Doing?

posted: 12.18.14 by Andrea Lunsford

A week or so ago, I  traveled to Miami University in Ohio to meet with the National Advisory Board for the Howe Center for Writing Excellence, a group that includes Kathleen Yancey, Marti Townsend, Chris Anson, and Steve Bernhardt along with Kate Ronald, Director of the Howe Center. I’ve been on this Board since the inception of the Center, so I’m always glad to visit and learn about what this exemplary Center is doing. As always, I came away impressed. Student tutorials have increased exponentially, as have the number of workshops offered for students at all levels. The Center sponsors many events, including a new writing prize for international students (a GREAT idea) and “Takeaway Tuesdays,” the day when students who come in for a consultation get a prize in return. Some of the consultants told me that they had noticed that Tuesday seemed to be their lightest day of the week—so they came up with the idea of small prizes as a way to encourage students to come in more often on Tuesdays. I also spoke with graduate students who help to coordinate the Center and loved hearing the passion in their voices when they talked about the work they were doing. I expect that these graduate students will be conducting some major research in the Center, research that can contribute a great deal to our field.

At my home university, the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking is also booming: more students than ever are using the services of this Center, and bringing in speaking and presenting has been a big success. During finals week, I spent a very profitable three hours in the Center, participating in a Program in Writing and Rhetoric 2 Conference, which brought students together in panels to present their research findings to an audience beyond their classmates. I managed to hear seven presentations, about topics from the relationship between agribusiness and health to “pretotyping,” a technique developed by Alberto Savoia while working at Google and currently being taught in Stanford’s red-hot d.school. (I’d never heard of it but was intrigued enough to do some digging after this presentation.) The student speakers were well prepared and articulate, and they all used slides very effectively. I thought back to the first years we were teaching PWR 2 and focusing on oral and multimedia presentations: these students are performing at a much higher level now—I was wowed!

In spite of this evidence of booming writing centers, I continue to hear about center directors losing their positions and centers even being closed. I can’t think of a worse idea. Especially at a time when students are facing larger and larger classes and higher and higher fees, a college writing center is one of the best things students have going for them. I’d love to hear how your center is doing!

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Writing Center
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