The undergraduate Writing Fellows and the staff of the Writing Center came together last Friday to build community and share scholarship at our annual Joint Staff Meeting. The meeting was conference-style, featuring panels of Writing Fellows’ original research on various topics related to tutoring and teaching writing. It was an inspiring experience, and renewed our (already strong) love for our writing community that has been cultivated around these programs and sustained by our shared passion for writing and tutoring.
The particular dynamic of this meeting reminded us, yet again, how unique and – okay, we’ll say it – awesome the Writing Fellows program is. Here were undergraduate students, usually considered the lowest rung on the academic ladder, presenting advanced and relevant research to graduate students, academic faculty, the works! The Fellows program offers a challenge to the normative academic hierarchy, and it’s refreshing to find those spaces on campus that are open to engaging with undergraduates on an intellectual level. We felt that the Fellows presenting rose admirably to that opportunity; we were so impressed with their poise and professionalism!
The meeting was divided into six panels, with the opportunity for each participant to attend three. Each panel featured a Writing Fellow presenting their research, and a Writing Center staff respondent. The panels included:
Molly Rentscher – “LGBTQ Safe Space: Writing Fellows and Their Tutoring Environments,” with respondent Dave Stock
Jenna Mertz – “Walking the Line: Navigating Student ‘Voice’ in the World of Undergraduate Peer Tutoring,” with respondent Kate Fedewa
Hueylie Lin – “Non-Native English Speakers in the Writing Tutorial,” with respondent Doyin Ogunfeyimi
Lizzy Mathie – “Commenting on Advanced Student Papers: Engaging Students with Their Texts,” with respondent Michelle Niemann
Emily Kohlhase – “Thirty Years Later: Exploring the Effects of Nancy Sommers’ ‘Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers’,” with respondent Kim Moreland
The presentations were selected for their quality and their shared relevance to both Writing Fellow and Writing Center staff. More than that, however, these pieces were connected by a common focus on student writing. In their own way, each Fellow addressed the question of how we – as writing instructors, tutors, peers, or just general members of the academic institution – can acknowledge and affirm the individual identity and particular talents of the students with whom we work, and how can we actively tune our feedback to empower them. The presentations engendered some great discussions – not just responses to the research itself, but also productive conversations that involved brainstorming how to change specific practices to create a more welcoming environment and, ultimately, to maximize our impact on students’ writing abilities and confidence.
Thanks to everyone who planned and participated in this amazing event!
–Writing Fellow UADs Kelly Kopish and Rachael McCormick