By Brad Hughes
Brad Hughes is the director of the Writing Center and director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is delighted to be starting his 31st year as director of the Writing Center.
Welcome to a new academic year at UW-Madison’s Writing Center! With contributions from my wonderful colleagues, I’d like to celebrate some of our program’s accomplishments during the late spring and the summer of 2014 and share some of our plans for the fall. Throughout the summer, our staff have been busy collaborating and venturing out—as always—to offer instruction across our campus and around the city of Madison and beyond. Here are some highlights. . . .
Writing Fellows Consulting with Visiting Students from Nazarbayev University
During the summer of 2014, 60 undergraduate students from Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan, were in Madison to study at UW-Madison, and our undergraduate Writing Fellows program was a key partner in this summer exchange program. Nazarbayev University (NU) is a new English-language research university, and UW-Madison is one of NU’s seven international partner universities.
During their time in Madison, students from NU enrolled in either a geoscience or a political science course, and writing assignments were a central part of both courses. For two drafts of papers or for presentations, NU students submitted drafts in advance of final deadlines, received detailed written feedback and advice from Writing Fellows, met with Writing Fellows in half-hour conferences to discuss plans for revisions, and submitted final revised papers to their UW-Madison professors for grading. Under the guidance of Writing Fellows assistant director Kim Moreland, the Writing Fellows earned rave reviews from Nazarbayev University students and from the UW-Madison faculty teaching these summer courses.
Preparing Future Faculty Leaders for WAC Programs and Writing Centers
I’ve long argued that writing centers at research universities have an important opportunity and obligation to help graduate students who are interested prepare to lead strong and visionary writing centers and WAC programs in their faculty careers. For decades, our Writing Center has sponsored the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium as one way to invite graduate students to explore writing center research, theory, and leadership.
In addition to the colloquium, every spring semester for the past three years, I have offered a five-part discussion series for doctoral students here at UW-Madison who are interested in preparing for this important kind of leadership work. Over 30 doctoral students have participated in those discussion series. Through readings, writing activities, and discussion among ourselves and with guest speakers from other universities, we explore these kinds of topics—
- theoretical foundations for writing centers and WAC programs
- models, missions, philosophies, and visions for writing center and WAC programs
- different kinds of writing center instruction or programs
- designing tutor education and professional development
- thinking as a director
- collaborative leadership in an academic culture
- creating a learning culture within writing center programs
- mentoring colleagues on a writing center staff
- building and sustaining partnerships across campus and beyond
- funding, budgeting, and fundraising
- national and international trends
- writing center and WAC literature and professional organizations
Writing Across the Curriculum
This summer our Writing Across the Curriculum Program was busy with workshops and consultations and revisions. Some highlights from the WAC summer:
- During the University’s Teaching and Learning Symposium in May, we showcased faculty and staff from French and Italian, Neuroscience, English and Digital Studies, and Political Science, who teach with writing in innovative ways.
- As facilitators for the Teaching Academy’s week-long Summer Institute on teaching at the University’s Arboretum in June, we consulted with faculty members in Nursing, Communication Sciences and Disorders, French and Italian, Philosophy, Human Ecology, Music Education, and we offered several workshops for participants on teaching with writing.
- We offered WAC workshops on designing effective writing assignments and on responding to and evaluating student writing through the University’s Delta Program, a community of graduate students, post-docs, instructional staff, and faculty dedicated to professional development in teaching and learning.
- Over the summer, the WAC program continued to be an active partner in the wonderful campus teaching-and-learning program for new faculty—Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence (MTLE).
- Last week–together with partners from the UW-Madison Libraries and Biocore and with four TA fellows from disciplines across campus–the WAC program designed and led training for 70 graduate TAs from across campus who are teaching their first writing-intensive (Comm-B) course this fall.
- We introduced the WAC Program and the Writing Center during an orientation for all new faculty from across campus.
- Over the summer, we have consulted with faculty and TAs in History, Communication Arts, Geoscience, Law, Counseling Psychology, Mathematics, Business, Sociology, Slavic Languages and Literature, Botany, Journalism and Mass Communication, Zoology, Undergraduate Research Scholars, Plant Pathology, and many more departments.
- And the big WAC event of the summer—we published a new edition of our WAC Sourcebook for Faculty, Instructional Staff, and TAs, edited by WAC Assistant Director Elisabeth Miller. Every year, about 300 copies of this Faculty Sourcebook are distributed to faculty and TAs at various WAC events across our university. Its 300 pages, which are updated with about 20% new material every two years, feature advice for instructors about effective, creative, and innovative ways to incorporate writing assignments into courses, ways that help students learn the subject matter of a course and that help deepen students’ thinking and understanding. The Faculty Sourcebook features a new title—Locally Sourced–to honor the fact that well over 90% of the sample assignments in the sourcebook come from faculty and staff and TAs at UW-Madison. Here’s a sample of what’s new in this year’s edition:
- a beautiful new cover (designed by former WAC Assistant Director Stephanie White) and a new title
- a new section on “Multimodal Writing Assignments and Writing in Online Courses”–including an ARIS assignment, encouraging originality online, advice on guiding written discussions in hybrid and online courses
- a new sample syllabus from a capstone seminar for undergraduate history majors that sequences writing and research assignments across the semester
- a learning contract from a graduate-level social work course and several assignments attached to it: case study, compare/contrast treatment approaches, interview, and service-learning projects
- tips on scaffolding writing assignments from the Biocore undergraduate honors biology program
- an assignment–from an undergraduate international studies course–that requires students to write a letter to the President and Governors of the World Bank about shortcomings in current measures of poverty and advocates for different approaches
- an assignment from an undergraduate physiology course that requires students to work in groups to design and conduct an experiment, to write up that research, to have their ms. reviewed by faculty experts, to revise, and to publish their research in an undergraduate journal published by that course– The Journal of Advanced Student Science
- new materials on supporting oral communication–from tips on building in process, workshopping oral presentations, and giving credit for and grading in-class oral participation
- shared goals for paper writing across undergraduate literature courses in the English Department
- new materials for developing an accessible learning environment to support learners with all kinds of abilities
- new advice about evaluating and grading multilingual writing
- new advice for faculty to look beneath the surface of students’ papers to see more than evidence of laziness on students’ part
In partnership with the Graduate School and the Mellon Foundation, the Writing Center continued offering week-long dissertation camps, two more during the summer of 2014. The camps were led by Nancy Linh Karls, Rebecca Steffy Couch, and Chris Earle from the Writing Center staff. The first of the summer camps met in the Writing Center on the 6th floor of Helen C. White Hall. The second was held in the School of Pharmacy (in Rennebohm Hall) on the west end of campus.
Dissertation campers came from a wide range of departments across campus:
- Political Science
- History of Science
- Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education
- Curriculum and Instruction
- Industrial and Systems Engineering
- Forest and Wildlife Ecology
- Dairy Science
- Art History
- Educational Psychology
- German Linguistics
- Cancer Biology
- Mechanical Engineering
- Counseling Psychology
- Environment and Resources
- Freshwater and Marine Studies
- Life Sciences Communication
- Special Education
- Human Development and Family Studies
- Slavic Languages and Literature
- Political Science
- Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics
- Biomedical Engineering
- Second-Language Acquisition
- Historical Musicology
Here’s a link to a short video from the university’s Graduate School featuring the summer 2014 dissertation camps.
Writing Groups and Screencasts in the Summer Writing Center
Expertly led by summer co-directors Michelle Niemann, Leigh Elion, and Mike Shapiro, the Summer Writing Center was booked nearly solid for most of the 3-week and 8-week sessions, with seniors working on medical school applications, students in summer classes, incoming undergraduates getting a head start on their Wisconsin Experience, and graduate-student dissertators making headway on their projects. Besides one-on-one tutoring during the day, we served students in our College Library satellite location two nights each week, tweeted, ran workshops, and did outreach across campus.
Summer always offers the chance for our Writing Center to experiment with new instructional programs as well. This summer’s creative staff piloted weekly writers’ groups and screencasting feedback on student drafts submitted to us online. Here’s a link to a recent post on our blog about these two very successful summer experiments.
The Writing Center Online
During the summer, Leah Misemer—the outgoing coordinator of our Online Writing Center–made a number of important additions and revisions to our online resources for writers, which are widely used by student-writers across our campus, around the US, and around the world. (In January 2014, for example, our online writing center had 4,633,000 hits from over 411,000 unique visitors–just in that one month.) Among the summer updates that we’d love to have you sample:
- The Writing Fellows website has been completely redesigned, to make it more user friendly and to make program handbooks available for Fellows and for faculty.
- The Writer’s Handbook has a redesigned and more robust Table of Contents to help writers find resources more easily.
- The Writer’s Handbook has new advice and samples for undergraduate students about writing resumes.
- The Writer’s Handbook has newly redesigned advice and new samples for undergraduates writing research posters.
- The Writer’s Handbook section on brainstorming questions for application essays has been redesigned.
- And several sections of the Writer’s Handbook have been redesigned to work effectively when they are viewed on phones and tablets.
Courses with Undergraduate Writing Fellows, Fall 2014
Under the leadership of Emily Hall, Kim Moreland, and Anne Wheeler, Writing Fellows are working with student-writers and with faculty in a great lineup of courses this semester—
|Department and Course||Course Title||Professor|
|Anthropology 120||Landscapes||Sissel Schroeder|
|Astronomy 236||History of Matter in the Universe||Eric Wilcots|
|Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences 171||Global Change||Ankur Desai|
|Classics 554||Classical Backgrounds to English Literature||Patricia Rosenmeyer|
|East Asian Languages and Literature 353||Survey of Japanese Literature||Charo D’Etcheverry|
|East Asian Languages and Literature 373||Chinese Drama||Charo D’Etcheverry|
|Educational Policy Studies 200||Race, Ethnicity, and Inequality in American Education||Linn Posey-Maddox|
|English 169||Introduction to Modern American Literature||Lynn Keller|
|English 173||Politics and Protest Literature||Russ Castronovo|
|English 181||Victorian Natures||Susan Bernstein|
|English 245||The Brontes||Caroline Levine|
|English 455||Melville||Jeffrey Steele|
|French and Italian 211||French Fairy Tales: Folklore to Film||Jennifer Gipson|
|Gender and Women’s Studies 120||Rebellious Women in Latin America||Christina Ewig|
|Geography 538||Humid Tropics||Lisa Naughton|
|Hebrew Studies 356||Roots of Zionism: Literature, Culture, and Ethics||Rachel Brenner|
|Jewish Studies 233||Politics of History (Holocaust)||Simone Schweber|
|Library and Information Studies 301||Internet and Society||Rebekah Willett|
|Literature in Translation 226||Introduction to Luso-Afro-Brazilian Literature||Ellen Sapega|
|Religious Studies 200||Religion in Sickness and Health||Corrie Norman|
|Political Science 425||Citizenship, Democracy, and Difference||Katherine Cramer|
|Political Science 519||African American Political Theory||Keisha Lindsay|
|Psychology 411||Fundamentals of Clinical Psychology||Rhonda Reinholtz|
|Scandinavian Literature in Translation 235||The World of Sagas||Scott Mellor|
|Theatre and Drama 415||Introduction to Contemporary Feminist Theatre and Criticism||Michael Peterson|
Madison Writing Assistance
The Madison Writing Assistance Program, our community literacy program led by Nancy Linh Karls and Elisabeth Miller, offers writing assistance to community members at several branches of the Madison Public Library and at job centers in the city.
Some fabulous news from the MWA Program:
- This summer’s 8-week session included 6 shifts at 6 different sites across the city of Madison (Central Library, Goodman Library, Meadowood Neighborhood Center, Pinney Library, Hawthorne Library, and Lakeview Library).
- For this coming year, MWA received $45,840 in grant funding (Altrusa International, Anonymous Fund, Evujue Foundation, and the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment)!
- Nancy and Elisabeth are very pleased to say that their proposal for employment writing workshops over the next 2 years across 6 libraries and community centers was selected for a Baldwin grant from UW-Madison. That grant will provide $29,000 over two years for new MWA instruction. The MWA proposal was one of only 8 funded out of 116 total applications from across the university!
- In collaboration with leadership with the Madison Public Libraries, MWA will deepen staff training, refine our mission, and create new programming over the course of the coming year.
- In fall 2014, MWA will offer writing assistance at five sites around the city: Goodman Library, Meadowood Neighborhood Center, Pinney Library, Hawthorne Library, and Lakeview Library.
- MWA is developing several short-term (approx. 3-week) writing workshops at libraries across Madison.
Our New Writing Center Commons
Finally, our big summer remodeling project in the Writing Center is nearly finished. What was the computer classroom in the Writing Center has been transformed into an exciting new multi-purpose learning space within the Writing Center, called “The Writing Center Commons.” Under construction all summer, this new space will debut later this week, thanks to generous funding from an Instructional Lab Modernization grant from the College of Letters and Science and the University.
More about that beautiful, exciting new space in a future post on this blog. For now, here are some photos of the early phases of construction during May and June 2014.
Thanks very much for reading this post. We hope you’ll add a comment if you have any questions or comments about our center and its programs. And we’d love to hear what’s new or planned for your writing center!
Featured photo credit: “Memorial Union Terrace Chair in Summer,” by Jeff Miller, University Communications, UW-Madison.