The Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium

Big 10 Writing Centers, Community Writing Assistance, Disability and Writing Centers, Events, From the Director, Graduate Students, International Writing Centers, IWCA, Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium, Midwest Writing Centers Association, Student Voices, The Online Writing Center, UW-Madison Writing Center Alumni Voices, Writing Across the Curriculum, Writing Center Research, Writing Center Workshops, Writing Centers, Writing Fellows / Monday, February 20th, 2012

madison_wc_colloquium_photos_smaller1I’ve long argued that writing centers at research universities should prepare interested doctoral students to lead strong, innovative writing centers and WAC programs when they move into their faculty careers.  And that we should do this in systematic and sustained ways.  Being a dedicated, successful, experienced writing tutor is of course a necessary part of that preparation, but that alone is not sufficient.  Professional development for future writing center directors is something our Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison takes seriously—my colleagues and I are proud that this past year, in 2011 alone, seven more of our PhD alums, at various stages of their careers, were offered positions as writing center directors or assistant directors around the country, joining many other distinguished UW-Madison alums who direct writing centers.

This question—of how research universities can prepare graduate students to become writing center directors as part of their faculty careers—has been an important topic of discussion when the writing center directors from the universities in the Big 10 conference meet once a year (I’m always hoping that some athletic competition will break out during meetings of Big 10 writing center directors, but, alas, none yet).  We’ve talked several times about what we can do—intentionally and systematically–to prepare our grad students to lead strong writing center and WAC programs.  As an outgrowth of these discussions, at the 2010 IWCA conference in Baltimore, several members of the Big 10 group spoke about the opportunities we have and the challenges we face as we prepare graduate students to be future writing center directors.

Writing Center Leadership in and Beyond the Curriculum
There are, of course, many ways to prepare graduate students to direct writing centers and WAC programs.  The first and most important, of course, is to offer an excellent PhD program in composition and rhetoric, to give doctoral students deep knowledge of theory and research and first-hand experience designing and conducting original research in composition and rhetoric.  At the same time, during their years in graduate school, doctoral students need to gain deep experience working in cross-curricular writing centers.  In addition to experience within a writing center, numerous PhD programs now offer graduate WPA seminars specifically on writing center and WAC studies and leadership.  Among the many: Linda Bergmann’s at Purdue, Ben Rafoth’s at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Frankie Condon’s at the University of Nebraska.  These graduate courses give future directors a strong grounding in the literature of the field, as well as critical perspectives on writing center theory and practice.  And, crucially, they help doctoral students move from thinking like a tutor to thinking strategically as a director needs to do.  (For more information about graduate courses on writing center leadership, see Rebecca Jackson, Carrie Leverenz, and Joe Law, “(RE)shaping the Profession: Graduate Courses in Writing Center Theory, Practice, and Administration,” in The Center Will Hold, ed. Michael Pemberton and Joyce Kinkead; and for important perspectives on graduate-student leadership in writing centers, see (E)Merging Identities: Graduate Students in the Writing Center, ed. Melissa Nicholas.)  At our Writing Center, this semester 15 doctoral students have chosen to participate in a new four-part series about writing center and WAC leadership—a reading and discussion group for graduate students interested in preparing to make writing center and WAC work part of their faculty careers.

Stephanie Kerschbaum, former grad student at UW-Madison, now on the faculty at the University of Delaware
Stephanie Kerschbaum, former grad student at UW-Madison, now on the faculty at the University of Delaware
Rasha Diab, former grad student at UW-Madison, now on the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin
Rasha Diab, former grad student at UW-Madison, now on the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin
Kyle Oliver, former undergraduate writing fellow at UW-Madison
Kyle Oliver, former undergraduate writing fellow at UW-Madison
Rachel Azima, former grad student at UW-Madison, now on the faculty at Lawrence Tech
Rachel Azima, former grad student at UW-Madison, former director of the Writing and Media Center at Iowa State University, and now director of the Writing Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Katie Lynch, former grad student at UW-Madison, now on the faculty and director of the writing center at SUNY-Rockland
Katie Lynch, former grad student at UW-Madison, now on the faculty and director of the writing center at SUNY-Rockland

The week-long IWCA Summer Institute has, since its inception here at UW-Madison in 2003, always welcomed graduate-student participants who are interested in writing center careers, and when we’ve hosted the institute here, we’ve created numerous opportunities for UW-Madison doctoral students to lead and participate in sessions.  For a description of the Institute, see this article in the IWCA Newsletter.  The 2012 IWCA Summer Institute will be held near Pittsburgh, from July 29-August 3.

Many writing centers also give undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to engage in writing center and WAC research and cross-campus collaborations, research that is important preparation to lead writing center programs.  If you’re interested in examples of these research projects, I’d recommend two of my favorites: Jon Olson, Dawn Moyer, and Adelia Falda, “Student-Centered Assessment Research in the Writing Center,” in Writing Center Research: Extending the Discussion; and Carol Haviland, Sherry Green, Barbara Kime Shields, and M. Todd Harper, “Neither Missionaries Nor Colonists Nor Handmaidens: What Writing Tutors Can Teach Faculty about Inquiry,” in Writing Centers and Writing Across the Curriculum Programs.  As centers host regional and international conferences and IWCA summer institutes, graduate students often play important roles in planning and presenting, as we did here at Madison when we partnered with Edgewood College and Madison College to host the October 2011 Midwest Writing Centers Association Conference.

Leadership Positions for Graduate Students
Many writing centers have substantial leadership positions for graduate students.  Our Center, for example, gives doctoral students the chance to work in these one- or two-year leadership positions, all of which involve extensive mentoring:

  • TA assistant director of the Writing Center
  • TA Assistant Director of our Undergraduate Writing Fellows Program
  • TA Coordinator of our Online Writing Center
  • TA Coordinator of our Writing Center’s Multicultural Initiatives
  • TA Assistant Director of Writing Across the Curriculum
  • TA Coordinator of our Writing Center’s Outreach Program Across Campus
  • Graduate Coordinators of Madison Writing Assistance (a community writing center program)

As many centers do, we also give grad students on our staff the chance to design and teach in our extensive writing center workshop program and work and teach collaboratively with faculty and staff in many departments through our campus outreach program.  The process of applying and interviewing for these leadership positions, the year or two of work in these roles, and the extensive mentoring that occurs between the Writing Center’s career staff and the TAs in these leadership positions–all of these are, we hope, valuable preparation for leading a writing center or WAC program in the future.  For more about mentoring graduate students in leadership positions within writing centers, see Leigh Ryan and Lisa Zimmerelli, “Mentoring Graduate Students as Assistant Directors: Complementary Journeys,” in (E)Merging Identities: Graduate Students in the Writing Center, ed. Melissa Nicholas.

The Idea of the Colloquium

Emily Hall, UW-Madison
Emily Hall, UW-Madison

In addition to these important opportunities, for close to 20 years our Writing Center has sponsored what we call the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium.  It’s an informal gathering,  held once a month during the academic year, in the evening from 5:30 to 7:00.  The colloquium, which usually draws 15-20 people each time, is open to anyone in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois interested in discussing writing center theory, research, and practice.

Nancy Linh Karls, UW-Madison
Nancy Linh Karls, UW-Madison

This mix of current graduate students from the University with tutors and professionals and faculty from other schools in the region is deliberate and powerful.  Participating in these cross-institutional conversations gives our graduate students who are interested in writing center work as part of their careers a chance to broaden their knowledge of other writing centers, specifically the ways that missions, models, programs, staff, and cultures can vary across centers.  The contacts developed in the colloquium also help graduate students make connections for future research with and jobs at other centers.

Melissa Tedrowe, UW-Madison
Melissa Tedrowe, UW-Madison 


The colloquium also simultaneously serves as a mini-regional group, bringing together and building community among directors and student tutors from writing centers throughout this part of the upper midwest.  Participants come from from a wonderful mix of two-year colleges, high schools, comprehensive universities, research universities, public and private.  And undergraduate writing fellows from our staff at UW-Madison and undergraduate tutors from other colleges and universities participate because of their interest in a particular colloquium topic or their desire to explore graduate study in composition and rhetoric.

Colloquium Topics and Speakers
Here’s a sample of the colloquia from the past two years:

  • Research on tutor learning and tutor alumni, with Harvey Kail, University of Maine; Paula Gillespie, Florida International University; Margaret Mika, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Brad Hughes, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Writing Center Assessment, a discussion of Dara Rossman Regaignon and Pamela Bromley, “What Difference Do Writing Fellows Programs Make?” (The WAC Journal)
  • “How Contexts Shape Writing Center Work: Insights into Writing Instruction and a Writing Center in Germany,” with Katrin Girgensohn, European University Viadrina and Visiting Scholar (2011-12) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writing Center
  • Writing Center Collaborations with Faculty Across the Disciplines: A Discussion of Jeff Jablonski’s Academic Writing Consulting and WAC
  • “Paths to a New Writing Center: Proposing, Politicking, Planning and Persevering,” with Margaret Mika, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • “Shifting the Boundaries: Importing and Exporting Writing Center Practices Between the University and the Community,” with Annie Massa-MacLeod, David Hudson, Elisabeth Miller, Anne Wheeler, Rachel Carrales, and Melissa Tedrowe, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • A Videoconference Conversation about The Idea of a Writing Laboratory, with Neal Lerner from MIT
  • A Discussion of Karen Rowan’s “All the Best Intentions: Graduate Student Administrative Professional  Development in Practice” (The Writing Center Journal)
  • Facing the Author: A Videoconference with Harry Denny about Facing the Center, St. John’s University
  • “Writing Assessment Through Film: An Experiment in Collegiality,” with Angela Woodward, Jed Hopkins, and Emily Keown, Edgewood College
  • “Growing Pains: More Students, More Tutors, More Space, Same Budget,” with Sarah Johnson, Madison College
  • “Cultivating Potentials for Social Change,” with Beth Godbee, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • “‘How to Be a Writing Center Director’ and Other Lessons I Learned Five Minutes after Graduate School,”  a videoconference with Mary Lou Odom, Kennesaw State University
  • “(Some of) What a Writing Center Director Needs to Know,” with Angela Woodward, Edgewood College; Melissa Tedrowe, Nancy Linh Karls, Brad Hughes, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In the past, the colloquium has featured numerous distinguished guests who’ve joined us in person or by videoconference:

    • Christine Cozzens, Agnes Scott College
    • Michele Eodice, University of Oklahoma
    • Nancy Grimm, Michigan Tech University
    • Harvey Kail, University of Maine
    • Lisa Ede, Oregon State University
    • Christina Murphy, Marshall University
    • John Duffy, University of Notre Dame
    • Paula Gillespie, Florida International University
Lisa Ede, Oregon State University
Lisa Ede, Oregon State University
Nancy Grimm, Michigan Tech University
Nancy Grimm, Michigan Tech University
Michele Eodice, University of Oklahoma
Michele Eodice, University of Oklahoma
Harry Denny, St. John's University
Harry Denny, St. John’s University, New York
John Duffy, University of Notre Dame
John Duffy, University of Notre Dame

For more information about the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium, here’s a link to its webpage.  And here’s a link to a poster about the colloquium, a poster designed by our Writing Center’s administrator, Terry Maggio.


Some Reflections on the Colloquium from Participants

From Angela Woodward, Director of the Writing Center at Edgewood College, Madison, WI:
“I think I’ve been coming pretty regularly since 2005. For me, it’s been revitalizing, a once a month boost, to get to think about broader writing center issues, when much of my day-to-day occupation is keeping up with the next thing in front of me. So the colloquium has been an ever-resurfacing reminder that there are bigger issues than today’s absent tutor. And we’ve had some wonderful topics. I remember the time we looked at gaming and tutor training simulation a few years ago, and last year’s colloquium with Beth Godbee, when she showed her film and discussed conversation analysis. We’ve had video conferences with Nancy Grimm and Michele Eodice, and we had Christine Cozzens, from Agnes Scott College, while she was visiting Madison. Even though I’m at a tiny college where I’m the only writing center person on staff, the colloquium has kept me connected to the field.”

From Beth Godbee, Assistant Professor of English, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI:

Beth Godbee, Marquette University
Beth Godbee, Marquette University

“The Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium has been, in many ways, an intellectual home for me since moving to Wisconsin in 2005. Presentations and discussions vary from session to session, but always inspire further questions and inquiry into what we do everyday in writing centers (in our work with writers, tutors, faculty, community partners, and others involved in writing and the teaching of writing). I love connecting with colleagues from Southern Wisconsin and even Northern Illinois, and this vibrant mini-regional has inspired those of us in Milwaukee to hold our first “Milwaukee Area” meeting later this spring.

“As a presenter, I’ve appreciated the thoughtful questions and feedback that have pushed my research further, and as a group/audience member, I’ve appreciated the opportunity learn about colleagues’ research in campus and community writing centers.”

From Margie Mika, Director of the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee:

Margie Mika, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Margie Mika, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

“The Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium is a professional and collegial lifeline. Participating allows me stay connected to valued colleagues and to join lively conversations about always relevant issues.  I learn from–and with–some of the absolute best in our field.  Brad Hughes, Nancy Karls, the UW-Madison students and all the other participants never fail to make the short drive to Madison entirely worthwhile.”

From Dave Stock, a Ph.D. Student in Composition and Rhetoric and the TA Assistant Director of the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Dave Stock, former graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and now assistant professor of English and director of the writing center at Brigham Young University

“Shortly after I moved to Madison and started the PhD program in Comp/Rhet at UW-Madison, I began attending the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium. These colloquia were my first entry point into the writing center community in the Madison area, and they have become an important way for me to feel connected with people at UW-Madison and abroad who are interested in and engaged in some kind of writing center work. I really enjoy being with others who share an interest in writing center work, and I really appreciate having this space to talk about research, reflect on experiences, ask questions, and lend support to others. The greatest thing about these colloquia is being able to build connections and friendships with scholars, teachers, and administrators who value and engage in writing center work.”

From Sarah Johnson, Director of the Writing Center at Madison Area Technical College:

Sarah Johnson, Madison Area Technical College
Sarah Johnson, Madison Area Technical College

“As Director of the Madison Area Technical College Writing Center, I’ve enjoyed immensely the contact and collegiality of the Colloquium over the years. Our discussions range from the deeply theoretical to the grittily practical.   And because the group comprises directors and tutors from all sorts of institutions, from small private colleges to research universities to two-year transfer schools, we’re able to tackle a wide range of issues facing modern writing centers.  Yet more importantly, we also discover how our work intersects, how what we do is essentially similar. We all want writers to look at their words on the page and say, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what I wanted to say.’”

As I’m sure you can tell, my colleagues and I hope that the colloquium is one modest way to help prepare future faculty directors for writing centers.  We also hope that, in some small ways, the colloquium helps strengthen the community of writing center tutors and leaders and scholars in our part of the upper Midwest, and hope that it strengthens the centers we all work in.

Thanks so much for reading!  Do you have reactions to or questions about the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium?  How does your center or how did your graduate program prepare graduate students to be great writing center directors in their faculty careers?  Thoughts about additional ways that universities and our professional associations can contribute to this effort?  Please add a comment!  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

more later,
brad hughes
director, writing center
director, writing across the curriculum

46 Replies to “The Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium”

  1. The Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium has been a crucial support for me as I’ve developed the Writing Center here at Carroll University. Not unlike other Writing Center directors, I was handed the job of developing our Writing Center as part of my faculty responsibilities. Brad, Emily, Melissa and Nancy, all of whom I met through the Colloquium, have provided guidance and support through the process of establishing our center. They’ve had great ideas about how to adapt big-univeristy kinds of initiatives to our small-university center. I have sent students to the Colloguium and brought colleagues as well. It’s a really valuable way to connect with other colleauges in the area, and a great way to connect to the larger field of writing center work.

    Susan Nusser
    Assistant Professor of English
    Director, Writing Center
    Carroll University
    Waukesha, WI

  2. Having had the chance to participate in the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium last year, I feel very lucky to have, at least for a short while, experienced the camaraderie, intellectual stimulation, and fellowship that the Colloquium offers. At Northeastern, the writing center I direct is staffed largely by graduate students in the English Department, and the two required undergraduate writing courses–first-year writing and advanced writing in the disciplines–have a very large contingent of grad student instructors. Indeed, for the first time in my professional career, I am working with (and am literally across the hall from) PhD students in a very intense way, reminding me again and again the need for activities and opportunities such as that afforded in Madison. We’re making small steps here in the Boston area, and we continue to be inspired by the work you folks do. Thanks much!

    Neal Lerner
    Associate Professor of English
    Director, Writing Center
    Northeastern University

  3. The Madison WC Colloquium provided me genuine, real, actual human engagement during the prelims and dissertation phase of grad school, which was often wildly isolating. It paired well with the other opportunities that came from the UW writing center, all of which added to what I consider to be one of the most important dimensions of my PhD training.

    Tim Laquintano
    Assistant Professor of English
    Lafayette College

  4. I’ve had the good fortune of participating in the Madison WC Colloquium as a grad student and, after I became a writing center director, as a presenter. In both cases, I benefited from the intelligence, collegiality, and practical wisdom of the participants. The colloquium helped me understand theory and practice in writing center work, as well as the myriad ways that a Writing Center might connect with the larger university. Most of all, the colloquium offered a community of like-minded people who understood and shared the passions that seem to unite all who devote themselves to the work of a writing center.

    John Duffy
    Director of the University Writing Program
    Associate Professor of English
    University of Notre Dame

  5. Even though I am now too far away to attend the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium, I was lucky enough to be a presenter via video-conference (a learning experience in and of itself!) not too long ago. It was wonderful to be able to participate in that community again, and it made me realize — now that I direct a writing center myself — just how much I draw on my education and experience gained in the UW-Madison Writing Center every day. And Brad, if ever an athletic contest does break out during a Big 10 Writing Center meeting, my money is on you and Bucky!

    Mary Lou Odom
    Associate Professor of English
    Director, Writing Center
    Kennesaw State University

  6. I’ve found the colloquium to be a fantastic source for both professional development and collegiality. Besides practical advice on assessment or tutor training, sessions like Mr. Lerner’s video conference on the history of writing centers offered fascinating insight into how this thing we do came to be. Through conversations at the colloquium, I was introduced to the IWCA (the International Writing Center Association… not the International Window Cleaning Association or the Irish Wolfhound Club of America!) and the Summer Institute. Thanks for inviting the UW-Colleges to the party.

    Michael Wirkus
    UW-Rock County
    TRIO Writing specialist/LSC Tutor/English Instructor

  7. I believe I may hold the distinction of the only colloquium participant to have attended with a parent (true Brad?). After reflecting on what would have possessed me to do such thing, I realized that the WC colloquium was already a home of sorts and thus was a natural place for my dad to sit, listen, and smile. Grad students need these intellectual homes, where they can engage with readings and well-known researchers and practitioners in a pressure-less, collegial, and brownie-fueled setting. This kind of interaction helps grad students imagine different professional futures and open up the idea of what it means to teach and research writing.

  8. I think the central message of this post–that our professional growth is grounded in the existence of a strong and welcoming intellectual community–is spot on. That’s just as true for me now (in my role as an associate professor who’s recently begun directing a center) as it was years ago when I was a graduate student participating in the Madison Area WC Colloquium. In addition to all the very specific, very helpful things I’ve learned (most recently last month during the discussion of assessment), I so value the opportunity to connect with other folks doing the same work across town and across the state. As Margie says: the colloquium can be a lifeline. And in our case here at Marquette, it’s also an inspiration to build more opportunities for connection here in Milwaukee as well. Many many thanks to the folks like Brad and Nancy and Melissa who bring such energy (not to mention tasty brownies) to this community!

    Rebecca Nowacek
    Associate Professor of English
    Director, Ott Memorial Writing Center
    Marquette University

  9. As a graduate student in literary studies, participating in the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium taught me a great deal about the theoretical and practical issues that drive writing center studies and writing center work. The colloquium also showed me that writing center studies was a potential disciplinary home where I could pursue the research questions and philosophical problems I found most urgent and important. As I began to consider the possibility of doing writing center work as an administrator, the colloquium demonstrated in eminently dynamic ways the pedagogical and infrastructural intricacies of our profession and the necessary strategies to make things work. In short, I knew what I was getting myself into and how to dig myself out thanks in part to the many committed and rigorous people that make up this collective.

    Mitch Nakaue
    Assistant Director of the Writing Center
    The University of Iowa

  10. I really appreciated reading about the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium. It sounds like good interactions take place there on a regular basis–always a good idea. Writing Center work is such a mixed bag of theory, practice, and knowledge; it’s important to exchange information and trade ideas as much as possible. Graduate seminars and regular staff meetings are a start, but really not sufficient.

    I’m so impressed that you have been meeting so regularly, and for so long. Thank you, Brad, for sending this along and asking me to respond. (My internal response is guilt–why doesn’t Purdue start up something like this?)

    I’ll visit the blog again, if I may.

    Linda Bergmann
    Professor of English
    Director, Purdue Writing Lab

  11. The Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium has been for many years a very enjoyable and supportive way for me to keep abreast of writing center concerns, even when I haven’t been involved in writing centers on a day-to-day basis, and even when I haven’t been able to attend the meetings in Madison. As a graduate student teaching in the Center, the colloquium gave me the opportunity to take a step back from my various writing center conferences and think about the big picture–and to envision myself as someone who might oneday be a director. As a new professor far from Madison, with no formal connection to a writing center, getting monthly e-mail announcements from Brad has been a way to keep up with new ideas and to stay connected–and even to meet people like Katrin Girgensohn, who are doing writing center work in other countries. And now, as a new writing center director, I find myself returning to models of peer writing advisor mentoring that I first encountered in the Colloquium and as Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program in Madison. I love that the Colloquium is a big tent; it’s capacious and warm enough to be just the right space for lots of writing center folks at different points in their careers and at different places in the country and even the world.

    Julie Christoph
    Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching
    University of Puget Sound

  12. I really enjoyed my visit to the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium a few years ago. First of all, it was exciting to see an Agnes Scott graduate—Beth Godbee—who had worked in our center (and been the coordinator for a year) in her natural habitat as a graduate student, studying and working in the UW center. And I loved talking about my work and our Center for Writing and Speaking to a group of engaged participants who “got it.” Their questions gave me a lot to think about and to take back to Atlanta. The colloquium community meeting together over time must foster great depth of thinking and camaraderie—that was certainly the atmosphere I found. I am hoping to start something similar here in Atlanta—I hope Brad and others don’t mind if I steal the name (substituting Atlanta for Madison of course!) and general idea!

    Christine Cozzens
    Director, Center for Writing and Speaking
    Agnes Scott College

  13. I feel fortunate to be part of so vibrant a writing center community in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, fostered by the Madison Writing Centers Colloquium. I hear others at conferences bemoan how isolated writing center folks can feel on our campuses, like lone soldiers. I haven’t felt that way since I began making the trip from UW Oshkosh once a month or so. I enjoy participating in meaningful conversations with others who value the things I do. I appreciate the cross-institutional perspectives and opportunities for further discussions and research opened through these dialogues. The Colloquium never disappoints: I leave feeling like my batteries have been recharged, even on days that start with an 8:00 a.m. class. I am reminded how grateful I feel to be doing work that I love. 

    Crystal Mueller
    Director, Writing Center
    University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

  14. I like to know what our up and coming professionals are doing to develop and prepare, and the Colloquium is a place where emerging professionals are finding a place to learn and grow. I can see from posts above that the experience is valuable…Although I did attend online in the past, I wish I could attend regularly and steal some of that energy and listen in on some of those productive conversations. The work we do in writing centers requires a focus on continuing education and it is clear the Madison Writing Centers Colloquium makes that possible for so many. Thanks for sharing your experiences here…the colloquium is a great example!

    Michele Eodice
    Associate Provost for Engagement
    Executive Director of Learning, Teaching, and Writing
    University of Oklahoma

  15. For me, the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium offered wonderful opportunities to think about the bigger picture of writing center work. Our conversations helped me get a better understanding of how writing centers function in different institutional contexts, for instance. This has been indispensable as I have continue to seek out ways to keep writing center work a crucial part of my professional life. I can’t do without it!

    Rachel Azima
    Assistant Professor of English
    Lawrence Technological University

  16. Brad has done such a fantastic job of creating a vibrant intellectual community with the Madison Area Colloquium, and his work exemplifies the University of Wisconsin’s commitment to making knowledge available and useful to the region’s constituents.

    It was magic to enter an almost-empty classroom building here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on a dark winter evening to descend to the video conference room in the basement; then suddenly be connected with a lively group of people eager to talk about all the social issues we encounter in writing center work. Thanks, Brad, and thanks as well to all the great people at Madison, and to all the participants for the opportunity to be part of that!

    Your dedication creates a lifeline for so many……

    Nancy Grimm
    Professor of Humanities
    Director of the Multiliteracies Center
    Michigan Tech University

  17. I’m so pleased to see the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium as the subject of this post! For me, it has been a treasured opportunity to learn, reflect, and grow in this profession, and it has likewise been an important point of continuity for me as I have repeatedly changed my role in the Writing Center–from my early days as a new tutor, to my later leadership positions, to my current work as a professional tutor at Madison College. In Colloquium meetings, I have experienced a combination of collegiality and rigor that drew me, originally a devotee to literary studies, to the Writing Center profession.

    One of the most important functions the Colloquium has served for me has been to expose me to the vastly different look that Writing Center work takes on in any given center. It’s one thing to “grow up” in the UW-Madison Writing Center. But it’s another thing to go out and try to do this work somewhere else. The wonderful Writing Center I work in now is thoroughly different from the UW-Madison Writing Center in structure, in staffing, and in student demographics (to name but a few). Thanks to the presentations, readings, and discussions I had experienced as part of the Colloquium, however, I had great ideas about which questions I needed to ask and what work I needed to undertake to get my Centers up and running in an otherwise very unfamiliar environment. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to have the Colloquium visit one of my own locations, which resulted in even more great reflection on my work and amazing suggestions from the collective Colloquium knowledge-hoard about what to do next. I look forward to more of this giving and receiving in the years to come!

    Andrea Benton
    Madison College

  18. From the warm greeting upon arrival to the relaxed yet thoughtful discussion that takes place along the way, my experiences at the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium have been wonderful. I’ve found that the idea sharing lingers on long after these gatherings wrap up and everyone heads back to their respective homes. What a pleasure to have the chance to meet and interact with other writing center folks in such a friendly environment!

    Paul Nicolaus
    Director, Writing Center
    University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley

  19. Thanks for posting this, Brad! It’s wonderful to read all about the fabulous training that the UW has done and continues to do. I confess it makes me nostalgic! The WC Colloquia were an important part of my own graduate training. They added much to the thoroughly engaging inquiries about writing pedagogy that were *always* going on at the Writing Center: the Ongoing Education (OGE) sessions that Christopher recently posted on; the one on one mentorship from Brad, Melissa, and Nancy; the observations; the Writing Center and WAC Handbooks; as well as the excellent graduate seminar I took with David Fleming (aided by Brad Hughes) in 2005. Writing is clearly central to the work at the UW, and the Writing Center is in the center of that work!

    The Colloquia helped me think critically about how writing center pedagogy and administration could vary across institutions, but still have the core interests of students at heart. I loved learning from Sarah Johnson, Margie Mika, Nancy Grimm, Neal Lerner and others. Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful resource!

    Annette Vee
    Assistant Professor of English
    University of Pittsburgh

  20. I’m so grateful for this post! At Notre Dame, we’re just about to launch an area writing center colloquium modeled on the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium, and this post–along with the comment stream–provides a wonderful snapshot of everything I love about the Colloq. at Madison.

    Participating in the Colloq. while I was in graduate school was important to my development as a teacher and a writing center administrator. It both opened my eyes to the breadth of issues within the field of writing center studies and awakened me to the importance of dialogue with writing center professionals who share a general location but who come from very different types of institution. Part of what makes the Colloq. such a wonderfully dynamic site of intellectual exchange is the diversity of perspectives represented at every gathering. (The brownies that Brad brings are also a key component of course.)

    Thanks for this post, Brad!

    Matthew Capdevielle
    Director, Writing Center
    University of Notre Dame

  21. Reading these many comments, I’m impressed at how many people have been influenced by the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium and the good work that has emerged from it. Between founding the Colloquium and mentoring directors-to-be, Brad Hughes has unique insights into how to prepare future leaders. I’m grateful for another first that Brad is responsible for, along with Paula Gillespie, and that’s the founding of the IWCA’s Summer Institute in 2003. This summer in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, we will celebrate the Tenth IWCA SI. The leaders will be both new and familiar names: Tammy Conard-Salvo, Brian Fallon, Nancy Grimm, Melissa Ianetta, Jennifer Wells, and co-chairs Nathalie-Singh-Corcoran and me. Nathalie and I have tried to engage leaders who represent the vanguard of the field as well as those who are far along in their careers. Like all organizations, the writing center community sustains itself through a combination of innovation and experience. These are delicate ingredients: too much innovation can bring chaos and too much experience leads to inertia. It’s a good thing that we take a moment to reflect here on the topic of sustainable leadership. Thank you, Brad Hughes!

    Ben Rafoth
    Professor of English
    Director, Writing Center
    Indiana University of Pennsylvania

  22. As a newcomer to the UW community and to the Composition and Rhetoric program, I’ve been blown away by the number of events and programs sponsored by the Writing Center. Having Brad as an office neighbor continually reminds me of how he’s always connecting with folks across campus and with everyone working in the WC. And what’s probably most impressive from my perspective is how the WC helps shape current graduate students. In conversations with grad students, it’s clear that the work in the WC has given them such a robust sense of the field, of the teaching of writing, and of how to be a professional in the in comp rhet. There are certainly a number of WC directors walking these hallways, and that’s because of what Brad writes about here: grad students have so many ways to learn about what it takes to run a top notch WC.

    Jim Brown

  23. I was involved with the UW Writing Center as a graduate tutor, TA Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program, and TA Coordinator of the Online Writing Center. I can attest that Brad speaks the truth about everything grad students can gain from these leadership positions. Participating in the Colloquium, though, really added something to my education. It is truly special for faculty, administrators, graduate students, and undergraduate students from multiple institutions to gather for intellectual conversations. Learning about Writing Centers at schools other than UW also helped prepare me for my work on the faculty Writing Program Committee at a small liberal arts college. It would have been much more difficult to translate my large university experience to my new institution without having learned about the programs at a wide variety of schools.

    Rebecca Entel
    Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing
    Cornell College

  24. One of the odd things about doing writing center work on any campus is that we are disciplinarily singular. Our writing centers are unique physical and intellectual spaces within the institution.

    The need for collaboration, then, is crucial, which is what is so great about entities like the Madison colloquia and the Big Ten directors’ group. It’s the same principle that drives all the work we do, from the peer interactions happening at the tutoring table to the myriad panel presentations at our conferences—or maybe it’s the essence of the people who are drawn to WC work in the first place? Either way, talking and working with other WC folks helps me tremendously.

    I take to heart Brad’s call to systematically draw graduate students into the conversation. How we include future professionals differs widely among schools (our writing program is not part of an academic department, for example), but the impulse is the same: what opportunities can we provide? We might turn over that beloved peer tutor training practicum to them to teach, we might organize our staff meetings to be peer led, or we might appoint someone to coordinate online services or dissertation bootcamps. Most important is introducing them to our wider community at every opportunity. No place does that as well as Wisconsin and I’ve learned so much from their model. But I think IU might be able to take Madison in a Big Ten Angry Birds challenge. If that isn’t sporty enough for Brad, there’s always kickball . . . .

    Laura Plummer
    Director of the Campus Writing Program
    Indiana University Bloomington

  25. I left Madison in 2004, just as the MAWCC was getting off the ground, but I can’t overstate how much I continue to benefit from having worked with Brad and Emily as a Writing Center Tutor and as Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program. I took my degree in literary studies, and landed a job in 20th/21st Century American Literature. But my work with the Writing Center at Madison never stopped informing my work as a professor and an administrator. At first that was at one or two levels of remove: when I was the English Department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies and then Associate Chair (in which position I was able to help jump start Clemson’s Writing Center, now under the expert guidance of UW alum Scot Barnet), I often asked myself: “How would Brad approach this problem, and how would he see it as an opportunity?” When I was asked by our Dean last year if I would consider serving as Director of the Pearce Center for Professional Communication, which houses Clemson’s award-winning WAC initiatives (thanks to the work of people such as Art Young, Kathy Yancey, Steve Katz, and David Blakesley), I initially balked — it seemed too far from my research interests and professional expertise. But here I am. I wouldn’t have been offered the position had I not been able to take on those previous administrative duties, for which I gained the confidence by working with Emily in the Writing Fellows Program. And I would not have been comfortable accepting my current position had I not received such great training and ongoing advice (e.g., quantify everything!) from Brad. Scot Barnet and I are now pushing Clemson to invest even more resources in the WC, WAC, and Writing Fellows. If we’re successful, we’ll owe it to UW’s Writing Center, which allowed me to cut my teeth in administration because it so conscientiously prepares graduate students to take on leadership roles.

    Michael LeMahieu
    Assistant Professor, Department of English
    Director, Pearce Center for Professional Communication
    Clemson University

  26. I was excited to see this post on the Colloquium because the first one I attended was definitely a defining moment for me at UW. As a graduate student, I feel that I often was not able to see much beyond the horizon of the department before the conscientious work of those at the Writing Center to provide me with a broader vision. The Colloquium and the opportunities for leadership positions at the Writing Center are crucial for developing this type of university-wide understanding, and have greatly helped me since leaving UW. After attending my first meeting, I remember feeling as if my world had just gotten a little bigger, and the possibilities for my scholarly work in rhetoric, writing, and literature a little larger.

    Rob McAlear
    Assistant Director of the Writing Resource Center
    Case Western Reserve University

  27. As an undergraduate Writing Fellow, graduate WF mentor, frequent writing tutor conference presenter, and humanities-starved sojourner in the UW-Madison College of Engineering, I can’t say enough about what an empowering experience it was to be treated as a colleague and friend in the MAWCC. The practice of reading carefully and listening deeply with so many fine scholars gave me the confidence and curiosity to pursue a handful of action-reflection teaching and research opportunities during my time in Madison and since. In particular, I brought some of the MAWCC ethos with me to a peer-training program for computational researchers that I helped found as a graduate student in the sciences (see and to my current work in educational resource sharing with the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary (see

    Thanks to Rebecca (Nowacek) for reminding me above about Brad’s famous brownies, and to all my old friends here for reminding me what an important part of my training and formation as a writer, as a teacher–and perhaps also as an engineer and soon-to-be priest–took place on the 6th floor of Helen C. White Hall.

    Kyle Oliver
    Virginia Theological Seminary
    Candidate for Ordination in the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee

  28. I was lucky enough to take advantage of several of the Writing Center opportunities that Brad outlines above: teaching in the WC, serving as Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program, and taking part in the Colloquium. Each of these was valuable in its own particular way, but it’s the element common to all of them that, since leaving UW, I’ve found most valuable. Whereas most of one’s work as a graduate student is oriented centrifugally (as a scholar, narrowing one’s research niche; as a teacher, moving from gen ed classes to upper division courses for majors), the work that I did in the Writing Center was oriented centripetally: as a tutor, working with all manner of student writing; as Writing Fellows AD, working with Emily with faculty from all across campus; and, via the Colloquium, interacting with folks from lots of different institutions. That centripetal work has proven invaluable to me since coming to the University of Denver, where, in addition to teaching writing classes, I teach workshops in courses across campus, serve as affiliated faculty and advisor in an interdisciplinary minor program, direct a service-learning-based Living and Learning Community, and run a community writing center. Were it not for the opportunities to move outward (and the example) that Emily and Brad provided, I would have been woefully, perhaps fatally, underprepared. And it’s increasingly the case that all of us humanists — and especially those of us who teach writing — need to be able to move outward, as we’re called upon to direct WCs and WAC programs and to take on leadership roles in gen ed and in community contexts. That kind of work requires a capacity to quickly suss out and move between different institutional structures, cultures, and imperatives. Taking part in the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium is one of several excellent ways to build that capacity that the Writing Center offers.

    John Tiedemann
    Director, Social Justice Living and Learning Community
    University Writing Program
    University of Denver

  29. Reading through the comments made me miss the Writing Center, the Colloquium, and being able to talk to Brad. I learned so much from being part of this community of people who are informed and seriously committed to a big vision of writing instruction. I miss having that community here at the Grad Center. The Writing Center and the Colloquium made me a better teacher and inspire me to continue to innovate. They have influenced my teaching more than any other single thing. Thank you!

    Shifra Sharlin
    Distinguished Lecturer
    City University of New York – Graduate Center

  30. Reading this post and the related comments reminded me yet again of the important work that the UW Madison Writing Center and the MAWCC are undertaking. Thanks for all you and your colleagues do, Brad!

    Lisa Ede
    Professor of English
    Oregon State University

  31. Belonging to the Writing Center community was an invaluable part of my graduate education. While at UW, I had the opportunity to serve as a Writing Center instructor and as Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program, and to participate in the Colloquium in both of these roles. What links each of these experiences together for me is the unique mentorship that took place in these settings. As Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program, I received strong one-on-one mentoring from Emily and Brad, which I in turn adapted in my work with the Fellows. In the Colloquiums, I found a collegial space for developing as a professional in the larger field of language, writing, and literature. The Colloquiums, moreover, exposed me to scholarly conversations about writing that I would not have learned elsewhere as a literary studies graduate student. In short, the Writing Center helped me make the transition from graduate student to professor, and to prepare me for the multiple and shifting positions that I occupy daily in my professional life: teacher, scholar, colleague, mentor. I continue to draw on the lessons of the Colloquium and the Writing Center in both my mentoring of graduate students and my work with devising a writing sequence in our undergraduate literature curriculum.

    Michelle Sizemore
    Assistant Professor of English
    University of Kentucky

  32. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to experience this colloquium, which has been one of the (many) fascinating benefits of my work as a Writing Fellow at UW-Madison. Discussing the problems faced by Writing Center Staff with the people who face those problems daily is enlightening, especially for someone like myself who is just entering the writing center world–there is nothing as inspirational as seeing dedicated, passionate people come together to share their experiences and engage in discussion.

    So far, in the course of my undergraduate career, I’ve been allergic to any kind of theory. The question “Why does it matter?” is always prevalent in my mind, and I’ve had to fight to remind myself why most of what I study is relevant. My work with the Writing Center is the one exception to that rule, largely thanks to these colloquia. The discussions I’ve witnessed during these meetings are rooted in and advised by both theory and practice, and I’ve never once left thinking “Interesting, but I’ll never use that again.”

    Reading the responses to this post, I’m struck by the geographic and experiential variety of those who have been impacted by the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium. I consider myself lucky to be in such good company, and luckier still to be able to participate in this wonderful gathering.

    Claire Parrott
    Writing Fellow at UW-Madison

  33. So much of my professional identity was formed while I worked with Brad and my WAC/Writing Center colleagues in Helen C. White. While I was a grad student at UW, I worked in the writing center and was the assistant director of the WAC program. Though I’ve been in a faculty position for 9 years now, I think daily about the training and mentoring I received during my years in Madison. The professional work of writing centers and WAC programs has deeply influenced me as a professor, former writing center director, chair, and mentor for graduate students. The WAC sourcebook and writing center website are some of my most-utilized resources! And the connections I’ve made with colleagues and friends over the years form my most valuable “sourcebook.” Thank you, Brad and UW colleagues for building and sustaining this writing center/WAC family!

    Bonnie Smith Whitehouse
    Associate Professor of English
    Chair, Department of English
    Former Writing Center Director
    Belmont University
    Nashville, TN

  34. This post and all of these comments have made me think of the Colloquium in a new way. While I’ve appreciated the opportunity to join a professional conversation while I’m a grad student here at UW-Madison, these comments make me realize how much that professionalizing opportunity will continue to be useful to me, both as a grad student and beyond. Thanks to Brad and all these commenters for sharing.

  35. Though it’s been nearly a decade since I was able to attend a Colloquium meeting, it’s still very much a part of my intellectual and professional life. When I took a full-time Writing Center position, I brought out my “Writing Center Colloquium” folder and read all my notes straight through, including the handouts and advice from John Duffy’s presentation about growing the Writing Center at Notre Dame. When my tutors wanted to propose a conference workshop on Writing Center ethics, out came the folder, and we used the readings from the colloquium on that topic as the foundation for their workshop. The Colloquium was a critical resource as I made the transition to writing center administration, and it still enriches my thinking and practice. I’m very grateful I had the chance to be a part of this community.

    Jody Cardinal
    Director, Writing Center
    SUNY College at Old Westbury

  36. When I applied to work in the UW Writing Center, as a graduate student, I had no idea what I was getting into. I could not have imagined how deeply the collaborative, ongoing discussions of WAC/Writing Center pedagogy would inform my teaching and, ultimately, my career. I’m now working in a writing program at a small liberal arts college.

    My experience at the UW Writing Center equipped me to co-teach and collaborate with other educators, whether in a classroom or a planning meeting. At UW, part of our ongoing education involved refining or developing materials for the Writing Center, in addition to reflecting on our own practices. As graduate students, we were involved in brainstorming solutions, trying out new ideas, and collaborating with other offices and programs on campus. These chances to take initiative and act on what we thought, in order to make something happen, empowered me when I began work in different a writing center. My experience in the UW Writing Center continues to direct me not only to constantly re-evaluate and improve, but to identify possibilities and figure out how to make them realities.

    Thank you, Brad and the rest of the UW Writing Center staff!

    Lauren Vedal
    Writing Specialist
    Bates College

  37. I am only going to echo what has already been said about this topic here by others: working with the community of writers and thinkers at UW-Madison was always incredibly generative for my thinking and academic work. One of my favorite elements of the colloquium was the opportunity to see other writing centers at work, as when we visited MATC’s writing center and when I visited Marquette and got a tour of their writing center. This kind of thinking helped me break out of “this is how writing centers work because this is the only one I have worked at” and put me in a much stronger position to talk about my experience as one type of experience when I went on the job market.

    I also find the collegiality and welcoming environment of these writing center conversations an invaluable space to generate and try out new hypotheses about why writing center teaching works the way it does–and why it sometimes doesn’t work. They helped me move beyond the “I do it this way because it works for me” and towards being able to situate myself alongside others and become more flexible and dynamic in my understanding of what writing center work does.

    Thanks so much, Brad, for this trip down memory lane. Wow. I miss all of you so much!!!

    Stephanie Kerschbaum
    Assistant Professor of English
    University of Delaware

  38. I came to the UW Madison Writing Center explicitly to study successful leadership of writing centers and I am sure that this is the right place for it. Having the future in mind and preparing others carefully for leadership positions in writing centers seems to be crucial and I am very impressed by the way this is done here by Brad and his team. I feel very lucky that I can participate in offers like the ongoing education sessions on leadership in writing centers and the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium. When I applied for funding for my research year at the German Research Foundation (DFG), I highlighted the colloquium in my proposal. I can only guess, but I am pretty sure that it was very helpful to show what a rich intellectual environment I would have as a visiting scholar in Madison. Thank you so much for this, Brad! I hope to start a colloquium when I am back in Germany and also wrote about it several times in my German Blog:; and

    Katrin Girgensohn
    Director, Writing Center
    European University-Viadrina
    Frankfurt (Oder), Germany
    Visiting Scholar, 2011-12
    Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

  39. Participating in The Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium a few years ago was one of my richest professional experiences. It was delightful, engaging, and exciting, and I remember with great fondness and appreciation the energy of the discussions and the involvement of the participants. The free-flowing structure of the Colloquium supported the camaraderie and intellectual inquiry among people from many backgrounds and experiences, and that engagement was enormously powerful and rewarding. Brad Hughes is right in describing the colloquia as “cross-institutional conversations” that broaden everyone’s knowledge of what it means to be a writing center professional. The quality and broad range of topics the MAWCC has addressed in 20 years is amazing in itself. The momentum is there because of the quality of the participation, which carries the Colloquium forward and challenges us all with new goals and questions. It was a great joy for me to be part of the Colloquium, and I would like to congratulate Brad on creating and supporting such a fine resource for so many people. The comments people have posted are a sure indication of how much the Colloquium has meant to them personally and professionally. The Colloquium is a great contribution to the writing center field, and I look forward to many more years of its contributions to our discipline.

    Christina Murphy
    Marshall University

  40. One of the things I valued so much from the WC colloquia was learning from people working in differing institutional contexts. I was recently reminded of those times when reading Qualley and Chiseri-Strater’s “Split at the Root,” in which they explain their experiences as WPAs and the differing approaches to working with TAs they had to adopt because of who their TAs were—Master’s students for Qualley, and PhD students for Chiseri-Strater. In Qualley’s circumstance, where there is no Composition and Rhetoric program, she only worked with TAs for one or two years. Chiseri-Strater worked with students for several years, and many were in Composition and Rhetoric.

    For both, their roles as WPAs meant making decisions about how they dealt with TAs and their teaching, and through sharing their experiences with each other, they recognized that “ongoing conflict between our most tightly-held theories and our practical realities may be a positive thing. The vulnerability that often leaves us feeling unsure and off-balance as administrators and teachers is also what keeps us positioned as learners continually having to renegotiate our positions” (172). You can see how these feelings and realities apply to writing centers and the importance of the colloquium.

    Qualley and Chiseri-Strater describe on-the-job-learning, and so as Brad explains so well above, drawing in colloquium participants from a mix of institutions in the area is what makes it so powerful as another way to prepare graduate students to be writing center directors and support those already in this role.

    Rik Hunter
    Assistant Professor of English
    St. John Fisher College
    Rochester, NY

  41. I fondly remember participating in the Writing Center Colloquium when I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At that stage, I was obviously motivated to learn as much as I could about effective tutoring since that was my primary role and responsibility. I distinctly remember that the sessions of the colloquium opened up a whole new world to me about all of the other important issues related to Writing Centers and the many initiatives they could undertake. Of course, one-on-one tutoring is important – but the colloquium made realize there is so much more to Writing Centers. I think this aspect of the colloquium is key. In addition to the practical information one obtains from various sessions, the colloquium itself embodies a certain spirit, a certain ideal.

    After I graduated from Wisconsin, I took both the practical knowledge and this ideal with me. The practical knowledge served me well when I was the Assistant Director of the Writing Center at Transylvania University and it is serving me well in my current role as Interim Director of the Writing Center at Suffolk University. In terms of the ideal that the colloquium, Brad, and the Writing Center at UW-Madison represent, it has always served to motivate me to do more, and it also, as Linda Bergman notes above, makes me realize how much more I could be doing!

    Bryan Trabold
    Associate Professor, English
    Interim Director, Writing Center
    Suffolk University
    Boston, MA

  42. It’s been a very long time for me now, so one would think I’d need to work hard to stretch my mind back to my days at the Writing Center in Madison. And after all, my time in the UW Center was limited to just one year, maybe a little more. Truth be told, I don’t even recall the Colloquium Brad describes so fully here. Maybe it hadn’t started yet. But what I do recall—and I think about this frequently, in fact—is the profound impact my short time at the Center has had on me as a teacher, as a Writing Center Director, and as a WPA. Brad’s description of both the Colloquium and the broader campus articulations of successful Writing Centers help clarify for me the nature of that impact. From day one as a new assistant professor charged with professionalizing the old “fix-it lab” at my university, I’ve held on hard to one very simple idea I learned back at UW: the best way to help developing writers is to understand, acknowledge, celebrate, and work tirelessly toward writing excellence. And that’s what it seems to me the Madison Colloquium is all about—the eager documentation, exploration, and joyful celebration of excellence that breeds more and greater excellence. I’ve been particularly struck by the importance of this idea recently at my university. I moved on from my work in our Writing Center several years ago. And I was delighted to see the Director that followed sustain and improve so many of my modest starts, all growing out of this commitment to excellence in writing I first experienced at the UW Center—robust outreach to upper division writers and to writers and faculty across the curriculum, a “common read” program joining both our novice undergraduate and graduate and writers in the shared intellectual work of the university, a wonderful invited author/speaker series, and more. Sadly, I’ve also seen over this past year—with new leadership possessing a much narrower view of Writing Center work—how fragile those successes can be, and how quickly a commitment to excellence can devolve back into that old “fix it” mentality. I’ve seen how easily our culture of excellence in writing can be diminished. We need to protect against this devolution, especially in our current climate of budget cutbacks and bottom-line “educating.” We need to fight that good fight. So kudos to Brad and all the folks who’ve used the Madison Area Writing Center Colloquium to do just that. Well done!

    Jeffrey Wiemelt
    Associate Professor of English
    Former Director of the Writing Center
    Southeastern Louisiana University

  43. As a relatively new writing center director and co-developer of a UW-style writing fellows program at Clemson University, I cannot underestimate how formative and valuable my experiences in the UW Comp-Rhet program and the Writing Center were. While I certainly understood at the time how special and innovative UW has been in training graduate students to become national leaders in WC and WAC, I am now reminded everyday of just how much time, care, creativity, and patience is required to establish such a vibrant community of scholars and teachers. Here at Clemson, we’re effectively building things from the ground up. And I can think of no better inspiration or ideal than UW and the amazing work Brad Hughes, the WC staff, and the Comp-Rhet program have accomplished there.

    Scot Barnett
    Assistant Professor, Rhetoric and Professional Communication
    Department of English
    Director, Writing Center
    Clemson University

  44. It’s wonderful to get the big picture on the Colloquium and to hear the many voices of my former Writing Center colleagues among these comments.

    Can I join the echoes? The community, the chance to develop wider perspectives, the opportunities afforded to graduate students in building professional experience and outlook — all this and much more. I am lucky to remain here at Madison, post-Ph.d. and my days of being on the Writing Center staff in the past. Although my work now is with our first-year writing program and other undergrad comp courses, I am still surrounded by Writing Center activities, and I continue to be professionally inspired by the Colloquium as well as all the daily Writing Center work that goes on around me.

    Mary Fiorenza
    Asst. Faculty Associate
    Associate Director, English 100

  45. My strongest professional development during my graduate student years came through my appointment with the UW Writing Center. Not only do I consistently point to Brad Hughes as my model for leadership style, I also take as gospel his advice for building a leadership team (and here I will quote verbatim from memory going back 15 years, because I can):

    “You hire the best people you can find, and then you respect the heck out of them.”

    In my current position I serve on hiring committees for upper level administrators, and I find myself looking for those candidates who understand that simple, but vital, principle: Respect the people you hired. Invest in their professional development as you do your own.

    Thank you, Brad, for building the infrastructure that supports the development of leaders in writing programs nationwide.

    Catherine Prendergast
    Professor, Department of English
    Director, Undergraduate Rhetoric Program
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  46. I may be late to the game on posting this, but feel strongly enough to say that Brad’s opportunities for professional development through the UW Writing Center (which, like everybody else has mentioned, were formative in my development as a scholar), provided a real schematic for my current job. When I arrived at my current institution we overhauled the Writing Center from the ground up: space, resources, training, services, links across the campus community. I modeled everything – and I mean everything – on the work and community Brad has fostered at UW. Brad’s work is imperative – and the need for it is only growing.

    Adam Koehler
    Assistant Professor of English
    Director of Composition
    Director of the Writing Center
    Manhattan College

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