Charting the UWC’s Path in a Changing World: News and Accomplishments in Academic Year 2021-2022

Cassandra Book, Acting Director

August 23, 2021. It was a big day for us. After seventeen (yes, I counted) months of 100% online services, the University Writing Center opened its doors again for in-person consultations for the Fall 2021 semester. While we were hesitant about what consultations would be like with masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant spray, we soon found that the opportunity to talk to writers face-to-face was worth the stress of figuring out how to come together.

Hopefully it goes without saying that our proudest accomplishment this year is our successful transition (back) to in-person consultations in the midst of the ebb and flow of COVID-19 cases and our feelings of personal and collective safety. In other words, this year’s consultants didn’t miss a beat in jumping in to work with writers, both in-person and online. Our staff maintained a shared commitment to working with a wide range of UofL writers. They were first-year composition students hesitantly writing their first annotated bibliographies. They were Southern Police Institute students composing academic research papers after many years away from the classroom. They were seniors writing essays for Fulbright applications (that they would later receive). They were pre-nursing students writing personal statements for their nursing applications. They were PhD students getting started on their dissertations in Education, Engineering, Business and Public Health. They were even a few elementary school students writing poems about unicorns and universes. They were all writers whom we served this year.

University Writing Center staff in December 2021. Top row (from left) Kylee Auten, Eli Megibben, Bronwyn Williams, Brice Montgomery, (Grogu), Curtis Ehrich, Mikaela Smith, Ben Poe, Maddy Decker, Cassie Book, Melanie Tang. Bottom row (from left) Justin Sturgeon, Zoë Donovan, Yuan Zhao. Not pictured: Tobias Lee, Derrick Neese, Olalekan Adepoju, Todd Richardson, Michael Benjamin, Elizabeth Soule

News and Accomplishments in Academic Year 2021-2022

Staffing Updates

In November, after the departure of Amber Yocum for the School of Education, we welcomed Maddy Decker as the Program Assistant, Senior! Since she started, Maddy has been indispensable in keeping our appointments and front desk running smoothly. She has kept our appointment schedule up to date, often making last-minute adjustments for sick consultants and constantly monitoring the virtual schedule. She is often the first face or voice that writers interact with; she provides a calming and reassuring presence daily to consultants and writers. We are so happy she decided to join our team!

Bronwyn Williams earned a sabbatical for the Spring 2022 semester. He is working on a book about the experiences of university students during the pandemic and is a visiting scholar at the School of Education at the University of Bristol. I (Cassandra Book) am currently serving as the Acting Director during Bronwyn’s sabbatical. As one consultant kindly put it, I am “keeping the ship upright and sailing smoothly through the general upheaval of these times.”

Beyond Tutoring – Writing Groups, Community Writing, and More

Our work extends beyond the writing consultation. Our administrators, like Maddy, help create the logistical infrastructure and supportive environment so that our consultants can do their jobs. In addition, our administrative staff leads outreach, including conducting presentations, facilitating workshops, leading writing groups, maintaining community partnerships. Our Assistant Directors, Olalekan Adepoju, Elizabeth Soule, Todd Richardson, and Michael Benjamin helped to ensure that mentoring and outreach work happened professionally and with a strong disciplinary base.

Our popular LGBTQ+Faculty and Graduate Student, and Creative Writing writing groups continued to give UofL writers supportive communities through which they could create and talk about writing. A big thanks to Elizabeth Soule and Aubrie Cox for volunteering their time to support LGBTQ+ and Creative Writing Groups this year. Olalekan Adepoju, as the Assistant Director for Graduate Student Writing, has led the Graduate and Faculty Writing Group for the past two years and will pass on the baton in June.

Our commitment to community writing remains strong at the University Writing Center. This year Elizabeth Soule led our collaborations with the Western Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL) and Family Scholar House. Once again we are grateful for the participatory and collaborative partnerships with these organizations. You can find out more about these community writing projects, including how to get involved with them, on our website.

We worked with our partners at Family Scholar House to offer their participants an online writing laboratory. This would not have been possible without both the constant correspondence and support from our partners at Family Scholar House, in particular Nia Boyd. Additionally, it was only due to the kind contributions of this year’s volunteers that we were able to offer these hours. Thank you to: Ayaat Ismail, Emma Turner, Morgan Blair, Cecilia Durbin and Michael Benjamin. The time that you committed to working with students means a lot to all of us.

We also worked with the Western Branch of the LFPL to organize and hold the 2022 Cotter Cup, a K-12 poetry contest. Last year, we worked with Western Branch to revive the 100-year old tradition. University Writing Center volunteers worked with K-12 writers to brainstorm, draft and revise their poems for the contest. Over the course of two weeks, our volunteers worked with 28 separate individuals in 30-minute sessions. A cast of all-star judges are reviewing poems as we speak, and we look forward to finding out the winners in May. We’re grateful to the contributions of our volunteers: Eli Megibben, Maddy Decker, Aubrie Cox, Brice Montgomery, Cassie Book, Kylee Auten, Yuan Zhao, Zoë Donovan, Ayaat Ismail and Liz Soule. 

We are also proud of the work our staff does as academics, professionals, researchers, and, honestly, people, beyond the University Writing Center. Please take a moment to read over their individual professional accomplishments and, if you see them or know them, congratulate them on their hard work!

Olalekan Adepoju presented at both the 2021 National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing and International Writing Centers Association conferences. He received an Academic Merit Award from the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing. He also chaired a panel session at the 2022 Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900. Finally, Olalekan was accepted into the class of 2022 Bedford New Scholars Advisory Board and reviewed proposals for 2022 National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention.  

Kylee Auten presented “Waves of Friendship: Posthumanism in Jules VS. the Ocean and Swashby and the Sea” at the 2022 Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900 . She also accepted an internship with the Children’s Literature academic journal.

Michael J. Benjamin presented “Antiracist and Inclusive Conferencing: Co-Constructing Access, Attending to Power, and Practicing Accountability” at the 2022 College Composition and Communication Conference and “Modal Responsivity: Ethical Pivots to Meet Pandemic-Induced Distance Education Challenges” at the 2022 Computers and Writing Conference. He also served as the inaugural 2021-2022 The Big Rhetorical Podcast Fellow, his work discussed in Episode 92.

Cassie Book presented at the 2021 International Writing Centers Association conference (with Bronwyn Williams, Ayaat Ismail, and Amber Yocum) and the UofL Engaged Scholarship Symposium (with Elizabeth Soule).

Tobias Lee presented “Composing Decoloniality: Translingualism in Transnational Composition” at the 2021 conference for the Latin American Association for the Study of Writing in Higher Education and Professional Contexts.  

Derrick Neese accepted the position of Assistant Director of Creative Writing in the University of Louisville English’s department for 2022-23.

Eli Megibben published an article an a book review in the Miracle Monocle.

Ben Poe chaired two panels at the 2022 Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900, represented the English department on the Graduate School Council, and served as the student representative on the School of Art’s and Sciences’ Faculty Assembly.

Melissa Rothman received a position as a library specialist for undergraduate research with Ekstrom library.

Mikaela Smith earned a summer internship with the IT department at Humana. She also served in a leadership role with the UofL Chinese Scholars Union (CSU), hosing various successful events. She has been elected Vice President of the CSU for 2022-2023.

Justin Sturgeon presented “Jumping Over the Wall: How Lanchester’s The Wall Calls for New Perspectives on Boarders in an Era Dominated by Climate Change” at the 2022 Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 190 and “Postmemory As Cigarettes in MAUS” at the 2022 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention.

In addition to his sabbatical projects, Bronwyn Williams will be presenting at the 2022 European Writing Centers Association Conference. He also published “Writing Center Consultations as Emotional Experiences: How Different Learning Experiences Shape Student Perceptions of Agency.” In Pedagogical Perspectives on Cognition and Writing.

Yuan Zhao chaired the session “D6 -Constructing Art” at the 2022 Louisville Conference On Literature & Culture Since 1900. He also published one Chinese essay about the movie “Columbus (2017),” titled “Becoming Father, Becoming Mother” in P-articles, a Hong Kong-based literature online platform.

We will be open during the summer, starting May 9, from 9-4 every weekday. In May, we will again hold our spring Dissertation Writing Retreat; it will be in-person for the first time since 2019. You can find out more on our website. You can also follow us on our blog and on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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