Tag: beginning of semester

Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Writing

Bronwyn T. Williams, Director

Someone once told me that any time you move it takes six months to learn how to live in a new place. After we moved into our new space on the first floor of Ekstrom Library last

University Writing Center on the first floor of Ekstrom Library

October, it did taken us a while to figure out how the furniture worked best, get some art on the walls, and buy some new plants. Now, however, as we get ready to start the 2016-17 academic year, we are settled in and excited about the opportunities that our new surroundings offer us.

We plan to take advantage of our new space with a number of new and expanded programs and events in the coming year:

Creative Writing Groups: We are starting new creative writing groups for anyone in the UofL community interested in working on creative writing projects. The groups will meet once a month on a Tuesday during the fall semester allowing people to explore creative writing in a safe, open, and encouraging environment. Meetings will be times when people can will write, investigate issues of craft, read and respond to writing, and have fun. Any member of the UofL community is welcome – undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff. We welcome any genre of writing and any level of creative writing experience—all you need is an interest in creative writing. For more details and the schedule of meetings, see our website.

Graduate Student Writing Groups and Faculty Writing Groups: We are going to continue with our writing groups for graduate students and for faculty. These groups will provide time for writing followed by discussions of writing concerns and issues. More details and schedules for the graduate student group and the faculty group can be found on our website

Writing Center Events: We’re going to have a number of events in our new space this fall,

open mic
“Bad Love Poetry” Open Mic Night from Feb. 2016

from participation in the National Day of Writing on Oct. 2o, to a Finals’ Week Write-In to support getting final papers finished, to an open mic night on Halloween for scary stories and poems. See our Events page on our website for more details.

In addition to our Writing Center events, we also have some other new initiatives we are excited about.

New Undergraduate Tutoring Class : We have had approved a new course for undergraduates and MA students interested in learning more about teaching writing and then potentially doing internships in community literacy settings. The course, English 508 – Literacy Tutoring Across Contexts and Cultures will be offered in 2017-18. Students who take the course can then take part in tutoring internships in the community with organizations such as Family Scholar House and the Louisville Free Public Library. 

Community Literacy Projects: We are also going to continue, and expand, our ongoing writing workshops and writing consultations at Family Scholar House. We view this partnerships as one of the key parts of our efforts to provide more writing consultation services to the larger Louisville community.

Of course, it isn’t only what is new here that is exciting. One of the most exciting things that will happen this fall is what happens here every semester. Day after day writers from across the university will bring their drafts and their questions about their writing to the Picture1University Writing Center and engage in thoughtful conversations with our consultants about how to make that work as strong as it can be.  We have an excellent incoming staff of consultants who will be doing what we do best: helping writers improve the projects they are working on today, as well helping them become stronger writers in the future. On our exit surveys, more than 90 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that their University Writing Center appointments both help them with their immediate writing concerns and that what they learn in appointments will help them with other writing projects.

We will also continue to offer our successful Dissertation Writing Retreat, our Graduate Student Writing Workshops, workshops on writing issues for classes and student organizations at UofL, and our consultations on the Health Sciences Campus.

The mission statement for the University Writing Center says that we believe writing is an “indispensable part of the intellectual life of the university.” We stand behind this belief and it is central to what we do. But, as the new semester begins, I think the events and programs we will offer in the year ahead will allow us to add to our mission the goal of creating and sustaining a culture of writing of all kinds, on campus and in our community.

Please see our updated website for more information and resources, as well as for information about how to make your appointment for a writing consultation.

Good luck with the new academic year and I hope to see you in the University Writing Center.


Rethink the New Semester Reset

Cassie Book, Associate Director

As the first two weeks of fall semester wound down on a hazy August Friday afternoon, I found a spare moment to reflect on the work already done in the University Writing Center. Typically, when I imagine writing situations early in the semester, I immediately think of getting started on class writing assignments. In fact, when I visit classes to speak about the University Writing Center, I suggest students visit at the beginning of their writing process, to brainstorm and plan. Yet, many of the writers we’ve met here in the past two weeks aren’t just getting started. What are they up to?

We’ve met writers with projects not limited by the semester timeline. Some were in the final stages of editing academic journal articles; the research likely began several years ago. Others spent the summer revising personal statements for graduate school applications and wanted more feedback before submission. Still others have returned to U of L as graduate students with a renewed commitment to improving their writing with each opportunity. These writers embrace writing as a lifelong process and practice. They haven’t pushed the “reset” button at the beginning of the semester like, I’ll admit, I tend to do.

What if you’re already in the mindset of resetting at the beginning of each semester? You’re not yet working on a personal statement for graduate school. You wouldn’t know where to start on research for a journal article. Relax. I’m not suggesting that you embark on a lengthy writing project. There are other ways to commit to building and bridging your writing skills from semester to semester. Instead of starting from scratch each semester, take stock of what you’ve already learned and know about writing and your writing process.

We learn best when we begin to integrate concepts from one class or experience with new experiences. Another way to think about it might be learning a sport, say, basketball. You first try it out—shoot hoops with friends or family. Then, you play casual one-on-one. Next, you add more players and basic guidelines, maybe parameters like a time clock or a referee. Eventually, you’ll advance to having a specialized role (guard, center, forward) and even breaking the general guidelines. Of course, the learning process is never so straightforward, structured, and sequenced. The point is you’re always learning because each game the context is slightly different. You’re constantly building on your skills, observing others, listening, and responding to the other players. Learning to write is a similar process, though the “rulebook” is much more flexible than a given sport’s.

When confronted with a “new” writing task, take a few moments to reflect on how it relates to the writing you’ve already done—any writing, for academic or personal reasons. Maybe the subject matter is different, but can you identify similarities in structure, purpose, or audience? What do you know about your process? How do your professors and peers typically respond to your writing? How do your Twitter followers respond to your writing? Though at first a writing task might seem unfamiliar, try to link it to what you’ve already accomplished. If you shift your approach and thinking now, you’ll be better prepared later to embark on more in-depth and high stakes writing with confidence.

Much will Change in Fall 2015 at the UofL Writing Center (Yet Much Will Stay the Same)

Bronwyn T. Williams, Director

In some ways, this semester is starting like many others at the University Writing Center. We gathered as a staff for the first time at our Orientation last week and started to get to know each other. We have a great new group of consultants, as well as new faces as Associate and Assistant Directors.

University Writing Center Staff, 2015-16
University Writing Center Staff, 2015-16

With the start of classes this week we’ve been busy meeting with students and doing presentations about the Writing Center for classes and student organizations. If you want to make an appointment, we are open for business and happy to meet with you. In the year to come we will also continue with the programs we have established in recent years such as our Dissertation Writing Retreats, Junior Faculty Writing Groups, and workshops about Graduate Student Writing concerns. There is a great deal of anticipation about the year ahead. The photo of this year’s staff is in the familiar setting in front of the windows on the Third Floor of Ekstrom Library. So, yes, in some ways this year feels like many others.

Under Construction – The University Writing Center space on the First Floor of Ekstrom Library

And yet, two floors below us, is the evidence how much is about to change. On the first floor of the Library the construction continues on the new space for the University Writing Center. At the moment it’s still a work in progress, but in the skeleton of wall frames and electrical wires you can see our new space taking shape. Sometime, then, near the beginning of October, we’ll be moving into our brand new space.

What’s exciting about the new space (besides getting new furniture), is that we will be much easier to find, as well as have more space in which to meet with students. What’s more, we’ll have digital consulting rooms that will make it easier for us to help writers with multimodal projects and to do online video chat appointments with distance education students. Our new location will also allow us to collaborate more easily with reference librarians, REACH, and the Digital Media Suite.

We also want to use the move to the first floor as an opportunity to do

What You Will See When You Enter the East Doors of the Library
What You Will See When You Enter the East Doors of the Library

more to make the University Writing Center a place where we develop and sustain a culture of writing on campus. So keep an eye out for announcements of other kinds of programming about writing to come in the year ahead. We’ll keep blogging about the changes and new programs in the year ahead and will be posting about it on our Twitter and Facebook pages as well.

We wish everyone a successful semester and we hope people will let us help them make their writing as effective, engaging, and creative as possible.

Back to Work in the Writing Center

Adam Robinson, Associate Director

AdamWe enter this Spring semester with incredible momentum.  Last Fall, we increased our number of consultations (we did 2587 appointments!—200 more than last Fall) as well as our number of in-class workshops (we gave over a 100—almost double from last Fall).  And as usual, our online exit surveys showed high praise from the writers who worked with us.

Traditionally, the Spring semester is slower than the Fall—fewer students are enrolled, activity on campus is slower, etc.  But we have reason to believe that this Spring may be our busiest Spring yet.  In the Fall, we reached out to a number of student services offices and programs, such as TRIO, Family Scholar House, the Cultural Center, and Undergraduate Advising.  I once worked as an academic counselor for U of L’s College of Arts and Sciences, so I know firsthand the incredible impact and influence these offices have on the students who frequent them.  Sometimes students don’t feel comfortable asking their professors for help, but those same students will talk to their advisors and mentors.  For example, last October, I attended a college fair for the Family Scholar House, a support service for single-parent students.  The fair was held at one of the Family Scholar House residence locations, which allowed me to have informal conversations with the students in the program.  Many told me that they knew about the WC but didn’t feel comfortable visiting—some didn’t want to ask for help, others were afraid of criticism.  Being able to talk to them in a non-institutional space made a big difference.   Those working in these programs understand that too—that students need not just information but encouragement seek out help from professors and campus resources.  Our plan is to continue to build partnerships like these.

We have some side projects to work on this Spring, too.  U of L has begun migrating its website to a newer version of Plone (our content management software), a move that will afford all departments and offices more freedom to design custom sites.  We hope we can design a site that meets both the needs of our U of L community members as well as the needs of other Writing Center community members who may visit our site.  And while May is a ways away, we are gearing up for our second Dissertation Writing Retreat (check out our May 30, 2012 blog to learn about our first retreat).  The first one was a great success, and we’ve already received inquiries from interested students who have begun writing their dissertations.

Our main goal, however, is to keep offering excellent tutoring and response to students, staff, and faculty.  I want to personally thank Ashly Bender, Alex Bohen, Nancy Bou Ayash, Sam Bowles, Daniel Conrad, Michelle Day, Tika Lamsal, Scott Lasley, Brit Mandela, Jennifer Marciniak, Amy Nichols, Meagan Ray, Lauren Short, Mandi Strickland, and Katelyn Wilkinson.  Their excellent work is why writers keep coming back for help and why those same writers leave with smiles on their faces.  I’m happy to see all of our consultants again after a long break, and I’m equally excited to see some of our regular clients already returning this year.  And of course, I eagerly await the opportunity to see some new faces too—and hope they become familiar faces.

I want to wish Bronwyn Williams, our director, the best of luck on his Fulbright—he’ll be in England for six months doing important research on literacy.  That leaves me in charge of this place. So perhaps then, a personal goal is to not screw anything up!  I look forward to the challenge.

Finally, I want to send my sympathies to Dr. J Blaine Hudson’s family.  Dr. Hudson served U of L for many years as a professor in the Pan African Studies Department and more recently as the Dean in the College of Arts Sciences.  He died on Saturday, January 5.  Dr. Hudson leaves behind an incredible legacy not only at U of L but also in the Louisville community where he worked tirelessly for others.

Opening Doors: Another Year Begins in the Writing Center

Bronwyn T. Williams, Director

My New Year’s resolutions always take place in late August. Like many of us in on university campuses, my yearly cycle begins with the new academic year. It is in August that the annual campus rituals, of new students arriving and new announcements going up on bulletin boards, signal the chance to begin again, to have a new set of experiences. It’s a time that I find myself reflecting on the year just completed and thinking about what I want to accomplish in the year ahead. Sometimes these are explicit promises to myself – such as making sure I get that article revised by the end of September. Sometimes my resolutions are more implicitly contained in the revising of course syllabi or the rethinking of policies for the new year. Either way, the resolutions and rituals that mark the start of the academic year are always restorative and energizing to me.

In the Writing Center one of our important rituals takes place when the new group of consultants show up for the coming academic year. On Thursday we all met as a group for the first time at the Writing Center Orientation to get to know each other and to plan for the year ahead. Eleven new graduate students will be working in the Writing Center this year.

Writing Center Orientation 1
Writing Center Orientation

They are a diverse group of people – from cooking enthusiasts to dancers to sports fans to rock climbers to world travelers to musicians. Some grew up in Louisville, while others grew up on the other side of the globe. Yet while their backgrounds and interests distinguish them from each other, their love of writing and their desire to teach others to be stronger writers is what brings them all to the Writing Center. Work in a Writing Center, to be successful, must be grounded in an ethic that draws from principles of service, care, empathy, patience, and respect. Only when consultants approach working with students from these principles, can the consultants and students work together to create more effective, critical, and creative writing. I told the new Writing Center consultants the other day that a Writing Center works best when it functions for both the staff and student writers as a site of inquiry, collaboration, and respect. From the conversations with the new consultants at Orientation it is clear that these are people who will be able to help student writers build on their strengths, and learn not just how to write a better paper, but to be better writers overall.

The commitment of these new consultants to helping others with their writing is impressive and makes it clear that we should have yet another successful – and fun – year in the Writing Center. It is a year that I hope will build on the successes of 2011-12. Among the highlights of the past year for the Writing Center were the following:

  1. We had 4866 visits to the Writing Center in the most recent academic year, including visits to our Virtual Writing Center and to our new office downtown at the Health Sciences Campus
  2. Writing Center staff conducted 70 presentations about our services and 26 in-class workshops on writing issues.
  3. We held our first Dissertation Writing Retreat. Ten Ph.D. students representing four different colleges and six different disciplines spent a week in the Writing Center working on their dissertations and receiving individual consultations with Writing Center tutors,
  4. We have a new Assistant Director position to focus on working with graduate student writers, paying particular attention to the needs of international students. Tika Lamsal will staff the position and split his hours between the main Writing Center and the office on the Health Sciences Campus. In addition the Writing Center, in collaboration with the Graduate School conducted a series of writing workshops for graduate students on both the Belknap and Health Sciences Campuses.
  5. Writing Center staff worked with a number of University programs, giving presentations and conducting workshops, including the Porter Scholars, A&S Advising, UofL Athletics, the Career Center, the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program, Family Scholar House, the Delphi Center, and the International Center. The presentations given by the Writing Center staff resulted in many students then visiting the Writing Center for the first time.
  6. During the 2011-12 academic year a number of Writing Center consultants presented their scholarship at conferences including the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the Southeast Writing Centers Conference, the Kentucky Philological Association Conference, and the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing. In addition, Assistant Director Barrie Olson had a piece accepted for the Writing Lab Newsletter.
  7. Our exit survey indicated a high level of satisfaction with the Writing Center, by both quantitative and qualitative measures. Highlights included:
  • In answer to the statement: “My Writing Center consultation addressed my concerns about my writing project,” more than 96% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (74%) or “Agree” (22%).
  • In answer to the statement: “What I learned during my Writing Center consultation will help me with future writing projects,” more than 92% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (65%) or “Agree” (27%).
  • In answer to the statement: “I plan to use the Writing Center again,” more than 93% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (81%) or “Agree” (12%).
  • In answer to the statement: “The Writing Center staff were welcoming and helpful,” more than 97% of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” (80%) or “Agree” (17%).
Writing Center Orientation

On Monday morning, at 9 a.m., we will open our doors at the University Writing Center to begin another academic year. When we open those physical doors, we are also opening other kinds of doors. For the students, faculty, and staff who visit the Writing Center we hope to provide the kinds of response and suggestions that will open the doors to realizing the full potential of a piece of writing. For the consultants in the Writing Center we want to open doors to becoming effective teachers of writing. For the University community we hope to open the doors to being a positive focus and force for all the writing, in all its many forms, that takes place on campus.

In the weeks to come you will see more blog posts from other members about the Writing Center staff. People will be writing about their experiences in the Writing Center, but also about their experiences as writers and their thoughts about writing in general. So stop back by and join the conversation about writing and writers.

We’ve had a good year, but I expect to have an even better year to come.