Expanding Writing Centers
Writing centers are as varied and different as the many campuses they serve. They are situated in different locations, affiliated with multiple or single entities within their campuses, viewed in many diverse ways by their clients, consultants, campus professors and institutional hierarchy. The Writing Centers Research Projects National Survey offers insights on trends that may give insight to writing center directors. The survey acknowledges the individuality of each writing center but finds commonalties across the nation, which create some valid options for the future of writing centers.
The location of the campus writing center is viewed as an important element in how effective the writing center is. Writing centers can be located within libraries, classrooms, or student services facilities. There are many options open to writing center directors in growing the writing center. Looking at the national data may provide insight for positive change for the writing center. An important condition of the location of the writing center is its situational identity, the ability of the writing center and staff to exist and serve as a viable support outside of the mainstream ideas considered common practice in the academic setting.
The ownership or affiliation of local writing centers is also an important element in the writing center’s mission and success. Writing centers need to examine whether their campus affiliation limits their mission. If the center is under the aegis of the English Department, how are the needs of those from other curricular areas being met? The National Survey Data showed that while many Writing Centers may have multiple affiliations across the different fields, often the tutors are exclusively from the English Department. Are the tutors representative of the cross-curricular community or only represented by those in Composition and Rhetoric who are seen as the experts in writing? Analysis of clients who are being served and their needs can help redefine and grow an existing writing center. In addition, writing centers need to attempt to identify areas that are underserved and ascertain whether that need is one that the writing center should attempt to address.
Although not confirmed by the survey data, there is consensus in the literature ( Bokser, 2004; Mendez, 2004; Gardner and Ramsey, 2005; ) about writing centers place in working with and supporting the writing needs of nontraditional students, whose numbers continue to grow across campuses. Writing centers are gaining more acceptance from the academic hierarchy as they are being seen as helping with institutional retention, academic success, and eventual graduation of clients. Being responsive to the changes that are taking place on the site campus can help to grow a writing centers mission. According to Bernice Mendez, “Writing centers can grow as an alternative to the “institutional norms” that exist at institutions of higher learning.”
The mission of the writing center also provides some ideas for growing and responding to the situational needs that may exist within the campus. Traditional focus of composition consultations across course fields is present in most if not all writing centers. According to the National Survey Data other ways that writing centers can and do contribute to the academic community and to the world at large are varied and range from job seeking help by consulting on resume writing, research writing consultations by students and faculty, test preparations, teacher preparations among many others. In addition, consultants may provide “silent benefits” ( p. 14) to the institution through the wide range of immeasurable qualities that accompany a one on one consultation process. Options for change include identifying center mission and direction and aligning these to the needs of the students on the campus.
Bokser, Julie A. “Pedagogies of Belonging: Listening to Students and Peers.” The Writing Center Journal 25(2005):
Gardner, Phillip J. and Ramsey, William M.. “The Polyvalent Mission of Writing Centers.” The Writing Center Journal 25(2004): 43–60.
Griffin, Jo Ann, Daniel Keller, Iswari Pandey, and Anne-Marie Pederson. “Local Practices, National Consequences: Surveying and (Re)Constructing Writing Center Identities.” The Writing Center Journal 26(2006): 3–22.
Newman, Bernice Mendez. “Centering in the Borderlands: Lessons from Hispanic Student Writers.” The Writing Center Journal 23(2004):