My work in writing centers — tutoring undergraduate and graduate students and mentoring fifty graduate-student tutors as assistant director — has shaped both my writing pedagogy and my approach to fostering interdisciplinary community. I believe in peer tutoring and the power of talk, whether in person or via phone or Skype, to sharpen thought for writers at all levels and in all disciplines.
In the writing centers at Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, a regional commuter campus in my hometown, and at University of Wisconsin-Madison, I regularly tutored a wide variety of students: nontraditional students struggling with the writing process, international students from all over the world, first-year undergraduates learning how to make arguments in new genres, first-generation college students from both urban and rural areas, and graduate students in disciplines from education to engineering.
As assistant director of the UW-Madison Writing Center in 2013-2014, I strove to make the Writing Center, like every classroom in which I teach, a welcoming and productively challenging place for students and tutors of all ethnicities, economic backgrounds, gender identities, levels of preparation, and abilities. I practiced those values in part by tutoring students referred to the Writing Center by their instructors or the Disability Resource Center. I also met with the staff there and set up a system by which I served as a liaison between the Disability Resource Center and the Writing Center, easing the process of setting up regular, ongoing appointments with a tutor for students.
As assistant director, I helped build strong relationships with faculty, departments, and programs on campus. I collaborated with faculty members and instructors in disciplines from rehabilitation psychology and neuroscience to journalism and nursing to plan and co-teach lessons on specific genres and aspects of the research and writing process. I also worked with an admissions director at the business school to design and co-lead both a Writing Center staff meeting about how to tutor students writing their business school application essays and a workshop for students applying to the business school.
Through regular, ongoing one-on-one tutoring sessions with graduate students, I built mutually enriching mentoring relationships with students writing in disciplines such as sociology, environmental studies, and English. A willingness to be curious and to ask questions from a non-expert perspective is central to my writing consultation pedagogy (as I discuss in this post on the UW-Madison Writing Center’s blog), and I’ve found that listening and asking questions can help students from first-year undergraduates through dissertators figure out what they’re trying to say.