Pacific Northwest Writing Centers Association

Virtual Conference

April 18 - 23 2021



Where Are We? Writing Centers as Sites of Existential Conundrums

The Writing Center as a Humanizing Space: Adaptability, Resilience, Community, and Defining Values

Hidy Basta, Grace Kohler, Kimberly Le, Karissa Lopez, Sarah Mahl, Finola Schmahl-Waggoner, Elena Selthun, Sarah Shaffer, Alex Smith, and Rachel Van Liew.

Seattle University

In adapting our practices and policies to the realities of the pandemic, we prioritized safety and well-being in our team interactions and in interactions with our clients. Prioritizing a humanizing space that is committed to resist colonialist and racist assumptions about language, labor, and work ethics shaped our practice. Our group video presentation focuses on exploring the opportunity we had to identify the discursive space we needed to occupy as a writing center within our internal dialogue and our external outreach to campus community.

Keywords: self care and care work, blog, social media, informal chat, podcast, humanizing space, screencasting.

Emotional Labor in the Writing Center

Marina Burandt

University of Denver

Writing Center work is woven inextricably with emotional labor. While some research focuses on visitors to the Writing Center, the consultants bear the weight of seen and unseen emotional labor with every appointment. How can Writing Centers be aware of this emotional labor and support their employees, especially now that the “space” of the Writing Center has been abstracted and made largely virtual? How can a consultant bring practices such as mindfulness and radical acceptance to their Writing Center work and develop meaningful connections within the Writing Center community?

Keywords: emotional labor, well-being, strategy

Consulting & Consoling: Emotional Labor’s (In)visible Existence in Writing Centers

Peter Brooks & Grace Boulanger

University of Washington Bothell

Grace Boulanger, former Lead Consultant at UW-Bothell, and Peter Brooks, current First Year Composition professor (and former consultant) have worked together on numerous projects related to writing, empathy, and student compassion over the years. They both believe that creative expression should exist alongside academic writing, creating a synthesis of individuality and rigor. The two present a dialogue that discusses strategies to help consultants balance the emotional labor while navigating their omni-directional roles.

Keywords: empathy, expectations, labor

Empty Spaces that Are Still Full: Reading a Writing Center’s Spaces and Objects through Mediated Discourse Theory

Matthew Bryan

University of Central Florida

This presentation combines reflection on and images of a currently empty writing center in-person space to begin to construct a reading of the center setting as it has existed during this year of pandemic. Mediated discourse theory will be introduced to inform this reading, and this theory’s potential as a heuristic for thinking about the spaces and objects of this particular writing center as well as further inquiry will be explored.

Keywords: activity theory, mediated discourse analysis, place

Connecting to the Curriculum: Embedding the Writing Center into FYC

Lindsay Burke & Natalie Serianni

Cascadia College

This presentation discusses the collaborative relationship that has formed between Cascadia College’s Writing Center and its FYC program as we locate writing tutoring within the curriculum. We will discuss the transformative role of the Writing Center in ENGL&101 through our use of a Writing Center Liaison, Summary Diagnostic Writing Assessment (scored by tutors), and our Embedded Tutoring program in the Pre-College Co-requisite model and ENGL&101. We will share data on student writing and reading behaviors, and how this intentional collaboration between English Faculty and tutors has resulted in more concrete, connected writing support.

Keywords: embedded tutoring, department and disciplinary boundaries, relationships

Analyzing Our Place, Defining Our Space: Practical Assignments for Off-/Online Tutor Engagement

Jessica Clements

Whitworth University

This video essay presents and discusses two consultant education assignments designed to foster critical inquiry into consulting place and space: an (offline) technical description of place and an (online) interface analysis. The video essays describes these two assignments in detail and offers follow-up discussion, considering what has worked well, what could yet be improved, and how the assignments may productively evolve in the future.

Keywords: consultant education, assignment, professional writing

Removing Barriers: Making Space for Code Meshing Beyond Writing Centers

Caroline Conroy

University of Denver

While writing centers are having more conversations about appreciating code meshing within their spaces, writers continue to face harsh assessments in classrooms when their writing does not conform to the standard. To effect change, writing centers need to take action outside of their spaces to carve accepting pathways for code meshing. My presentation video will share results from a preliminary survey which addresses participants outside writing centers, university faculty, to identify barriers in accepting code meshing. The survey results will prompt further questions about strategies to overcome the identified barriers, which is a conversation that will continue beyond this presentation.

Keywords: code-meshing, spaces, languages

Do Students Think We Should Continue to Teach Standard English?

Rebecca Disrud

University of Washington Tacoma

The question of to what extent universities should enforce standard English conventions, if at all, is a pressing one, but the voices of students most affected by decisions either to endorse standard language ideology or to withhold instruction about codes of power are often missing from the discussion. This presentation describes how I redesigned my university’s credit-bearing, quarter-long tutor training course as an inquiry-based investigation into the evidence on language learning, code-meshing, descriptive grammar, and linguistic racism. At the end of the quarter, most students advocated for both continued instruction in standard English and for wider acceptance of language diversity.

Keywords: tutor training course; language diversity; standard language ideology

Maintain, Expand, Adapt: A Virtual Space for All Writers

Taylor Kensel, Lorin Richard, and Matthew Andrews

Eastern Washington University 

At the EWU Writers’ Center, we have maintained, adapted, and evolved our efforts to meet the changing needs of our community through our emerging understanding of space. Our staff of professional writers work tirelessly to expand our writer-centered, idea-focused philosophy by supporting faculty in the instruction of writing and those in need of resources and by offering individual sessions for those who seek not only writing assistance but a point of contact and a confidante during this time of uncertainty and crisis. We hope to share our process with the larger academic community.

Keywords: maintain, expand, adapt

A Beginner's Guide On How to Prevent Tutor Burnout

Jeffery Liao

University of Washington Bothell

Burnout occurs when a tutor works under high stress for long periods of time and feels little or no sense of accomplishment. Inexperienced tutors were concerned adjusting to work culture and administrative tasks. Experienced tutors were typically exhausted by trying to maintain work-school-life balance and mentoring responsibilities. Tutor-leaders frequently cited a lack of personal resources and were the most likely group to be burned out. Neurological changes included an enlarged amygdala and the thinning of the frontal cortex, both of which result in a weakened ability to control negative emotion and decision making. To combat burnout and prevent tutors from experiencing detrimental neurological changes, writing center administrators can foster employee resilience through a stress management toolkit.

Keywords: burnout, tutoring, prevention

Mapping a Borderlands Writing Center

Randall Monty

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

This project has three objectives: First, map the distance between two writing centers at a single institution, the pathways that students take on each campus, the interior designs of those spaces, and the proximities of these centers to locations of contemporary political exigence. Then, these nodes and networks are analyzed through a comprehensive framework that incorporates concepts of Borderlands/La Frontera, Deafspace, entanglement, experiential landscapes, and articulation. Lastly, the borderlands writing center is theorized as a response to the effects of institutional hegemony in higher education.

Keywords: border, deafspace, HSI

It is about the Writer and the Writing: Making Spaces Conducive to Learning

Carlos Munoz & Gail Forsgreen

Eastern Washington University 

This presentation discusses strategies the EWU Writers’ Center uses to make writers feel welcome, safe, and brave to explore meaningful learning experiences and take risks in building collaborative relationships. Drawing from motivational scaffolding and politeness theories, the presenters will discuss integrating rapport building into consultant training, student surveys, policies, and programs. Additionally, the presenters will speak of how the success of their rapport-building efforts has led to the development of the Writing Fellows Program, Conversation Group, and first-year emerging writing sessions.

Keywords: motivational scaffolding, building rapport, space and learning experience

Challenges of Online Tutoring in a Diverse Environment

Teresa Nguyen & David Leontiev

Highline College

When the pandemic hit last year, writing centers were forced to move onto the online format. This transition was not painless; there are still shortcomings to online tutoring such as loss of effectiveness and reach of the session. Since we (the two presenters) were trained online, we do not have experience with in-person tutoring. We plan to ask other tutors who have experience with both formats to find some of the differences, as well as find methods that other tutors can utilize to help in their practices. 

Keywords: online, effectiveness, diversity

Back to… Normal?: Lessons from a year online as we prepare to return to our centers

Jackson Schroyer, Hannah Utter, Brianna Halter, and Brooklyn Walter

Washington State University

Reflection of our work is critical as we continue to offer support to our students during this remote time. Reflection is also necessary for figuring out how we navigate a “new normal” going forward in the future. This presentation will focus on an analysis and discussion of the work we’re doing currently, how that differs in shape and form from what we were once able to do, and how we may find ways to incorporate a blend of these two worlds into our future practices.

Keywords: reflect, analyze, strategize