From Clinic to Center

I will start my job as the Coordinator of the Writing Center in 17 days. Though my life will become significantly busier then (I will still be teaching summer courses at another college that I was assigned before accepting this position, so I will be working 40 hours and teaching 2 writing courses), I find I can’t wait—which I’m sure you couldn’t tell from my countdown to start this post. Part of the excitement comes just from gaining more stability. I had a meeting to discuss my benefits package the other day; I’m going to have dental insurance again! Yet, most of my excitement stems from the position itself. I’ve been reading books and articles about writing centers, started creating a strategic plan for the Center (and Googling what goes into a strategic plan), and planning future projects.

Recently I was reading Elizabeth Boquet’s Noise from the Writing Center and her first chapter examines the importance of naming the location where we work (writing lab vs. writing clinic vs. writing center). The writing center that I will take charge of is called “The Writing Center,” yet from my experience there as a tutor previously, I feel many on campus treat it more like a Writing Clinic—this is where students should be sent if they have the ailment of poor writing. My goal is to move away from this clinic ethos and towards more of a center ethos, as in central and integral to the entire campus. Our Writing Center has the fortune to be located in a central part of campus, though I know in its beginnings shop was set up in a trailer on the outskirts of campus. Despite this central location, however, the Center feels a bit on the periphery right now. I haven’t gotten a chance to look at all the numbers in depth, but from causal glances at semester reports, the center gets used often (potentially too often, but that’s a discussion for another day) by a core group of students and  not too many others. As can be expected the bulk of users come from the first-year writing course. I hope in my time as coordinator to help the Center become more central and more widely used and appreciated by students and faculty alike.

Now, none of what I’ve said here is in any way novel; in fact, it echoes many of the discussions about writing centers from their creation to now. I’ve read other writing center professionals articulating these same ideas. However, now I am about to experience them for myself. So though my future posts may not break any ground in terms of writing center theory, scholarship, practice, etc., I find it helpful to articulate my thoughts. I often tell my students that one of the best aspects of writing is that it helps you clarify your own thinking because you have to put it into words and express it in a way that someone outside of you can understand. That’s what I see myself doing in these blog posts. Now I may come across an idea that is new (or at least newish) that could lead to a project, article, or, God help me, even my dissertation, but I can’t promise anything. I just invite any readers of this blog to experience with me the joys and challenges of running a writing a center from one who is doing it for the first time.

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