Kiera’s MiWCA Experience

On October 21, 2017, I had my first experience presenting at the 22nd Michigan Writing Center Association Conference for Ideas Exchange at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. My proposal for the conference was about working with Multilingual students in the Writing Center at different locations. Specifically, my partner Christian Lambren, a graduate student in Student Affairs, and I were interested in finding how space and community, body-language, and proximity (regarding structural elements ex: seating arrangements) in the WC rooms on campus affected consultations with Multilingual Students. I grew interest in researching such a multifaceted topic from working in the Writing Center on campus in different locations for a total 5 semesters! Most of my consultations included new, and returning determined Multilingual writers who were interested in understanding how to improve grammar errors, and/or how to interpret an assignment to prove they followed the instructions correctly. I never felt more connected with any other academic community other than the Writing Center at MSU because of the inclusiveness of its spaces on campus, and the approachable, supportive team of the writing consultants in each respective location.

To answer the research question: How does space and community, body-language/movement, and proximity (structural elements of a space) affect consultations with Multilingual students in different WC locations? Christian, and I prepared a survey to analyze the attitudes and beliefs of consultants in the main WC location on campus, Bessey Hall, the location where we both currently work, Holden Hall, and labeled the last category, “A different satellite location”. The results indicated that there were 26 consultants who participated and gave feedback on the survey we created using Qualtrics survey monkey. The questions asked consultants to give feedback for each category: 2 questions on community and space, 1 about location, 2 of best practices, and finally, 2 questions asking for feedback on the workshop MSU’s WC prepared for the last conference (MiWCA 2016).

Furthermore, preparing and finding time to allot for this research study was challenging, but worth the commitment. Christian, and I loosely divided the responsibilities for the presentation according to who had time to do what, while also meeting to discuss and sort through our findings because we both were often occupied with school, and work schedules. I am anticipating graduation in May 2018 for Professional Writing with the College of Arts and Letters at MSU. Presenting at the 22nd Michigan Writing Center Association Conference has been a great professional experience where I was extremely thrilled to meet and network with many faculty and staff from other college Writing Centers in Michigan. The students of Oakland University were so welcoming, I immediately felt a part of the community while presenting, and watching other presentations during my visit. In the future, I hope to continue studying more of best practices while working with Multilingual students.

Written by Kiera Williams

Join Us For The Digital And Multimodal Lab!

 

Are you making videos, slide presentations, or websites? The multimodal lab can help! We offer: 

  • Assistance on any type of digital composition, including videos, slide presentations, or websites
  • Guiding questions to help aid digital composition, like: Who is your audience? What and how is the text doing what it’s supposed to be doing? How does this mode afford or constrain this message?
  • Assistance in creating accessible digital texts through captions, transcripts, and design compatible with screen reader technology
  • Assistance in usability testing of websites

How to use our services: 

  • BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
  • Visit writing.msu.edu then “Schedule an Appointment”
  • Sign in and select Digital and Multimodal Lab for the location. All consultations will be held in the Writing Center location in Bessey 300.
  • Select a convenient appointment time
  • Bring your digital text to the appointment

Digital and Multimodal Lab dates:

  • Sunday, November 5 from 5-8pm
  • Tuesday, November 7 from 5-8pm
  • Wednesday, Novemer 8 from 5-8pm
  • Sunday, December 3 from 5-8pm
  • Tuesday, December 5 from 5-8pm
  • Wednesday, December 6 from 5-8pm

 

Writing Centers and Multilingual Learners (A Review of MiWCA)

At the 2017 MiWCA conference, Cristian Lambaren and Kiera Williams presented on the affect and effect of the Writing Center space on multilingual learners seeking assistance from writing center tutors at the MSU Bessey writing center and its 5 subsequent satellite hubs. This panel showed that while clients like the welcoming feel of the Bessey writing center, it seems busy, having a lot of miscellaneous objects around that are not or do not seem conducive to writing or giving one impetus to write. However, clients were similarly critical of the satellites décor, noting they were bare, lacking, and without any accoutrements to help relax writers. While this difference is stark, and in large part due to how the neighborhood satellites are contracted out to the writing center, it is clear that multilingual clients conclude that each writing center space, no matter which one they attend, lacks balance. As such, the MSU writing center should begin to think of ways to balance the look and feel of the writing center across both its main hub and its subsequent satellite locations.

Written by Wonderful Faison, PhD Candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant in Writing, Rhetoric, & American Cultures (WRAC)

Community Engaged Scholarship Invites You to Join Them

 

Community Engaged Scholarship Writing Retreat–Oct 6 & 7

https://engage.msu.edu/learn/learning/writing-retreat

Community Engaged Scholarship Write-Ins–Oct 7, Nov 4, Dec 2

https://engage.msu.edu/learn/learning/write-ins

Community Engaged Teaching and Learning: Getting Started–Oct 14

An Interview with Our New Associate Director, Joseph Cheatle, PhD

I took a few moments to sit down with the new associate director of the Writing Center@MSU, Joseph Cheatle. What follows is a brief snippet of who Joe is, why he came to this writing center, and what he envisions for the writing center, as well as the productive tensions created between the interviewer,  and the interviewee, Joe.

WF: “Well, Joe, I guess the first question I want to ask you is what do we call you? You’re a man with three names. I’ve heard you called Joe, Joseph, and Joey, so which do you prefer?”

JC: “Actually, I respond to them all…. Joseph is my professional name, and when I was a child, I was called Joey. So any of them is fine. I don’t mind.”

WF: “So, as you know, writing centers are commonly known as a space commonly associated with women in terms of who are commonly employed as tutors and administrators. So, I gotta ask, what draws you to not only Writing Centers, but the MSU Writing Center in particular?”

JC: “One of the things that really draws me to writing centers is its ability to help people and it’s something meaningful… And as far as it being a gendered space, I don’t think we have to gender it female just because it’s a warm, welcoming space… where students are made to feel comfortable… its a place where people want to help each other.”

WF: “So this idea of comfortability perpetuates, at times very problematically– it’s kind of a grand narrative of writing centers being comfortable, homey, all of these things. Without even dissecting or going into that, that always seems to me to be a response to what education is and what teaching is? What does a comfortable education provide or is the writing center just masking that education is daunting and that to learn, to achieve, to excel is not an easy process? Is the writing center just a masking agent for that? Or can the writing center create changes?”

JC: “I’m drawn to the writing center not because I think education should be comfortable, but because it can help a student be more independent and give them the skills to be able to learn in this atmosphere.”

WF: “Sounds good. Let’s shift gears a bit. I want to know how you see the MSU writing center enacting this change and giving students the skills they need to navigate writing assignments?”

JC: “I think just where the main WC is located. We’re at the center of campus. It gives us a chance to really enact change in the university… this is where writing centers are hopefully headed and this is where writing centers should be headed. It should be a place where staff and faculty are coming to the writing center asking for our help in their classes and really trying to work to improve student learning.”

After understanding why Joe was drawn to the MSU Writing Center and what he envisioned a writing center could do, I wanted to know whom he thought the writing center should employ, noting, “I’m asking because you know I’m always concerned with diversity.”

JC: “Well, I think you’re looking at racial diversity, which is good. I think we need more disciplinary diversity.”

WF: “Oh, so like, the STEM disciplines?”

JC: “Exactly.”

Originally, this alternate view of diversity (varied disciplines, like STEM) unnerved me because was, variation is not the same as diversity . One can get a vast amount of people from the hard and soft sciences and still a racial, ethnic, and gender bias will persist as historically, these disciplines are still populated by upper middle class white men.  However, the writing center does lack tutors from the STEM disciplines and this lack does need to be filled due to the vast amount of student we have in STEM who take classes such as IAH (Integrated Arts and Humanities). As such, we both agree that a concerted effort to employ people within STEM disciplines as well as POC and other marginalized bodies who major in STEM disciplines would both enrich and diversify the writing center..

I asked Joe what was one thing he wanted tutors and staff to know about him above all else. He sat back thoughtfully, placed his hand to his chin and said, “I just want people to know I’m here and I’m here to help our tutors, staff, and students.”

LCC/MSU Invitational Putt-Putt: Register HERE

It’s that time of year when fall is seeping into the morning air and the afternoons are typically sunny and bright. Before long, we’ll all be in our respective centers helping writers find their way around academic and other styles of writing. It can be a stressful time.

Relieve some stress by signing up for the LCC/MSU Invitational Putt-Putt Tournament. Details: September 17th from 11:00 to 1:00 pm at the Hawk Hollow Golf Course. Teams of four are necessary for signing up, and there is a $10.00 per person charge. Food and Drink will be provided and registration ENDS on Sept 10th.

To register, click Here

Musical Scores for When You’re Sick of Instrumental Music

Last semester we Koalas wrote a series of posts about our work and study playlists. At the time we had a conversation about listening to instrumental music and how it was particularly helpful for my fellow Koalas when studying to quiet the mind or get the juices flowing or inhibit the jitter juices or…something. Maybe it’s because I fall asleep to the sweet sounds of a James Newton Howard mashup playlist—and have for two years—but the very idea put me right to sleep. I prefer lyrics and beats and catchy music from the radio.

But three quarters of the way through my first semester of grad school, something happened. I’m used to being surrounded by noise, but noise of a particular variety (namely those of children at all decibels). Suddenly, come November, all of the new noises in my life felt like they were culminating in Just. Too. Much. Even the commute I take up to MSU felt way too loud.

Classical music, although awesomesauce, still doesn’t work for me when studying. I needed something that contains drama and sound but without human voices. Recently, I’ve found myself listening to the Hunger Games musical scores (yet again, James Newton Howard saves the day). I like these soundtracks because there are four of them so I get some variety, they are familiar enough that I can tune in and out of particular songs at will, and they can be, when I need them to be, unobtrusive. I am familiar enough with the movies that they keep me engaged in a low stakes kind of way. So while these particular scores might not work for you, I would recommend digging up the musical score of a favorite movie or two and giving them a test drive while studying.

 

How to Survive Your Next Cover Letter Experience

It’s cover letter season. Most of us, if we haven’t already, are scrambling around to secure an internship or job for the summer, and unfortunately, this means that all of our (abundance of) free time is spent writing (or avoiding) cover letters. To help you with your job or internship search, here are a few tips to make the dreaded cover letter writing process a little less painful.

  • Do your research. Before writing any cover letter, be sure to check out the company’s website, social media pages, and any other relevant sources. Take notes on the company’s main functions, values, and beliefs. Look back at your notes when you’re done. What does this company want in an employee? Incorporate this information into your cover letter and argue that you are the best fit for their company. Hiring managers will be impressed by your knowledge of the company, and this makes you stand out among other candidates.
  • Find a real person to address your letter to. Search LinkedIn or the company’s website to find the name of a human resources manager or recruiter. Addressing your letter to one of these people is more personal than addressing it to the hiring manager or hiring committee. It also shows that you’ve done your research.
  • Pull out key words from the job posting and integrate them into your letter. I like to print out job ads, pull out my favorite colorful pen, and then scribble all over the ad, circling words and phrases that describe traits and skills that I have. Pointing out the specific ways I fit the job description helps me organize my professional experience and write about it in a way that fits the job I’m applying for. Including key phrases from the job posting in your cover letter shows that you’ve paid careful attention to the position’s duties and roles within the organization.
  • Write a new cover letter for every job. Companies will recognize a cookie cutter cover letter right when they see it. Instead, customize your letter to fit the position and company you’re applying for. Mention specific information about their company and the position. This shows hiring managers that you’ve put in the time and effort to write a cover letter catered directly to their needs.

These suggestions cover only the tip of the iceberg. For more advice, visit careernetwork.msu.edu. And don’t forget—we’re always available to help at the Writing Center!

Decolonize This! Writing as Embodied Double Consciousness

Often in the writing center tutors are trained, as are many students, that writing is an object—both a product and that which must be produced. The arguments over “good” and “bad” writing are arguments based on neoliberal capitalist discourses surrounding the selling and consuming of texts, be they written, digital, or multimodal. Therefore, “good” writing is writing that can be produced for the purposes of selling it to consumers (academics, the public, and so on). While writing is a product and does serve a larger capitalist goal, writing is not only a product. Writing is not only an object, but an action—a type of cultural practice and way of doing. Though these cultural practices of academic writing is deeply tied to classed (upper-middle-class) and raced (white) assumptions and ideologies, this cultural practice is a useful discourse to learn and one that is taken on or embodied in scholars neither identifying as upper middle class or white. It is in this embodiment—this “putting on of the White Hat”—that I argue a feeling of double consciousness is created that is or could be portrayed in writing or in the works of those writing from the margins.

For many scholars of color, this elitist academic discourse creates a type of double consciousness within writing, where they question: To whom am I writing if not my own? For what purposes am I writing if not for those not in the academy? To which community should I speak when I write and to what discourse community do I need to preference, suppress, or speak across equally? These questions are not outside writers’ heads when they write. We cannot automatically silence the discourses—of teachers, tutors, parents, friends, employers and employees—that tell us what acceptable writing is and what it is not, and while one can (and many do) argue that standard writing is nothing but a rejection of discourses of resistance, e.g. Black Language and Rhetoric, Working-Class Rhetoric, Queer Rhetoric, and so on, these rejections create an embodied response. This effect can cause a state of double consciousness that can present in clients as “I don’t know how to say this the way the teacher wants. Help me say what I want the way they want” to “Why do I have to write about Keeping Up with the Kardashians as a representation of American culture? I’m an American. I live in America. That’s not my life.”

I could ask the conventional question of how we should train students to answer these questions and others like them in a relatively short writing center consultation (a question of time)? However, I want to ask by what means should tutors be trained to address the colonizing practice of academic writing, its purpose in neutralizing discourses from communities deemed undesirable, as well as its democratic functions? Moreover, what tools do tutors need to teach clients rhetorical disguises which would “involve using dominant codes of language in expected ways, to speak and write in ways that might otherwise appear to be covering or assimilating to white standards of conduct” (Denny, 2010, p. 54)? How can the embodied experience of navigating double consciousness, not only in writing but also in the public arena, be useful in teaching clients ways to counteract such psychological damage within their writing?