The Grand Finale: A Special Interview with the Women of Content Koalas—with Laura Allen, Rachael LeFevre, Rachel Little, Allegra Smith & Wonderful Faison

Throughout this interview series on Women of the Writing Center, I, Wonderful Faison, have attempted to give you a glimpse into the lives, motivations, struggles, and disruptions of many of the women of the Writing Center @ Michigan State University. In these final interviews, I hope to show why the women of Content Koalas (the team of students who write and publish blog posts on the Writing Center website) find the work they do in this group valuable to themselves, the Writing Center, and Michigan State University.

Why did you decide to join Content Koalas?

As undergraduate consultant Laura Allen puts it the one reason she joined is “it looked like fun. I thought it was interesting. I like personal writing, though I never do it and this would make me do some stuff and write some things. I forgot about joining but Zeke [Ezekiel Choffel] reminded me.”

Graduate coordinator Rachel Little agrees with Laura, but notes, “[graduate consultant] Anna Green signed me up to do it with her. We thought it was fun to do. Also [Professional Writing alumna] Katie McAlpine said this was helpful for my career.”

When I spoke with undergraduate consultant Rachael LeFevre, the motivation to join Content Koalas was twofold: she loves writing and she’s “seen the posts that are on the website. It is cool to have consultants view out there and to show our personalities. Show people we are people too. And its cool we can express that.”

For Allegra, our editor and media coordinator, her motivations were slightly different as she says, “I kind of had to be the media coordinator. Trixie approached me because [former media coordinator] Casey Miles was transitioning into the classroom to teach. I was her first choice because of my background in professional writing.  I realize how much mentorship is involved” and how “that adds to your CV and how can we balance your CV line with what you want to write.”

For the interviewer (Wonderful Faison), she “mainly joined because Allegra asked me if I wanted to get involved. I told her I had no qualms about doing it on one condition. I needed to be Black. In other words, I did not want my words, ideas, and thoughts whitewashed into some kind of academic [white] noise that didn’t sound like me and was not, in any way a representation of who I am, who I care about, and what/whom I research. Allegra was amenable to these ‘demands,’ so joining was easy.”

Why do you find the work Content Koalas does valuable?

Laura is all about community, specifically she is about building community “among co-workers, consultants, and clients. I also think for the staff site, it is good to have a safe place for consultants to talk to one another. The main site allows us to be more humanized and transparent.” For example, “I am talking about conferences I am doing. It allows people into my life.”

Rachael LeFevre sees the work we do as valuable “for clients. Stuff you might not get in consultations.” It’s an “expansion of ideas clients are learning in these spaces, and it caters to specific audiences – some catered to the average student which is important.”

Rachel Little believes that the Content Koalas are valuable because “it is a way to try and contact other people to show them that we actually have a personality. It helps Helps us balance ourselves. For me, it is a great way to practice having deadlines and dealing with an editor. I can practice managing multi-pieces within strange time constraints.”

Allegra sees the value of Content Koalas on a more macro level as she believes “we do important work because we engage with a variety of different audiences. Students are divided into so many different groups and subcultures (international, freshman, non-traditional student, etc) not even beginning to touch faculty, staff, community and local stakeholders. Koalas are important because I like the work we do around grammar, editing and different writing genres. If they recognize we are collaborative and how we can help them then they may come in for more help. The Koalas put a public face on the WC.”

As the interviewer, and as a Black lesbian disabled body in the writing center, I am used to being looked over, passed over, voiceless, or my opinions and ideas patronizingly assuaged within the academy. In other words, I am used to being unheard. What Content Koalas has done for me is show me how valuable my voice is within an academic space, and for that I am forever grateful.

What would you like to see Content Koalas do in the future?

Laura wishes we had more conversations, and says “I think it would be cool to have more of a dialogue with the posts we do. I am not sure how it can be done, but it would be great if we could find a way to create conversations with the pieces we have.”

While Laura would like more conversation, Rachael LeFevre would like more exposure. “I would like us to post more frequently. I think many people don’t know we have a blog on our website.” She wishes Content Koalas could find ways to “better advertise our blog and make people more aware.” She would like Content Koalas to “think more about our audience and how we can get them to read some stuff.”

Rachel Little is already thinking about what we can start doing in the Spring 2015 semester, saying we should “do a book blog like Sparknotes did where we are blogging about every chapter we read, which can be amusing. That is something we could do together.”

In line with Laura, Rachel and Rachael, Allegra “would like us to produce a greater volume of posts, particularly quick reads/guides that are easily sharable. Things with multi-media. Things that can be directed back to the WC site and engage people we do not typically engage.” If we do this, “I think our staff will grow and become more diverse, which is good.”

As the interviewer for this series, I would like to see Content Koalas disrupt more spaces—blow them up if we have to. Anyone that knows me knows two things about me: I am in a constant state of pissed-offedness and if I ain’t pissed off, I’m ’bout to be. No, this is not an angry Black woman rant. What I mean to say and suggest is that Content Koalas get dirty and go into those spaces we, as a group and as a writing center, have dared not venture. We need to ask the tough questions and attempt to find answers. I am but one person, but I would like my fellow Koala members to ask and hopefully address the issues that are present both within the Writing Center and the academy. I mean, isn’t that what we’re here for? To challenge existing norms and constructs that conflict, consume, and bind us all?

How has Content Koalas given you a voice?

For Laura, knowing her voice and work would be in a public forum helped her “think deeper about what I wanted to say. And I like that we get a chance to pause and think about what we are doing. It gives us a voice to talk about things we didn’t even want to talk about.” Rachael LeFevre says that Content Koalas allows “me to express myself. It is also an outlet as well.”

While Laura and Rachael discuss how doing work for content Koalas allows them to express themselves and really think about what they want to say, the Koalas have allowed Rachel Little, who is naturally shy, to slowly push herself “to speak out more and do more of the things I am interested in doing.”

At times Allegra feels she doesn’t really have a voice because of her managerial role in the Koalas, but she also believes that “mentoring and coaching individual Koalas through the content drafting , revising, and publishing process has helped develop me as a teacher, mentor and listener. Attempting to align it with the mission and the needs of the Writing Center” is “a balancing act.  So when someone comes in with  a unique standpoint on race, womanism, and ethnicity I can help work that into post. It’s not about my voice, but more about helping people make connections and see opportunities to broadcast their unique voice on the platform. The Koalas are the stars—I just manage them.”

As the interviewer, the Koalas have given me voice by letting me be me. I have played the academic game, and I have toed more lines than I can stomach, and while yes, the game and the toeing of the line must continue to occur, at least in some contexts, Koalas has, in its own way allowed me to break free. It has allowed me to “play” throughout this series on the Women of the Writing Center. My only hope is that this not only gave me voice, but also gave voice to those who once believe or still believe they are voiceless.

Is there anything you want Content Koalas to change (Content, practices, deadlines, etc.)?

Laura is still on the community tip and says ,“More conversation. Conversations give people incentive. Faculty engaging in conversation creates a culture where we are talking to each other. Content Koalas can be integral in building this community. What would it mean to do a client series?”

Rachael LeFevre has questions about the name of the group, noting that “the name: we have to do something with it. We also need a more strict editorial calendar. I work better with a schedule. Strict deadlines would be something to improve on.” When it comes to strict deadlines, Rachel Little agrees, suggesting that we need “a slightly more rigid deadline schedule that we can implement and plan our posts out easier, so we don’t feel like we’re behind. We need to have an idea how to plan our time.”

Allegra also agrees with the idea that something must be done with the Koalas’ name. “An acronym for Koalas would be awesome,” but additionally “I want more voices and more engagement. I would like more running columns like the ‘Women in the Writing Center’ series. I would like to establish a distinct voice for Koalas. I’m looking at more ways we can go viral or be shared across the MSU campus community, but I enjoy the direction the team has. I definitely do not have to pull teeth to get ideas. Everyone seems to have a mission.”

As the interviewer, I would like more diverse bodies to join the Koalas. By diverse bodies, I mean different races, sexualities, abilities, etc. I cannot, nor should I be the only one talking about issues of race, ethnicity, and womanism in the writing center. There are other voices who have different ideas about these very issues. Also, what is with the name of this group? Yes, Koalas are cute, not doubt. But really, what does it mean? What does a Koala have to do with content? I agree with Allegra, maybe we just need an acronym and then it would all make a bit more sense.

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