31 Questions with Grace Pregent, Director of the Writing Center | AMA Series

Grace in a yellow t-shirt shirt with green sunglasses on her head in front of Lake Agnes in Banff National Park
  1. What’s your favorite color?

Black is the best color! The Pantone matching system has multiple black colors, so specifically, I’d say 19-0303 in the Pantone textile system. My partner works in digital color management, meaning we take this question seriously. 

  1. What is something that is a sure way to brighten your day?

 I’m an outdoor enthusiast, and I’m continually looking for ways to do writing center work in nature and appreciate when we have meetings outside or write outside. We used to have a WC group that ran together on Fridays, and I’d love to get that going again.

  1. What kind of pets do you have?

Currently our family includes an English Shepherd – Golden Retriever named Molly and a black cat named Riley. Chris would have goats if he could, and the kids would have horses, iguanas, and a pygmy hippo who would sleep on the top bunk bed.

  1. What is a personal or professional goal you have for 2024?

This year I’m training for the Chicago Marathon, and I’m hoping for a strong race and a fun weekend with the running community. Professionally, I’m working with colleagues from the US, South Africa, and Uganda on an edited collection about writing centers in global contexts. That’s the project churning in my mind this year.

  1. What are some activities you enjoy outside of writing center work?

 I like to lift, kayak, travel, and check out new restaurants in Grand Rapids. This year I’m reading more fiction and have 50 books as my goal (17.5/50 so far). Recommendations are very welcome.

  1. What is your most used running routine?

We live close to the Flat River Valley Trail in Lowell, Michigan, and I’ve run that many times with friends, family, and the kids biking along.

  1. How did you and your partner meet?

 Unsurprisingly, Chris and I met when we were both training for the Grand Rapids Marathon in 2016. We tried to run that marathon together, but it was a bit of a disaster. That’s another story though.

  1. What’s an expensive item you would splurge on if you had all of the money in the world?

I would definitely splurge on a fun family trip! Professionally I would invest in scholarships for students wanting to study in other countries – both US students and students traveling to the US – to create more reciprocal education abroad opportunities.

  1. If you could have a coffee date with anyone from history, who would you want to chat with?

I have some questions for George Eliot. 

  1. What’s your go-to coffee order?

Starbucks, Grande Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew

  1. What is your favorite novel?

Does a short story collection count? Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri was the first book I read this year, and it’s a fabulous gathering of portraits of life in and around contemporary Rome from multiple perspectives.

  1. In an alternative reality, what would Grace be doing if not directing a writing center?

Grace might own or manage a small business of some kind. I like understanding organizations as living organisms with interrelated people and parts who work towards a common set of goals. I could also happily work for Airbnb.

  1. What advice would you give your undergrad self?

Relax, Grace.

  1. What’s your favorite (or top few) book or other media?

 Recently I finished listening to Care Work again, and I learn more every time I read and dialogue with friends about that work. Everything Everywhere All At Once is my current favorite film.

  1. How did you get involved with care work of the North Country Trail?

During the pandemic, we learned that NCT headquarters is in our hometown. We signed up for the Hike 100 Challenge in 2020 and then slowly hiked those miles, usually 2 or 4 miles at a time, as a family. I was elected to the local board chapter the following year.

  1. What do you find rewarding about this work?

The NCT means so much to me and my family and was just what we needed in 2020. It’s really rewarding to be involved in planning community hikes, work days, guest speaker events, and other opportunities to “develop, maintain, protect, and promote” the NCT, the longest National Scenic Trail in America (4800 miles).

  1. Has your understanding of how race and racism shape the functioning of Writing Centers changed throughout your time/various roles within WCs? If so, how?

My understanding of how race and racism shape writing centers continually evolves along with my own ongoing learning/unlearning. Within MSU’s Writing Center, we frequently consider how our center is part of a predominately white institution and exists within structures that perpetuate racism and that the writing center itself as an organization can cause and has caused harm. We also know that writing centers are uniquely positioned to contribute to social and institutional transformation. I do believe that through partnerships around writing we can work towards change on so many levels, and I’m here for that work together.

  1. What is a skill you would like to strengthen?

We’re all balancing so many things. With commuting, running, work, and family, I enjoy finding new or different time management tools and strategies. Also in the Writing Center, we speak about omnidirectional mentorship or pervasive cultures of mentorship, and I’d like to strengthen how we understand and implement that with our team.

  1. Have you ever gone on a solo trip? If so, where?

 I’ve done a few solo trips and have great memories of a long weekend in Paris in my early 20s. A university partnership summit brought me to Pretoria, South Africa, last year, and that was an incredible experience. I would love to do a solo backpacking trip on the NCT.

  1. In thinking about what a Director of a WC does on a large and small scale, is there anything that the role requires that you weren’t necessarily expecting? If there is, what experience do you feel like best prepared you or that you draw from the most to address that requirement?

When I was moving into writing center administration, I remember learning what “emotional labor” is and finally having the language to describe it. There’s an expanding amount of research on emotional labor in writing center work (thinking The Things We Carry and many other sources) and creating your own care networks or care webs. I’m always learning more about being a writing center director, and I am so grateful for colleagues with different positions within the writing center, our college (shoutout to CAL staff!), the university, and the field who share their knowledge, expertise, and time.

  1. What would you say is one of your top strengths?

 According to the Clifton strengths assessment, my top five strengths are Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Futuristic, and Connectedness. Clifton should probably include “finding great Airbnbs” as a strength.

  1. What are your thoughts on Generation Z?

 Broadly I think making generalizations about groups of people based on when they were born perpetuates stereotypes and harmful or inaccurate assumptions.

  1. What are you looking forward to in the coming months?

 I love summers in MSU’s Writing Center, and we have two associate directors joining the team shortly. I’m really looking forward to working with them and our summer team on special projects. I’m also excited to run in warmer weather and spend some late afternoons at Lake Michigan.

  1. If you could instantly become an expert in something, what would it be?

 I would love to know more languages and to know more about moss because we have so much to learn from moss. Lastly, I would very reluctantly say Excel because it would be useful. So languages, moss, Excel.

  1. What do you like most about being a parent?

 So many things. I really like hearing all their current interests and dreams for the future. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed going on their field trips, and lately we’re big into puzzles and using the Merlin Bird ID app to learn about the birds in our backyard.

  1. What’s the longest trip you’ve ever taken?

My longest flight is from Johannesburg to Atlanta (16+ hours). I did a few epic road trips with friends in college. We drove from Dallas to Ottawa for my brother’s wedding and from near DC to Denver to visit with my sister and her family.

  1. What’s the most memorable gift you’ve received?

 If we’re thinking of material gifts, I’d say a push broom when I was 8 years old. Otherwise the gifts that come to mind are when people share their time like when friends show up to cheer at a race. I’m recalling a visit with a friend and colleague when traveling for a conference and how she made time to show me her city, share coffee, and romp around Woolworths.  

  1. What is your love language?

Quality time – see answer above!

  1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

The kids say fun, happy, and “sometimes funny.” I like to think that I’m athletic, thoughtful, and more than just “sometimes” funny.

  1. What’s your biggest pet peeve?

This might be the hardest question. I’d say probably aggressive drivers but maybe when the toilet paper roll isn’t replaced.

  1. If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I eat an excessive amount of salmon. Truly. I really resonate with those brown bears stocking up on salmon in July and August. It’s so good.