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News from the Writing Center: Impact, Outreach, Research

by Doug Hesse

Even in temporary quarters during the Penrose renovation, under the leadership of Dr. Eliana Schonberg, the University Writing Center increased its consultations in 2011-2012, conducting 3,658 individual appointments with 1,785 different students. About half were graduate students, about half undergraduates. A greater percentage of undergrads than in previous years were sophomores and seniors, suggesting that the Center is increasingly valuable to students in majors courses. (Numbers of junior-year writers remain lower due to the number of those students who study abroad.)

Spring in pink and grey on DU campus

Beyond tutorial consultations, Center staff (including Schonberg and eight Writing Program faculty) conducted 84 one hour in-class workshops, a substantial increase from previous years. These workshops provided additional instruction for approximately 500 undergraduate and 325 graduate students. Prior to each event, two Writing Program faculty consulted at length with the inviting faculty member, then designed a fitting activity.

The Center also conducted 32 brief class introductions of its services to students and faculty. We also presented at orientation events for the Graduate School of Social Work, the Daniels College of Business, the Morgridge College of Education, the Korbel School of International Studies, as well as all of the International House orientations for incoming international students and graduate student and orientation events during Discoveries Week.

New in 2012 are student writing groups. Originated by Center consultants, the groups provide a forum for students to share work in progress and get feedback from peer writers. While their format may best suit students working on long projects like graduate theses or research projects, they're open to all interested writers. Some groups are discipline specific; some are open; some are facilitated by Center staff, some are self-organized. For more information, see the Writing Groups web page.

The Center is conducting two research projects of note. One is an ongoing joint study with Kansas State University and Pomona College on the strategies and processes that students transfer from individual consultations to other writing settings. With financial support from the writing program, two DU graduate student consultants, Kanika Agrawal and Rachel Dunleavy, are presenting findings from that research at the International Writing Centers Conference in San Diego on October 26.

Second, the Writing Center is starting an extensive project researching the impact of its work by surveying graduating seniors and recent DU alumni. Following that phase in the spring of 2013, the project will conduct interviews with selected participants.

Led by Dr. Schonberg and Assistant Director Dr. Juli Parrish, the Writing Center is staffed by several Writing Lecturers and 22 student consultants, each of whom complete a graduate level course in writing center theory, research, and pedagogy. While seven of these consultants are PhD students in English, the remainder represent a range of disciplines, both graduate and undergraduate, including business, international studies, sociology, economics, and religious studies.