If you thought the CU Denver Writing Center was the perfect place to get help with your next essay, you’d be right. But it’s also a community of CU Denver faculty and students committed to innovating how we think about writing and writing centers.
The Writing Center is a student resource dedicated to providing all students with opportunities to enhance their lives and careers through higher education. They do so by empowering student writers through collaborative discussion and instruction. In the spirit of enhancement, Writing Center Director Justin Bain, MPhil, encourages his writing consultants to submit presentation proposals for the annual Colorado and Wyoming Writing Tutors Conference (CWWTC). Bain has been president of the CWWTC association for two years.
The conference is an annual opportunity to promote connection and communication among among writing centers, tutors, staff, instructors, faculty and directors. Hosted at Regis University this year, attendees spent the day attending panels and roundtable discussions on topics related to writing center pedagogy and practice.
This year’s conference theme was “Reimagining and Negotiating Student Success.” Discussions and panels asked attendees to think about how they define student success and then challenged them to reimagine it in light of the changing dynamics of higher education. Conference conversation further asked how issues such as diversity and student trauma can complicate our definition of success.
“I think it is important for consultants at the Writing Center to be involved in their field and discipline beyond working with students in the center,” Bain said. “CWWTC and other such conferences provide the opportunity for consultants to be involved, to learn what other writing centers and other consultants are working on, to gain professional development experience, and to meet colleagues in the field.”
Highlights from the conference
CU Denver was represented by 18 of its writing consultants as well as Bain, Assistant Director Drew Bixby and Writing Center Coordinator Caitrin Blake. Topics ranged from the first-generation experience in higher education to the importance of resilience as a platform for learning.
In a roundtable format, CU Denver alumnus Taylor Kirby, BA, and Steven Vigil-Roach, a student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, explored how the first-generation student population has evolved and how writing centers can grow to meet the needs of this dynamic population.
“Students who are first generation need to have a community support system in order to succeed in the university setting,” Kirby said. “That support begins by assessing what their unique needs are today and generating new tools to help them overcome challenges (and celebrate successes) as their population evolves.”
Consultants Bekah Wright, EdM, MA, Angela Bogart-Monteith, BA, and Charlotte Annie, MFA, presented on diversity, discussing how academic learning is connected to a student’s intersectional experience and how feeling safe in the classroom significantly increases student success.
“My group was interested in presenting on diversity because it is such a buzzword in university settings these days, but we wondered how many people are still being systematically excluded,” Wright said. “Our intention for the session was not so much to present new information, but more to conduct a productive discussion among scholars who work with these issues on a daily basis — both with students and with the staff members of their offices.”
In another roundtable, Wright and fellow consultants Darryl Ellison, PhD, JD, and Sarah Collins discussed how adaptive coping strategies can cultivate resilience in students. They further suggested that resilience is a precondition for academic growth. When a student is resilient he or she is less likely to be discouraged by challenges in their writing.
“We found that resilience can be cultivated and strengthened by paying close attention to how we respond to adversity,” Collins said. “Realizing our own resiliency reminds us that our academic pursuits are worthwhile and ultimately self-fulfilling.”
Committed to growth
The opportunity to present at the conference each year is an opportunity for consultants to engage in professional development. Writing Center staff learn how to draft conference proposals as well as how to prepare and present accepted proposals. All of the proposals submitted by CU Denver students and faculty were accepted and presented.
Attendees took part in discussions and workshops allowing them to engage with other writing consultants, tutors and teachers. By the end of the day everyone was filled with new ideas and ready to reimagine student success.