IWU Writing Center to present at conference

Gabrielle Ghaderi

Photo: Illinois Wesleyan University

Illinois Wesleyan University’s Writing Center will present at the Southeastern Writing Association Conference (SWCA). The virtual conference titled Trauma and Transformation: Writing Centers in an Era of Change will take place from Feb. 11-13, 2021. 

Writing Center Director, Anna Scanlon, along with several student writing tutors, will give a 45-minute presentation titled Expand-emic: How We Grew Our Consultation Services in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Director of the Student Success Tutors, Bevin Choban, director of the Action Resource Center, Deborah Halperin and the University Librarian, Stephanie Davis-Kahl, will also be involved in the presentation. 

According to the Southeastern Writing Center Association website, the conference will “discuss the transformations writing center professionals and the field undertake during times of crisis and trauma.” Presentations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice and social unrest will be included in these discussions. 

The presentation will discuss the Writing Center’s initiatives to expand tutoring and consultation options during COVID-19. Recent expansions in the Writing Center include incorporating Zoom into online appointments, creating a YouTube channel and opening up tutoring services to alumni, all changes that Scanlon suggests might not have been possible under “normal” circumstances.

“The YouTube channel was born out of a need to be able to show students how to do things that, in a normal year, they’d pop by my office for help with,” Scanlon said. “YouTube can not only reach the students actively searching for help, but also those who aren’t from here, or too shy or unsure of where to go, and are interested in our university, that’s a good feeling.”

Photo: SWCA

Even more impressive is that the move to a completely virtual space allowed Writing Center traffic to grow by 43.95 percent from Fall 2019 to Fall 2020. Scanlon said that that percentage is “huge, and apparently not the norm compared to what I’m hearing from my colleagues in writing center work at other universities.” 

Once the writing Center is back in its physical space, there are hopes to continue on the path of expansion by collaborating with the Student Success Tutors on campus and extending services to local high school students to aid in college application essays. Student Success Tutors usually help fellow students on campus expand their study skills and organizational strategies to become more academically successful through events like the Academic Skills Series, drop-in sessions, tabling events and one-on-one appointments.

In addition to sharing Illinois Wesleyan’s tutoring successes, Scanlon and her colleagues are looking forward to hearing from other attendees at the conference. 

“We hope to learn more about equity, inclusion and accessibility in the age of the pandemic. We’re in denial if we don’t acknowledge that not every service we offer provides the same experience for everyone. We’d like to change that and to change it successfully, we hope to learn what others have done.”

For other attendees, Scanlon says they “hope other people take to heart what we’ve done and consider what to implement alongside the services they already offer at their respective colleges and universities.”