Friday, March 11, 2016

Thoughts on HBCU and PWI Writing Centers After Reading Karen Keaton Jackson's WCJ Post

Thanks to Karen Keaton Jackson for contributing to The Writing Center Journal's Community site as a guest blogger.

In a post at called "WHY HAVE HBCUs BEEN ABSENT FROM THE WRITING CENTER PARTY?," Karen writes about how work loads and lack of funds make it hard for writing center directors and tutors in HBCU's to get active on a national scale. 

The following response to Karen, which I could not manage to get to go into her post's comments, doesn't answer the national question directly. It does the opposite; it looks at more local and smaller possibilities. But what I hope is that by doing, when and where possible, more local conferences and writing projects that may require less time to complete, may create more entry into the field's national discussion.


My job at Bedford/St. Martin's brings me to HBCU's once or twice a year, and so I've seen some of what you describe about work loads, lack of travel support, sometimes lack of professional development support. Those issues are not unique to HBCU's, but given that HBCU's, as you note, make up only 3% of U.S. higher ed institutions, the impact weighs more heavily for HBCU's overall than PWI's overall.

Time and money are hard challenges to overcome in an era of still-shrinking and ever more scarce resources. So I’m writing really to brainstorm some things that might help address that. These aren’t perfect ideas, and won’t work for all people in all places, but they might help.

The ideas build on your step #1: communication.

First, on travel support, I wonder if this might work to build HBCU and PWI writing center families’ interactions: where a PWI with faculty active in Writing Center scholarship and community is near an HBCU with a writing center, meet for lunch, or arrange for tutor swaps or cross tutor visits. 

Perhaps it would be possible to hold a local, one day or half day writing center symposium. Or perhaps a joint tutor professional development.  

An off shoot of these local meetings, HBCU&PWI DIY Conferences and Professional Development, to give it an abbreviation heavy name, might lead to more writing. 

You wite honestly about getting writing done, sometimes sadly only in your head. You wrote too about being the last person on the team to turn in edits on two of three of your collaborative projects. 

As hard as it is, you are finding a way to write. I would guess, that it might be easier for others to make time if they too could find ways to do more collaborative projects. Working with someone to reach a goal, whether it’s an exercise buddy, a book club to sustain reading, can help in many ways. 

Collaborative writing is social, and for that perhaps restorative in a way that writing alone may not be.  Also, it’s possible to choose writing projects that might be easier to complete, genres (the interview, the lesson plan, the description of practice or policy) that because they come from lived experience and insights might come to fruition more readily than pieces, like a formal longer form journal article, that usually take more time to not only write, but work through the peer review process. And a lot of these kinds of pieces, like your own blog posts on WCJ site,  Karen, can find their way into the national discussion.

And so one can imagine too a combination of conference/meet up and the writing. Two centers  -- maybe both HBCU's, maybe an HBCU and PWI in the same town, get together to not only share insights and begin a collegial conversations, but maybe just using the time together to write together, perhaps with fun food and drink so that the finding of words happens with the breaking of bread.