By Bonnie Devet, College of Charleston
In full bloom were the famous Low Country, SC, azaleas—pink and white and red. Also in Charleston, lined up for an annual run over the Ravenel Bridge, were nearly 33,000 runners and walkers. And gathered at Charleston Southern University for the fourth annual meeting of the South Carolina Writing Center Association (fondly known as the Palmetto State Writing Center Association) were thirteen South Carolina Writing Center Directors. Representing nine schools from Spartanburg to the Low Country, the Directors attended the March 28th, 2015, meeting sponsored by the Southeastern Writing Center Association (SWCA) and hosted by V. Britt Terry, the Coordinator of the Writing Center at Charleston Southern University.
Scott Pleasant (Coastal Carolina University), the SWCA representative for South Carolina, brought the directors up-to-date on the upcoming SWCA conference in Columbus, Georgia, in February 2016 and asked about hosts for the next Palmetto State Writing Center meetings Fall 2015 and Spring 2016. After completing business, he discussed his idea for how writing centers could participate in a state-wide study in order to improve the peer review process.
Next, the keynote speaker Graham Stowe (University of South Carolina) explained “Assessments, Critical Theory, Creativity, and Ethics: Four Preliminary Theses on 21st Century Writing Center Work.” Discussing each item, Stowe argued that centers should avoid “fluffy research” and use the RAD type of investigation to assess their work. He also argued that critical theory (about invention, for example) is vital for showing that centers foster the growth of knowledge. Finally, Stowe stressed that both creativity and ethics are central to modern centers, helping tutors understand how clients write and how to maintain sensitivity to student writers.
In the afternoon, the Directors (from Coker College, Wofford University, Francis Marion University, Allen University, the University of South Carolina, The Citadel, the College of Charleston, Charleston Southern University, Coastal Carolina University, and the Medical University of South Carolina) heard Deno Trakas (Wofford) present anecdotes on “Thirty-five Years in the Writing Center: What Has and Hasn’t Changed.” His presentation told about answering hotline questions phoned in to a center, the difference between making classroom presentations and working face-to-face with student writers, and, finally, the problems with a director’s having to rank essays written by entering freshmen.
Next, the meeting heard “Retaining Writing Center Consultants” by Bonnie Devet (College of Charleston). The presentation stressed the need to use Organizational Behavioral Theory to formulate strategies that can help minimize a center’s tutorial attrition.
Two more informative presentations ended the day. In “Teaching Students to See: Using Art to Improve Observation Skills in Writing,” Jasna Shannon (Coker College) applied the techniques of art teachers to the work of centers. Similar to how art teachers ask their students to “see” more, tutors can encourage clients to “slow down” and examine each point when tutors have clients talk about their writings. Scott Pleasant closed the day with “Required Appointments: Pros and Cons,” a talk stressing that requiring students to use centers is not such a bad idea, counter to some of the assumptions directors often make.
As the day-long meeting concluded, ducks fluffed their wings, plunging for a meal into the Charleston Southern University pond. Writing Center directors, as they exited the campus through its elaborate, graceful wrought-iron gates, had had a full day of informative discussions and were looking forward to the next meeting in October (location to be announced), a meeting where tutors can present their own research.