By Dr. Bonnie Devet, College of Charleston
It’s fall in S.C. Its cloudless skies are endlessly azure. And the Palmetto State Writing Center Association has held its annual Tutor’s Retreat for Fall 2015. Hosted by Coastal Carolina University and organized by CCU’s Writing Center Coordinator Scott Pleasant, the retreat drew a record number of attendees (around 55). Representing ten colleges and universities from Greenwood to the Lowcountry, directors and tutors alike arrived at Coastal Carolina’s campus for the meeting, which was partially sponsored by the Southeastern Writing Center Association (SWCA).
Pleasant (S.C.’s representative to SWCA) opened the Fall 2015 Retreat by reminding attendees that the next SWCA conference is scheduled for February 19-21, 2016, in Columbus, Georgia. He also explained that S.C. directors are invited to Francis Marion University on April 2, 2016 for their annual Directors’ Meeting. Then, Pleasant proudly announced that the latest issue of Southern Discourse in the Center: A Journal of Multiliteracy and Innovation—the refereed journal of SWCA—had published three articles by S.C. directors, reflecting the vitality of the state’s writing centers. In fact, Pleasant would like to survey all the state’s directors to determine how much research and publishing S.C. has achieved. As Pleasant said, “S.C. should be #1 in the nation for its Writing Center research.” Another prediction was that PSWCA would eventually become “more official,” by acquiring a tax identification number.
Next, the keynote speaker Jasna Shannon (Coker College) explained “Art and Learning to See.” Arguing that the techniques of art teachers should be applied to writing center work, Dr. Shannon explained that tutors can have clients “see” more by encouraging clients to “slow down” and examine each point in their essays. To underscore her idea, Shannon asked the audience of tutors and directors to examine a Renaissance painting, writing down every detail they noticed. Doing so is analogous to having tutors ask clients to reflect more on the points that their papers are making in order to discover more to say. In this way, tutors can help clients to understand that papers are often not “done.”
In the afternoon, both tutors and directors (from Charleston Southern University, Claflin University, Coastal Carolina University, Coker College, the College of Charleston, Columbia College, Francis Marion University, Lander University, the University of South Carolina, and Winthrop University) broke into sessions. Allan Nail (Columbia College), with his tutors, discussed “Community and Involvement in the Writing Lab: Tapping into Tutor Talents”; Graham Stowe (University of South Carolina) provided information on “Working with Second Language Learners”; Jennifer Kunka and Amber Griffith (Francis Marion University) explained “Online Tutoring: Maximizing the Online Experience”; Scott Pleasant and his CCU tutors stressed “‘From Each According to their Means’: Using Tutor Expertise to Strengthen Tutor-Training Sessions.”
Other informative sessions ended the day. Bonnie Devet (College of Charleston) discussed “The Gaps in the Foundational Scholarship on Writing Center Training”; Emma Howes (Coastal Carolina University) described the need for linguistic acceptance in her talk “Pass this Way: Writing Centers and Writing Pedagogy.” Lindsey Chiles with her fellow Winthrop University tutors formed a panel on handling “Invisible Disabilities,” such as dealing with anxiety and ADHD, while Danielle Walters and her Charleston Southern University tutors explored the topic of “Tutor Identifies: Individuals and Experiences Enhancing Tutorials,”stressing freelancing and teamwork.
As the retreat concluded, attendees met for one last convivial exchange of ideas in the CCU Writing Center, grabbing snacks and coffee to sustain them for the drive home to all the different parts of the state. The day had been informative, and certainly full of varied talks and good companionship.