FROM THE EDITORS: SPECIAL ISSUE ON THE FUTURE OF WRITING CENTERS
Sarah Orem & Jacob Pietsch
The publication of this issue of Praxis coincides with two significant anniversaries for the Undergraduate Writing Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This year, UT’s writing center celebrates its twentieth year of being open, a milestone that was commemorated by a conference on the “Future of Writing Centers” this past spring. For this issue of Praxis, we invited authors to reflect on the same theme and articulate the topics they find important to ongoing writing center work. This issue’s publication will also mark the tenth anniversary of Praxis itself. What began as an informal newsletter transformed into an online hub of writing center information and subsequently a peer-reviewed journal. These important milestones inform the work we’ve done as editors over the past months. We find ourselves looking back on what we’ve accomplished and looking forward to the future.
On the theme of the “Future of Writing Centers,” many authors featured in this issue stress that writing center practitioners must stay attentive to political and social justice concerns. Timothy Ballingall, Liliana Naydan, and Alana Bitzel’s articles all foreground social justice issues and identity politics, with both Ballingall and Naydan thinking through the interrelation between politics and multiliteracy. Bitzel’s study of tutors’ in-session language recommends that subtle linguistic shifts can enable more just futures for those who work and learn in writing centers. Authors including Lamiyah Bahrainwala, Alyssa-Rae Hug, and Marc Scott forecast that future writing center work will be community-driven and dialogic. Bahrainwala, in analyzing consultants’ note-taking habits, finds that what might appear to be informal scribbles in fact reflect the ways in which consultants empathize with consultees. Hug explores the limits and benefits of what she calls “collaborative commenting,” a process of writing that puts tutors and professors into conversation with each other. Scott revisits James Kinneavy’s influential writing on kairos in order to reflect on assessment, suggesting that Kinneavy’s theory might help writing center administrators have more productive conversations with colleagues in other fields and departments about the importance of writing center work. Beyond these articles, a column and two book reviews comment on writing center practice. Jennifer Gray’s column advocates for practices that will better serve non-traditional student populations, just as Roger Austin’s review of A Synthesis of Qualitative Studies of Writing Center Tutoring foregrounds the text’s study of writing center ‘best practices’ and how to codify them. Jeremy Smyczek’s review of Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers tackles the grand narratives we tell ourselves about writing centers and opens up space for different visions of writing center futures.
We couldn’t have produced this issue of Praxis without help from our editorial team and from the administrative staff of the UWC. We’d also like to thank former editors Elizabeth Goins and Coye Heard for their help transitioning into our roles as managing editors. Over the past year, Praxis has grown the size of its editorial board and continues to receive many high caliber submissions. The journal’s future looks to be auspicious; it is a future in which we are grateful to take part.