FROM THE EDITORS
Sarah Riddick & Tristin Hooker
University of Texas at Austin
We here at Praxis are proud to present you with our spring 2018 issue, “Support in the Writing Center.” For this issue, we have brought together articles that examine a wide range of student and tutor needs, with the goal of making the work of the writing center and of education more equitable, accessible, and sustainable. In some ways, this theme may seem redundant; writing centers are so often identified so closely with “support” in education. Yet, those of us who work in writing centers know that our work is never static. As we continue to deepen our understanding of what happens in our schools and in our centers, and as we work to serve students from diverse backgrounds with equally diverse needs, the need to examine all of our potential for working more effectively, both for students’ sake and for tutors’ sakes. In our practice and in our scholarship, we not only should but must strive to explore each new avenue that grants greater access. We must pursue and develop the skills that keep all of us coming back to the center.
We open this issue with Zachary L. Taylor’s column “Escritura, Sau Ntawv, 写作, Pagsulat, and Writing: A Content Analysis of ESL/ELL Writing Center Services, which surveys the presence of ESL/ELL-related services on the websites of all public flagship universities in the United States. Although “ESL and ELL students are the fastest growing segment of the public school population” (3), Taylor’s study finds that the websites of these institutions suggest a troubling lack of attention to this community.
Justin B. Hopkins also addresses writing center policies focused on inclusion in “Preferred Pronouns in Writing Center Reports.” Hopkins’ study traces tutor and student responses to a new writing center policy of asking students for their preferred pronouns, to be used in reports sent to instructors. While the response was primarily positive, Hopkins shows the complexity and the possibilities for negotiating voluntary and involuntary disclosure, as well as productive and unproductive forms of discomfort in tutoring.
In “Welcoming and Managing Neurodiversity in the Writing Center,” Alice Batt reflects on the often unreported struggles that neurodiverse students and employees face in the writing center. Batt points out that “writing centers, by virtue of our attention to the needs of the individual, are poised to be natural homes for neurodivergent consultants and administrators,” and she calls on writing center administrators to work towards making their centers an inclusive space for neurodiversity (14).
Continuing at the administrative level, Julie Wilson’s focus article “‘Not Alone in the Process’: Designing Equitable Support for First-Year Writers in the Writing Center” discusses the benefits of collaboration between first-year writing programs and writing centers. “In directed self-placement,” says Wilson, “entering students have a voice in deciding which writing classes and writing support will serve them best in the first year” (16). Based on a year-long study of her institution’s Weekly Writing Sessions program, Wilson demonstrates how writing programs and writing centers can work together to encourage directed self-placement and “increase access and equity” among first-year writers (21).
In “Mindful Tutors, Embodied Writers: Positioning Mindfulness Meditation As A Writing Strategy To Optimize Cognitive Load And Potentialize Writing Center Tutors’ Supportive Roles” Sarah Johnson addresses support for students and writers directly, by advocating for the potential benefits of incorporating mindfulness meditation in tutoring sessions and tutor training. Johnson applies the lens of Cognitive Load Theory, and suggests that writing tutors and tuttees can effectively sustain their writing and manage stress through implementing mindfulness techniques.
Laura Feibush also examines embodiment in “Gestural Listening: Virtual Boundaries in the Writing Center.” Drawing on observations, interviews, sound, and gesture studies, Feibush explores the way that listening contributes to writing center sessions, and the way that listening can be expressed to overcome some of the virtual distance that video conferencing technology can create in tutoring sessions.
Similarly, Daniel Lawson’s “Peer Observation and Evaluation Practices in the Writing Center” offers a way in which writing center administrators can encourage their consultants to self-reflect on their habits and abilities. Lawson examines the self-reflections and peer reflections of Graduate Assistants that work in his institution’s writing center. Reading these reflections across genre theory, Lawson identifies several potentially adverse effects that the typical genre of self-reflection might create, and he suggests ways to limit these effects and thereby improve consultants’ self-reflections.
Finally, I (Sarah) would like to make some announcements. First, I would like to thank Alejandro Omidsalar for his work at Praxis. Alejandro concluded his term at the journal this past December, but he and I found a wonderful person to fill his editorial shoes. This spring it has been my pleasure to welcome Tristin Hooker as a managing editor. Tristin is a doctoral student who specializes in rhetoric and who founded and directed a writing center at her previous institution. Together we have hit the ground running this year, engaging as much as we can with our writing-center colleagues at our institution and across the country, in order to best ascertain developments in this field. Along these lines, please look forward to a special issue forthcoming in spring 2019 that will focus on issues of race in the writing center. We will be working collaboratively with two guest editors, Dr. Mick Howard of Langston University and Dr. Karen Keaton Jackson of North Carolina Central University. Please see the call for papers at the end of this issue if you wish to submit. In closing and after some reflection on my first year at Praxis, I would like to say it has been a joy as managing editors of Praxis to support those who believe so deeply in the work that writing centers do, and we look forward to continuing to serve this community in the coming year.