By Chrissine Rios, Kaplan University Writing Center
This summer I wrote “Weighing the Books” while boxing up my household and home office in order to move it from North Carolina to Michigan. Now my books are unpacked and back to being their inspirational selves on shelves. In fact, I’m working on my presentation for the International Writing Centers Association conference, which is in Denver this month, and I’m seeing on my bookcase the program book from the last time I flew from Michigan to Denver for a big conference.
It was 2001, and I was in my last semester of English Composition and Communication at CMU, going to the Conference on College Composition and Communication (4Cs) to present my teacher research on engaging students at the beginning of the composition course by teaching creative nonfiction. During the presentation, I shared my positive experience teaching a photo caption essay in place of the reflective essay, otherwise assigned at the beginning of the term.
My co-presenter and grad school colleague then shared how creative nonfiction can be incorporated into the research paper assignment later in the term, and our third co-presenter, who was our Comp and Rhetoric professor and my thesis chairperson, presented how creative nonfiction can be woven into the entire course. Together we contended the personal writing traditionally assigned in composition could do more to engage and prepare students for success if it were taught less like an isolated, warm-up activity and more like an integrated and malleable path throughout the course that engages students in their personal learning processes via exploration and discovery and the making, or perhaps, crafting, of meaning.
We described creative nonfiction as being flexible—a form shaped by content and not the other way around. And we described it as expansive—a genre that “centers in the essay but continually strains against the boundaries of the other genres, endeavoring to push them back and to expand its own space without altering its own identity” (Root & Steinberg, 1999, p. xxiii). Now, fifteen years later, I’m hearing similar language being used to describe the way writing centers engage students, our adult online learners at Kaplan in particular, by being flexible and expansive.
At the upcoming IWCA conference in Denver, KU Academic Support Center Manager, Dr. Melody Pickle, will be speaking about our uniquely located, online writing center. If you’ll be at IWCA, come see her speak at our presentation titled, Leveraging Technology for Online Inclusivity. She’ll address the negotiation of identity that comes with inhabiting an internal and external shared space and how the Writing Center maintains its identity while being a dynamic learning community.
KUWC Tutor, Amy Sexton, and I will also be on that panel. Our presentation will explore the use of technology, specifically video, to push the boundaries of who we are and what we do in our effort to encourage and equip our diverse students for learning success. Amy and I will also be presenting Video Feedback for Effective Online Writing Instruction, and Melody will additionally be presenting Online Motion: Using Forms for Dynamic Asynchronous Services, so the KUWC will be well represented at IWCA this year.
For me, this IWCA and the 2001 4Cs are bookends on my career to date with the path between them weaving in and out the texts on my bookshelves. At 4Cs, I was just getting started. In fact, it was there that I interviewed for my first faculty position, the one that would launch my professional career teaching and tutoring writing and my move away from Michigan. Now I’m back home and approaching my 10th anniversary at Kaplan with nine of those years being in the Writing Center, so at the conference, I’ll be sharing first hand experiences of where we began and how we got here. I’m also counting on the presentations I attend to inspire new ideas about where we go from here. You can access the full IWCA conference program online. You can also be sure that I’ll be bringing a hard copy home as well.
Root, R. L., Jr. & Steinberg, M. (1999). The fourth genre: Contemporary writers of/on creative nonfiction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.