The Writing Center as a Social Hub by Jesse Cook
Post date: Nov 30, 2017 5:54:52 PM
Over the three years that I have worked at UNLV’s Writing Center, I have noticed a growing trend amongst consultants to view the Writing Center as both a work and social space. I remember in the early semesters working as a graduate assistant, the Writing Center was treated as a waystation on the road to a two-course workload as a seasoned graduate student. Although I hesitate to say that the Writing Center was treated like a chore, it was certainly viewed as a prerequisite for bigger things—a remedial course. Graduate students, bleary eyed, sleep deprived, world weary, shuffled from computer to consultation with the excitement of a cemetery groundskeeper. When knock-off time came, they were out the door like a flash. It was a rarity to find a consultant lingering after their contractually-obligated hours were up. This perception of the Writing Center as an intermediary place bled into the communal fabric of the department. Of course, us graduate students could commiserate over the plight of our lives; the groans over rough drafts and the tension headaches from late night reading were universally felt, universally understood. Yet, nobody lingered at their computer, chatting with a peer about lesson plans. The breakroom rarely erupted with such laughter that working consultants had to step away from their writers to ask politely, and with great envy, that the others please keep their pleasures to themselves. Birthday parties were clandestine meetings in the university bar, a huddled flock of pithy writers and scholars moaning and snickering over the stack of papers waiting at home. We were a rosy bunch.
Now, I see a writing center reborn. Every day is a house party with homemade treats. The whiteboards duded up in dry-erase artwork for every holiday, decorations cascading across the walls, the dreary portable building is transformed into a warm collective of human feeling. People make plans for lunch parties, go to movies together on the weekends. It is a nice change of pace to see the Writing Center as a hub of social activity instead of a steppingstone. I am happy to see the joy that this experience can be for people who may have—like my peers in my first semesters—entered the program apprehensive about the obligatory responsibilities of the Writing Center.
I would like to think that for all the anxiety and stress of graduate school, the Writing Center is becoming a place of peace, a place where people come to escape some of the drama. It is nice to see friendships made on cramped couches over coffee in the breakroom. It is refreshing to hear quiet conversations in the computer office between graduate students anxiously excited over a newly-planned approach to teaching paraphrase and summary. I hope that this trend continues after this batch of graduate students move on to two courses a semester, bless their souls, as it has made my few remaining semesters at the Writing Center a real pleasure.