Working on her MA in Rhetoric/Composition
Associate Director of the Writing Center
[The following was transcribed from a video interview with intern Ashley Alfirevic]
What do you like most about your work at the Writing Center?
I like the fact that I get to work with all the consultants because they are very, very intelligent people and they all have different ways of approaching and talking to people about writing. It’s really interesting to see all the different ways they go about doing that.
I just like working in writing centers in general because you get to talk to a bunch of people about their writing. You hear and you get to read about a lot of different things, and it’s really fun – it’s really fun to read a piece of a PhD dissertation in Biology and you have no idea what’s going on but they’re really, really into it and they’re excited to talk to you about it about, and you are like “yeah, this is really neat,” but you have half an idea what they are talking about.
Do you have a favorite Writing Center experience?
I’m the one who checks the Writing Center email a lot, and I remember very specifically there was one email that we got from a student who was incredibly thankful for our services. She was talking about how she submitted a paper for an undergraduate conference and she got accepted. So it was really, really neat to hear that from her.
What brought you to CSU?
It was actually on recommendation from an instructor an my undergraduate university because I wanted to get a Masters in Rhetoric and Composition and the first thing he said was “Colorado State.” So I applied, and here I am.
Describe Eddy Hall in one word.
Can it be two words? Elementary school-esque – because of the colors, the color scheme.
Who is your favorite author?
My favorite author is probably Margaret Atwood. She’s fantastic. I read one of her books in high school and I immediately went out and got all of her other books, and they’re all excellent.
If you were to give advice to someone coming to the Writing Center, what would it be?
Writing is hard. Writing is absolutely very difficult, incredibly hard, for anybody and everybody, and anybody who tells you that writing is easy is lying to you.
What’s your biggest goal or priority right now?
My goal, my main priority is to successfully defend my thesis so I can go to East Carolina [University] in the fall for my PhD program.
Why is it important to study the Humanities?
Just off the top of my head, I know that a lot of major corporations when asked what they are looking for in job applicants say “written communication skills,” and I think it’s just incredibly important in general to study communication — how people communicate with each other, as well as what some of the ethical ramifications are for specific kinds of communication.
The Colorado State University Writing Center is a free service open to Colorado State University students, staff, faculty, and alumni as well as the local Fort Collins community. Their goal is to engage their community in conversations about writing; to that end, they provide face-to-face and online consultations for writers in all disciplines working on all types of writing from traditional research papers to electronic texts such as websites and blogs.
Beginning with writers’ needs and concerns, they use their knowledge and expertise to enhance writers’ understanding of a variety of rhetorical issues, such as purpose, audience, style and conventions. Writing Center consultants can assist writers at all stages of the writing process, including brainstorming, drafting, researching, revising, and polishing. They strive to help writers develop the confidence to make effective writing choices in any writing situation. In these ways, they support the shared goal of writing centers everywhere to help create better writers, not just better writing.
During the final weeks of Spring semester, Intern Ashley Alfirevic, (who was also in the final weeks of her time at CSU, about to graduate), spent some time in the Writing Center with various staff members, talking with them about what the center has to offer, taking pictures and making some videos. (P.S. We apologize for the background noise in the videos made that day — the Writing Center was hopping!).
Writing Center Director Lisa Langstraat tells how the Writing Center got started.
The Writing Center believes that writing is not a solitary act and that writing becomes more effective when discussion/conversation surrounds it. The Colorado State University Writing Center is dedicated to providing advice and help in every stage of the writing process. Their goal is to engage the community in discussion about writing by providing face-to-face and online consultations, classroom presentations, and outreach to faculty, staff, and students.
Writing Center Director Lisa Langstraat talked specifically about the myth that the Writing Center is only for people who aren’t good writers.
One of the myths that often disturbs me about writing centers is that they’re a place where people who are not good writers come. And I think that is really problematic because we see writers who are certainly developmental writers – people who’ve been out of the university for a long time, maybe they’re rusty, or people who are just learning US academic discourse – but we also see people who are working on dissertations and masters theses.
The Writing Center is based upon the philosophy that to become a better writer you need to talk about your writing with writers. And of course, this is what all writers do, right? In my field, when I’m publishing an article in a journal , I get feedback from editors, and that’s the same thing that happens in the Writing Center – we get feedback. So I guess something I would really like to dispel is this myth – that only people who are not strong writers come to the Writing Center. It’s a place for everybody.
Writing Center Associate Director Bruce Shields agrees.
Absolutely. I think that’s what the Writing Center offers – that chance, that opportunity for conversation, to talk about your writing in new ways and explore new ideas, to bounce ideas off of another person, and to challenge yourself as a writer, try to find new processes, new ways of looking at whatever it is you are working on. So that’s applicable to all writers at all stages of the writing process as well. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are new, whether or not you’re comfortable with writing, whether or not you feel as if you are a relatively good writer, you just want somebody to have a conversation with [about your writing], to look at it [your writing] from a new point of view.
Lisa asked Writing Center consultant Alyson Welker, “do you think this is the same kind of dynamic that happens in synchronous online consultations?”
I do. I think some students who are hesitant to come in to the center actually find that [a synchronous online consultation] is a way to get involved and practice, to get a feel for what happens during a consultation. Sometimes people feel more comfortable with that space in between, practicing, and then they kind of get hooked, “I want to come do this again,” and if they’re close, coming in is available.
Alyson talks more about the synchronous online writing consultations.
While face-to-face consultations can provide more opportunity for conversation with consultants and immediate feedback, the Writing Center understands that not all students can visit the physical center locations during their hours of operation. For that reason, they offer the online draft review queue. Writers submit a draft to the queue, and a consultant will respond in the order in which they receive drafts. Assistant Director Michelle Wilk talks about online consultations.
Writing Center Associate Director Bruce Shields talks about Writing Center consultants.
Wonder what a face-to-face consultation is like? Consultations last for 30 minutes, and in that time we typically discuss the equivalent of 4-5 pages (double spaced) of writing. Using the hierarchy of rhetorical concerns, consultants and writers address issues of audience, purpose, context, focus, development, organization, style and conventions. CSU students can request that an email notification be sent to their instructor outlining the work that was done during a consultation. Face-to-face consultations are open to CSU students, staff, faculty, and the general public.
Some Writing Center statistics from the 2014/2015 academic year:
In 2014-2015, 1609 students used the Writing Center services.
In 2014-2015, there were 4730 total consultations.
In addition to offering face-to-face consultations, the Writing Center also provides feedback online. In 2014-2015, 1712 of their consultations were conducted online.
The Writing Center is a great resource for ELL students. In 2014-2015, 49% of their consultations were with students whose first language was not English.
In 2014-2015, 14% of their consultations were with graduate students.
In 2014-2015, 10.4% of their consultations were for courses that have a special collaboration with the Writing Center (e.g. BUS300, Psych100).
Students visit the Writing Center for help with hundreds of different courses. In 2103-2014, students received help with more than 350 courses.
The Writing Center assists writers from many different fields of study. According to their registration data, in 2013-2014, students came from 191 different academic programs across campus.
In 2013, international students from 41 different countries using the Writing Center services.
19.3% of registered clients were students from under-represented populations at CSU.
Writing Center Associate Director Bruce Shields had this to say about visiting the Writing Center,
Something I’m always surprised by is how many people return to the Writing Center to use our services, and I think that sometimes there can be that initial discomfort of walking through the door, coming to a new place, new space, but I think that the Writing Center’s always been a warm, welcoming environment, and once people sit down and have that conversation, that it’s not evaluative, there’s no judgment involved at all.
Writing Center Director Lisa Langstraat added, “No judgment at all. There’s just help.”
Director Lisa Langstraat had this to say about what is so special about the Writing Center.
Writing Center Associate Director Bruce Shields had this to say about the Course Collaborations service.
I think it’s really cool because it allows for us to take advantage of different genres of writing other than what you would expect to see from the English department, from other disciplines other than the English department. One of the cool things about the Writing Center is that it is a multidisciplinary resource, meaning that we see writers not only from English but from Business classes, from Science classes, from Psychology classes, from Biology classes, from all kinds of different disciplines and backgrounds. We’re always trying to keep an eye open to see what backgrounds and experiences that they’re [students] bringing in to the Writing Center.
So the Course Collaboration Program is an opportunity for faculty to reach out and say “hey, a lot of my students could really take advantage of this resource – what kind of opportunities do you offer for us?” And what we have is a way for us to develop and cultivate a much more direct relationship with faculty from other disciplines. Faculty who are interested typically submit some of their materials, so a lot of their assignments, syllabi, whatever resources might be useful during a consultation. Sometimes faculty give us textbooks that our consultants will refer to, just to get a deeper understanding of some of the conventions of those genres that they’re writing in, as well as a deeper understanding of some of the concepts that they’re going to be working with. That allows us to be better informed when students from those classes come into the Writing Center. We’re approaching their writing from a much more informed position. Right now we have course collaborations from Psychology classes, from Human Development and Family Sciences, from Business writing classes, from Biology courses – a variety of different disciplines.
New Writing Center initiatives:
Synchronous online consultations: Piloting in summer 2016; in effect Fall 2016
Greater options for graduate student writers: writer workshops and weekend-long “boot camps.”
Writing Center Director Lisa Langstraat’s advice for students coming to the Writing Center.
Camille Dungy’s poems have been published in two new anthologies: Of Poetry & Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin. (W.W. Norton) and Read America(s): An Anthology (Locked Horn Press). Camille will be a member of the faculty of the Napa Valley Writer’s Conference this summer. The other conference faculty will be Brenda Hillman, Brian Teare, Major Jackson. Applications are still being accepted for remaining spots: http://www.napawritersconference.org/attend-the-conference/apply/
Todd Mitchell presented a master class on Earning The Transformation at this year’s Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference last weekend.
Neil FitzPatrick was awarded a 2016-2017 fiction Fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Fellowships last from October – May, and Fellows receive a live/work space and a stipend.
Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri’s “The Story of A Starry Night” has been accepted for publication in Crab Fat Magazine.
Kiley Miller and Michelle Wilk presented last Saturday at the Colorado Wyoming Writing Tutors Conference in Denver. Their presentation was titled, “Power Dynamics: Navigating the Needs and Demands of the Writing Center.”
Bill Tremblay will do a reading on Thursday, May 5, at the Wolverine Publick House and Letterpress, 316 Willow St, Ft. Collins, from his just-published book, Walks Along the Ditch: Poems, starting at 8:00 PM.
From Publishers Lunch, Fiction: Debut … “Devin Murphy’s (MFA, Fiction ’09) The Boat Runner, the story of a wealthy Dutch family, industrious owners of a lightbulb factory in a small town, whose world is upended over the course of four years during the WWII Nazi occupation; we follow the youngest son through the forests of France, the stormy beaches of England, and deep within the secret missions of the German Navy, as he is confronted with the moral dilemma that will change his life forever—a novel that explores the human cost of war and questions what national borders really mean when weighed against a single human heart, pitched as reminiscent of All the Light We Cannot See and Cold Mountain, to Laura Brown at Harper Perennial, for publication in Fall 2017, by Rayhane Sanders at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (World English).”
Please join the Department of English and the Creative Writing program at the University of Denver to hear the internationally renowned poet, Raúl Zurita.
When: Monday, May 9th / 7pm Where: The University of Denver
Sturm Hall / Room 454
Raúl Zurita is one of Latin America’s most celebrated and controversial poets. After Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 US-supported military coup that ousted Salvador Allende’s democratically elected government, Zurita’s poetry sought to register the violence and atrocities committed against the Chilean people and the corruption of the Spanish language. During the dictatorship that lasted from 1973 to 1990, Zurita published a trilogy of books (Purgatory, Anteparadise, and The New Life), wrote poems in the sky above New York City, bulldozed poems in the Chilean desert, and helped to form the art collective “Colectivo de Accion de Arte” that used performance as an act of political resistance. Of his early poetry, C.D. Wright has written: “Under the eyes of church and dictatorship, he began to write and publish his poetry, juxtaposing secular and sacred, ruled and unruled. With a mysterious admixture of logic and logos, Christian Symbols, brain scans, graphics, and a medical report, Zurita expanded the formal repertoire of his language, of poetic materials, pushing back against the ugly vapidity of rule by force.”
Zurita was awarded the Chilean National Prize for Literature, a scholarship from the Guggenheim Foundation, and he has held poetry readings at numerous American universities including Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley. His books in English translation include Anteparadise (translated by Jack Schmitt), Purgatory (translated by Anna Deeny), INRI (translated by William Rowe) and Song for His Disappeared Love (translated by Daniel Borzutzky). He lives in Chile.
Stephanie G’Schwind presented on a panel, “The View from the Slush Pile,” at the NonfictioNow conference in Flagstaff, Arizona, last month.
Cindy O’Donnell-Allen and Antero Garcia were featured guests on the NWP Radio program to discuss their new book, Pose, Wobble, Flow: A Culturally Proactive Approach to Literacy Instruction. The archived broadcast is available here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/nwp_radio.
Debby Thompson’s essay “The Four Stages of Cancer,” published in Upstreet, was listed as a “notable” in Best American Essays 2015.
Airica Parker’s poem “Form” will appear in the Winter 2015 issue of The Nature of the West: Camas.
MA and MFA students showed out in full force at the Graduate Student Showcase on Wednesday, November 11th. Their posters and presentations revealed the diversity and depth of the creativity and scholarship in this department. They even garnered prizes to boot. We want to call attention and thank all the participants in the Showcase from English, and give a special shout-out to those who won awards for their work. The participants were, in alphabetical order, Alhassane Ali Drouhamane, Paul Binkley, Cedar Brant, Lindsay Brookshier, Leslie Davis, Annette Gabriel, Kathleen Hamel, Kelsey Hatley, Melissa Hohl, Abby Kerstetter, Samantha Killmeyer, Kaitlyn Mainhart, John McDonough, Kristen Mullen, Kathleen Naughton, CourtneyPollard, Sarahbeth Stoneburner, John Whalen, Michelle Wilk, and MeaganWilson. The prizewinners were: Melissa Hohl (College of Liberal Arts Award), Abby Kerstetter (Distinction in Creativity Award) and John Whalen (Great Minds in Research Award).
Melissa Hohl was awarded Highest Achievement in Performing Arts from the College of Liberal Arts at the Graduate Student Showcase.
Abby Kerstetter was awarded 2nd Place in the category of Distinction in Creativity at the Graduate Student Showcase.
John Whalen was awarded 2nd place in “Great Minds in Research” for his project entitled “Which Reporting Verbs Characterize Successful Academic Writing?” at the Graduate Student Showcase.