Upper Iowa University Writing Center – Featured Writing Center

Upper Iowa University Writing Center

Upper Iowa University – Fayette, Iowa

Describe your institutional context.

Housed in the Liberal Arts building, UIU’s Writing Center falls under the purview of the Academic Affairs and Provost office. The Writing Center offers face-to-face tutoring for students attending classes at the Fayette location, and email tutoring services for online and satellite center students.

What are your hours during the academic year?

MON-THUR 9am-5pm & 7-9pm FRI 8am-3pm SUN 4-8pm Closed on Saturday

If you have a mission statement, what is it?

The Upper Iowa University Writing Center welcomes all students and does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, nationality, age, language background, veteran status, or disability.

At the Writing Center, peer Writing Consultants are trained to work with students at all stages of the writing process–brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revising–and on papers across various fields of study. We do not proofread or “fix” papers; instead, we provide feedback and work intensively with students on higher order topics such as organization, structure, fulfilling assignment requirements, thesis creation, citation styles, use of evidence, research strategies, etc. However, we will point out and discuss patterns of grammatical and mechanical error as necessary. We also assist students with test-preparation, reading comprehension, and writing resumes, cover letters, and graduate school or internship applications.

Our goal here at the Writing Center is to provide supplementary education in a safe, patient, and nonjudgmental space so that students will feel comfortable and eager to utilize writing assistance that meets their individual needs.

Tell us about how your writing center is staffed.

The UIU Writing Center is staffed with one full-time professional Writing Center Manager and, depending on the semester, seven to ten trained, peer student Writing Consultants.

From left to right: (standing) Tabitha Stwalley, Amanda Reno, Georgeen Paisley and (sitting) Lia Passini, Chandra Smith, and Katie Kress

Tell us how your tutors are trained.

Newly hired Writing Consultants undergo ten hours of face-to-face, observation, and independent study training over the course of seven to ten days. Specific training activities include independent reading, a face-to-face seminar taught by the Writing Center Manager, three observations of other consultants (and the Manager) in practice, two observations of the new hire (after she has begun tutoring) by the Writing Center Manager, and an in-person exit meeting to conclude the training sequence. Topics covered in the readings and face-to-face seminar are, in no particular order, as follows: inclusive language, reading aloud, working with ESL/ELL students, asking guided questions, responding to multiple and various potential situations and learners, respecting and remaining cognizant of cultural differences and expectations (especially in terms of writing), understanding that consultants are not expected to know all the answers–look it up!, the Writing Center’s mission, goals, code of ethics, Accudemia scheduling and reporting system, email tutoring procedures and protocols, writing session reports, etc.

The Writing Center Manager and all of the Writing Consultants meet in the Writing Center over the lunch hour on a quarterly basis for Continuing Education Seminars. These seminars build community, and serve as an opportunity to review Writing Center policies, procedures, and best practices. Consultants are required, and paid, to attend and participate in two Continuing Education seminars per semester. Continuing Education seminars not only refresh consultants on tutoring skills, best practices, and proper behavior, but also provide an opportunity for consultants to expand their skill set and knowledge base. This not only benefits them personally and professionally, but also benefits the students who visit the Writing Center. Examples of past Continuing Education Seminars are comprehensive APA review tutorial, SafeZone Ally Training, best practices for working with ESL/ELL learners, email tutoring procedures and protocol training, and a critical discussion of “The ‘Standard English’ Fairytale” by Laura Greenfield from Writing Centers and the New Racism.

From left to right: (standing) Tabitha Stwalley, Amanda Reno, Georgeen Paisley and (sitting) Lia Passini and Chandra Smith. Not pictured: Alexis Lloyd and Carly Pagel.

 Tell us about the writers you work with.

We are a small, private, liberal arts university, but Upper Iowa University hosts the most diverse student body population of any university in Iowa. Almost 26% of our students hail from diverse backgrounds in terms of race, religion, sexual and gender orientation, nationality, age, and first-gen students.

 Tell us about some programs and/or collaborations your writing center participates in.

The Writing Center hosts and sponsors a bi-annual guest author speaking series. This series provides Midwestern academics and artists a small stipend to visit campus for a day, guest teach one to two writing, communication, and/or English classes, and give a lecture or reading, as well as host a Q&A session. The lecture/reading and Q&A are open to all UIU faculty, staff, and students. Additionally, these events are advertised and open to the local public, free of charge, to foster and strengthen the relationship between UIU and the surrounding population.

Due to the fact that the guest author teaches classes while visiting, the Writing Center coordinates and collaborates with many departments within the School of Liberal Arts. The most recent guest authors hosted by the Writing Center were Patricia Foster and Rachel Marie-Crane Williams. Foster is a professor at the University of Iowa in the Nonfiction MFA and English departments and an author of a number of fiction and nonfiction works, one of which won the PEN/Jerard Fund Award for Women’s Nonfiction. Williams is a graphic novelist and professor at the University of Iowa with a joint appointment between the Art and Art History (Intermedia) and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies departments.

Additionally, the Writing Center also collaborates with the SafeZone Program on campus, of which the Writing Center Manager also heads. For example, the Writing Center Manager and a faculty member, who serves as a UIU SafeZone trainer, brought students and staff from the Writing Center, the Tutor Center, the Academic Success department, the Henderson-Wilder library on campus, and the Provost office together for a SafeZone luncheon training this past February.

Tell us two additional things you’d like people to know about your writing center.

Although the homebase of UIU’s Writing Center is located in rural Fayette, IA, we conduct email tutoring sessions with students from our international satellite centers in Hong Kong and Malaysia! The UIU Writing Center is a marked and certified SafeZone! A creative nonfiction essay written by Katie Kress, the Writing Center Manager, titled “Body Memory” and originally published in the Spring 2016 edition of The Fourth River Journal out of Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize this past fall!

Whom should I contact if I want to know more about this writing center?

Katie Kress, Writing Center Manager        kressk99@uiu.edu