Issue 1, Spring 2008
Hello reader! As be its a relatively new operation–this is only our fifth semester as a fully staffed campus service–much has been happening at the Writing Studio in recent months. We want to take the opportunity in this debut issue of our bi-annual newsletter to familiarize you with our services and guiding mission.
In order to assist with the overall steering of the Studio, Director Jennifer Holt has brought two new Assistant Directors on board, both of whom hold joint teaching and administrative appointments. Gary Jaeger comes to the Writing Studio and the Philosophy Department from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he was a Visiting Assistant Professor. Before that, he taught academic writing as a graduate student in the Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago. Tom Orange comes to the Studio and the English Department from Washington, DC, where he taught contemporary poetry and worked in disability support services. This year, they join our new Of ice Administrator, Morgan Loper, along with a consultant staff of 16 students, both graduate and undergraduate, to form our core staff.
The interdisciplinary nature of these appointments informs our overall mission. Good writing is integral to many academic disciplines and a well-rounded university education. Last semester alone, our consultants met with students from over forty different disciplines and from all four undergraduate colleges and schools, which demonstrates how instrumental writing support has become across the disciplines, not just in the humanities.
At the Writing Studio, we aim to provide writing support to students in all divisions of the university and from all ranges of writing skill and experience. We are able to satisfy this goal not only because our consultants have varied backgrounds, but also because they undergo continuous training to serve as interlocutors for students in all disciplines. Sometimes a writer needs a sympathetic ear, a devil’s advocate, or a sounding board. We help students express their ideas in writing and see new possibilities and directions in their work. In this issue, Rachel Bowers writes about her experience as a writing consultant negotiating the Studio’s mission to foster collaborative inquiry and the demands of our University Honor Code. She tells us how she has come to understand the ways in which writing consultations help to fullfill the requirements of the Code.
In addition to providing consultation services, we also create forums for writers to engage with each other. In her article, “A Pair of New Eyes,” Christina Neckles’ tells us how writing consultants cultivate critical response among undergraduate honors students participating in thesis writing groups. Another forum we continue to host is On Writing, a series of conversations with advanced and professional writers. Keeping true to our mission of interdisciplinarity, our recent guests to this series have included science writers, poets, and Vanderbilt’s own Brooke Ackerly, Associate Professor of Political Science, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Philosophy. You can listen to some of these conversations on podcast by visiting our Web site.
As John Morrell tells us in his article, writing in the sciences has also been a feature of our Words and Woods series. This semester, Jonathan Gilligan of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department gave a talk about his work not only as a scientist who researches and writes about the environment, but also as a playwright who allows his ecological sensibility to shape the natural imagery he deploys in his plays. Morrell also tells us about how Words and Woods’ camping trips to the Smoky Mountains advance the Writing Studio’s mission to promote experimentation in the practice of writing beyond the Vanderbilt community.
Back on campus, the Writing Studio promotes experimentation in the practice of writing with workshops that happen both in and outside the classroom. Our consultants are happy to work with faculty to co-create a workshop that its the specific needs of a course. You can read in this issue about how Director of Religious Life and Assistant Professor Gay Welch used just such a workshop to tackle the challenges of writing about religion in her course God, Sex, and the Earth. And since the work of writing does not end with any single class or assignment, we continue to offer a regular series of in-house workshops on topics ranging from writing thesis statements and revising drafts to writing about film and triggering the creative process of writing fiction and poetry.
We hope that you will enjoy browsing this first issue and that you will continue to look for upcoming issues online at www.vanderbilt.edu/writing.