Issue 2, Fall 2008
As the new school year begins, we are excited to be working once more with The Commons and are pleased to be back in our satellite, Commons Center 217, for extended evening and weekend hours. Students who have already visited us at The Commons know that in addition to the convenience of having a team of careful readers and listeners nearer to first-year student living quarters, this space offers a beautiful view of The Commons lawn.
In conjunction with The Commons’ official opening, we have taken up the commitment to providing opportunities to unite living and learning by developing a series of writing workshops that serve the particular needs of first-year writers. Residence Life staff and Faculty Heads of House can select from a variety of workshops that focus on writing issues students face during their first year at Vanderbilt as they make the transition from high school to college writing.
We hope that these workshops, along with programs like our first-year student writing group, “Dialogue,” will encourage our newest students to grow comfortable testing out their ideas and developing their insights in conversation with one another.
The new academic year also marks the start of other programmatic changes in the Writing Studio that involve tailoring our services to meet requests from graduate students and faculty. It is our mission to become a comprehensive campus resource for all writers working on all sorts of projects.
To that end, this year we are offering a peer consultation service for faculty working on short projects, and we are developing our services for graduate students to include extended consultation sessions as well as dissertation- and other peer-writing groups.
This semester, for example, we are collaborating with the Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies to provide VCNS fellows the opportunity to meet in groups facilitated by a Writing Studio consultant. These groups are modeled in part on similar peer writing groups facilitated for the past two years by the Writing Studio for English majors writing honors theses.
Writing groups also present new ways of working towards our mission of promoting intellectual inquiry and providing a variety of opportunities for students to share writing. This is valuable for a number of reasons. Students who are used to reading the writing of advanced writers and disciplinary elders often find it a welcome change of pace, as well as an informative experience, to read and react to the writing of their fellow students.
Furthermore, peers finding themselves with similar challenges can share insights into their own writing processes and identify with others’ achievements and frustrations. Writing groups ultimately enable a type of open dialogue about ideas, arguments, and expression that is different from one-to- one consultations where clients are eager to receive advice and consultants are ready to give it.
As we explore possibilities for establishing partnerships across campus and generating group conversations about writing, face- to-face consultation sessions remain the focus of our efforts. This year, we have our largest consultant staff yet, thereby offering more opportunities for Vanderbilt students to talk with helpful peers about all their writing projects.