College of Arts and Science Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt Univeristy College of Arts and Science

December 2012 Update

Inside the Rabbit Warren: A Visit to the Vanderbilt Writing Studio

My mother’s worn and book-eared copy of Watership Down (1972), a classic fantasy novel by Richard Adams, was a mainstay of my library during my middle- and high-school years.  Though it may seem an unlikely story to appeal to generations of adolescent and adult readers, Watership Down is an epic tale of a community of rabbits who must flee their comfortable warren when it faces imminent destruction and together seek to establish a new home.  I haven’t revisited the novel for over ten years.  But, my first visit to the Writing Studio’s new location in the basement of Calhoun Hall, with its narrow corridors and cozy cubbies, immediately evoked for me the rabbits’ underground haven in Watership Down.  Indeed, the Director of the Writing Studio, Jennifer Holt, has dubbed our space “the rabbit warren.”

Due to construction in its permanent Alumni Hall location, the Writing Studio took refuge for the 2012/13 academic year in a series of nested rooms the Economics Department graciously donated in Calhoun’s basement.  For those clients and consultants familiar with the Writing Studio’s former open and airy space, the snug dimensions of its current setting required an adjustment.  As we have gotten settled in, however, we have found much to appreciate about our new home.

The spatial design of a writing center is crucial for accomplishing the dual aim of fostering a collaborative community as well as facilitating individual focus and comfort.  The openness of the Writing Studio’s Alumni Hall location was ideal for encouraging community learning and interactivity; however, the noise and bustle could be distracting for both tutors and clients.   The sequestered tutorial stations nestled within Calhoun’s basement present a different set of advantages and disadvantages.  While consultants and clients may feel less of that sense of community tucked away in our many small rooms, the privacy they offer enables concentration.  Additionally, because it's natural for all of us to feel nervous and even vulnerable when sharing our writing, our cloistered consultation rooms allow for more confidentiality. 

The staff at the Writing Studio has enjoyed discovering the benefits of the center’s temporary space as we’ve worked with both new and familiar clients over the course of the fall semester.  For those members of the Vanderbilt community who have yet to visit the Writing Studio, we hope you’ll stop by and see how a meeting with a Writing Studio consultant in our warm and cozy rabbit warren can help you manage the end-of-semester rush!