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Title:From dorm room to class room: Writing program and writing center partnerships with residence halls
Author(s):Kranek, Allison Alexandra
Director of Research:Ritter, Kelly
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Ritter, Kelly
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Wisniewski, Carolyn; Mortensen, Peter; Prior, Paul; Hesse, Douglas
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):writing centers
writing programs
first-year writing
living-learning communities
Abstract:Inspired by my experience teaching writing courses in a living-learning community, my dissertation puts into rare conversation writing studies and higher education scholarship surrounding writing in residence halls and living-learning communities. While writing centers and writing courses are often embedded in residence halls to promote student engagement and retention, we know little about how these partnerships operate in practice. In my dissertation, I call into question the common belief that such academic-student services partnerships always meet students “where they are,” particularly as universities have been prompted, during the current pandemic, to re-interrogate the value of residential campus spaces. I suggest that in trying to meet students where they are, they encounter many tensions surrounding access that can undermine the accessibility that administrators intend. Importantly, my research raises questions about which students we are meeting where they are, particularly given that issues of inclusivity and access have been pervasive across residential education and higher education history, as well as given the increasing financial cost of living on campus. In Chapter 1, I contend that residence hall spaces come with their own histories and own role in higher education, one that has often toed the line between their educational aims and their material costs and benefits. Then, I use data from university websites to compile nationwide trends in writing center and writing program partnerships with residence halls in Chapter 2, building on and complementing data collected via the National Census of Writing and the Writing Center Research Project. I map trends across different institution types and reveal that these partnerships with residence halls exist to a greater extent than is currently reflected in existing work, particularly at public universities where writing programs and writing center offer writing support in satellite spaces with the aim of supporting students across campus. While writing center residence hall satellites are often intended to reach writers in campus spaces that are more familiar to them, I argue in Chapter 3 that these spaces are not always as accessible as they seem and can pose real challenges for undergraduate and graduate consultants who staff these locations on their own—without a supervisor or a front desk manager. Using interview data from consultants at Illinois’ Writers Workshop, I show how these embedded sites of writing center work struggle with visibility and accessibility for writers and consultants. Additionally, I contend that writing center consultants must take on additional roles as they staff these sites, and as such, they must be differently prepared to carry out their writing center work in these residence hall locations. Next, in Chapter 4, I use a case study of a writing program that offers courses in living-learning communities to contend that writing support in residence halls offers a greater sense of community and student engagement than courses in “traditional” classrooms, as well as a largely convenient option for students to take first-year writing. However, I propose that while partnerships between academic programs and student residential life are well-intentioned, they face concrete—and often occluded—obstacles in enrollment, accessibility, and spatial-temporal resources that prevent them from living up to their potential. In order to move beyond merely maintaining these partnerships to sustaining them toward retention and student success, I assert that institutions must engage residential teachers and tutors in professional development that is locally specific and mindful of the limitations of LLCs and other socially engineered learning spaces. Such development is critical to achieving the learning objectives that undergird high impact practices, both in traditional physical spaces and now in virtual spaces as well. Ultimately, we cannot talk about location and space without also addressing the accessibility of these spaces, and my data reveal that when our writing centers and courses extend into campus residential spaces, students and instructors encounter accessibility issues in different ways than they do elsewhere on campus. Writing program and writing center administrators must anticipate these issues as their writing courses and writing centers move into residence hall spaces. Doing so can help minimize the obstacles associating with writing support in residence halls, while working to maximize their potential.
Issue Date:2021-07-14
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Allison Kranek
Date Available in IDEALS:2022-01-12
Date Deposited:2021-08

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