Shared Students, Partitioned Spaces, and Centers in Transition

On Thursday, July 21st, I had the pleasure of visiting Learning Center Coordinator Matthew Kemp at Auburn University Montgomery. Over the course of the day, I saw several tutoring sessions in the Learning Center and visited the Instructional Support Lab in Goodwyn Hall.

Much like Matt’s visit to WCC last month, direct observation of his center in action proved incredibly valuable. Below are some of the main takeaways from my trip.

Shared Students  = While visiting Matt’s center, I received a text message from professional tutor and media coordinator, Phillip M. Pinyan. He wanted me to know that he just worked with an AUM student who was taking summer school classes at Wallace. When Phillip let the student know about my ongoing project with Matt, she said, “The Learning Center is my saving grace!” The student’s enthusiasm for Matt’s wonderful center comes as no surprise and underscores the value of our collaborative project: open lines of communication between our centers will lead to a better understanding of student needs across institutional boundaries.


Layout = When I first walked into the Learning Center, I was struck by the welcoming environment Matt and his staff have created. Over the course of my career, I have become a bit wary of using partitions. After spending a few hours in AUM’s learning center, however, I have completely changed my mind. Sound-dampening partitions line two opposite walls of Matt’s center and allow students to feel a measure of privacy; tutors wait for appointments at open tables in the center of the room. This layout creates an environment that at once feels professional and informal. I am currently working with my institution to see whether or not we can adopt a similar layout. Photos of AUM’s center and my firsthand experience of the space give me useful information to present to my director and institution.

Centers in Transition = Next year’s Southeastern Writing Center Association (SWCA) Conference has chosen “Writing Centers in Transition” as its theme. The call for papers asks writing center practitioners to consider the idea of transition in a variety of ways:

Writing centers must juggle increasing levels of multimodal discourse in academia, as well as new and evolving ideas on composition, academic learning support, and peer tutoring. Further, the nature of writing center work can seem transient at times, with students, tutors, and, to a lesser extent, administrators, revolving in and out of centers at rapid rates. The cumulative effect is writing centers often being in a near constant state of transition.

My collaboration with Matt has at least touched on every aspect mentioned in the call for papers. We have examined the different ways in which multimodality informs our training and tutoring techniques and discussed how we cultivate a culture of consistency that maintains center identity during times of transition and change.

Most significantly, though, we have documented the stadial history of our centers. In other words, we have charted the different stages of our centers at different points in time. During my visit, I spoke with Matt, several faculty members, and the head librarian about the longer history of the Learning Center and how it became a multi-disciplinary space. While The Writing Center at WCC works with over twenty departments, it is not officially a multi-disciplinary center, but we are hoping to become one in the future.

What’s Ahead = I am excited to announce that Matt and I will be sharing part of our work, an interactive workshop titled “Collaborative Resistance,” at the upcoming SWCA Symposium at The University of Montevallo on September 16th.

I will also be visiting AUM again on August 18th to take part in new tutor training, and Matt is planning to visit WCC when I hold my next tutor tune-up.

Stay tuned for updates!