University of Maine at Presque Isle Writing Center tutors recently were in Queens, New York, to present at the annual Northeast Writing Centers Association [NEWCA] Conference at St. John's University.
UMPI tutors Martha Franklin-Wight and Taylor Ussery attended the April conference with Writing Center Director Dr. Deborah Hodgkins. The UMPI group's session, titled The Whole Writer, the Whole Tutor: What We Talk about When We Reflect on Practice, was an interactive one that first provided context and then engaged the audience in activities.
According to Hodgkins, the purpose of the session was to "explore the language that we use when we talk about tutoring and reflect on practice, and the metaphors we invoke both for what writing consultants do and how they describe their roles in sessions with writers."
The Whole Writer, the Whole Tutor presentation originated from papers produced in the UMPI class ENG/EDU 393, Writing Theory and Practice, as well as conversations in the Writing Center. Interestingly, the title was inspired by a paper written by fellow UMPI Writing Center consultant Stephanie Corriveau, who was unable to attend the conference. Corriveau discovered a very interesting connection between the osteopathic philosophy of "patient-centered" medicine and that of the UMPI Writing Center while applying for medical school – both embrace a reflection on the patient/writer's needs as part of their efforts to provide service and support.
Franklin-Wight and Ussery discussed several practices they have found that provide the best support in a writing center setting: flexibility, the ability to identify the best approaches to use with specific writers and their specific projects, and the importance of addressing the needs of the writer.
The three attended several other sessions that provided them with the opportunity to learn best practices from and interact with other writing consultants and directors.
"I learned a lot just from talking with other tutors about the sessions we sat in on," Ussery said. "I'd never thought of other writing centers as being any different from UMPI's. But, after going to St. John's and talking to other tutors, I'm amazed at the many different shapes, sizes and budgets that other writing centers operate under. At UMPI we have six tutors, but some of the schools had over 100."
Franklin-Wight added that the experience opened her eyes "to how lucky we are to have the Writing Center here in Presque Isle."
This was Hodgkins' third time presenting at national or regional conferences with UMPI consultants.
"I am always impressed with the outstanding work that all of the Writing Center tutors do each time they work with writers. It is important academic work," Hodgkins said. "Having the opportunity to present on that work at a professional conference is an invaluable experience, and Martha and Taylor represented UMPI very well."