The Decade in Review
When the first decade of our century ended, The Writing Center at the Catholic University of America was still a small, humble academic support unit. While it had experienced growth from its earliest years, the Center, hidden away on the periphery of campus in O’Boyle Hall, only served a few hundred students per year. 500 or so appointments was it, mostly in support of the English 101 curriculum. The Center was staffed solely by graduate students, including its coordinator. It’s an understatement to say we’ve come a long way since those years.
Today, English faculty directors lead a Catholic U. Writing Center that serves well over a 1,000 students per year and holds annually over 4,000 tutorial sessions. The Center is now centrally located in Mullen Library. Well-defined coordinator and assistant positions have been established that allow our exceptional graduate staff to thrive under faculty guidance and mentorship, and graduate alumni have gone on to direct and even found writing centers at colleges and high schools.
Here at Catholic U. we perform each academic year 180 workshops and outreaches to classes, partnering with academic programs and student organizations to support writers across the curriculum. This academic year, the Center has provided workshops on topics ranging from research writing, literature reviews, structure, and organization to writing productivity, academic integrity, grammar, and APA style. These workshops have been given within courses in English, History, Social Work, Sociology, Engineering, Business, Philosophy, and Politics – among others. Since 2013, we’ve held a week-long annual Dissertation Boot Camp in June in collaboration with the Graduate Student Association that has garnered praise and accolades from participants and we have also held a Grant Writers’ Retreat for Faculty – with superb results. Additionally, the Writing Center has been a fixture in support of ongoing programs and initiatives like Inventio: The Catholic University’s Undergraduate Research Journal and the First Year Experience Program.
Perhaps the most significant development – certainly the one most deeply impactful for the larger writing culture at Catholic U. especially at the undergraduate level -- has been the advent of the Writing Center Undergraduate Tutor Program, created in 2013 and overseen by Dr. Taryn Okuma. The WCUT program has enabled us to recruit outstanding undergraduates from across the curriculum to work alongside our graduate students. These undergraduate tutors serve as writing mentors and student leaders for the undergraduate student body. The WCUT program has also made the Writing Center a focal point for undergraduate research at the university. Our undergraduates, who develop their projects as part of the required 3-credit seminar course English 328 Writing Center Theory and Practice, have presented their original research at six national and international writing center conferences since 2014 on topics ranging from religious mission in the Writing Center to fostering motivation, increasing self-efficacy, working with English Language Learners, supporting students with disabilities, and helping creative writers.
We’re proud of the work that our administrators, instructors, and tutors have done throughout these years to help support our student writers and the faculty who teach them. We’re grateful also to our university faculty collaborators, who have been cherished partners and colleagues. We’ve come a very long way in a relatively short period of time – from a Center a decade ago that served only a small fraction of the university community to one that now participates in significant and lasting ways to the building-up of the larger writing culture at Catholic U., reaching into and positively impacting every relevant area of university life. That said, the work of writing support is never done and we’re excited for the new opportunities to strive for growth in our writers and our community in the new decade. 2020s, here we come!
Director, University Writing Center
Clinical Assistant Professor of English