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Writing to think!

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I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Writing Program and Writing Center at Wake Forest University and, as always, I wanted a full tour: it is endlessly fascinating to me to see what goes on in writing centers and programs and I especially love looking at what’s posted on the walls.

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In this case, I had a chance to meet with undergrad tutors, who were eloquent and thoughtful and deeply into their work. They told me that they’d learned how to get students to look beyond editing for surface errors, to concentrate on the substance and structure of what they wanted to say, to know when to offer friendly sympathy and when to push a little harder, to listen “between the lines” to students, and to ask open-ended questions that can lead to genuine dialogue. I was inspired, as I always am, by how seriously these students took their work but also by their great good humor.

Some of the tutors had declared a new interdisciplinary writing minor, which will provide students…

with opportunities to practice, refine, and extend their skills as academic, professional, and creative writers. The curriculum, composed of new and existing courses in rhetoric and writing, as well as writing-enhanced courses across the disciplines, prepares students to participate in various writing situations both inside and outside the academy. Because writing enhances reflection, reinforces learning, and improves critical thinking, the Writing Minor will provide students with the skills they need to excel in their majors, their professions, and their lives as engaged citizens.

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Writing minors (and majors) are springing up all over the country, and it’s encouraging to see the innovative approaches being taken. In this case, I was impressed with the inclusion of creative writing; the students I spoke with spoke passionately about wanting to experience a full range of writing, from poems to press releases, and such programs promise to offer that range. With 18 units of required coursework, students with this minor should get a strong sense of themselves as writers—and several students told me they intended to take substantially more than 18 units in the minor if they could find a way to do so.

As I left the Center, I overheard a tutor and student talking animatedly about an assignment in progress. The student said he was “beginning to see what my main argument should be here,” and “huh . . . this is really helping me think.” That’s a line every writing center tutor or consultant loves to hear, and in this writing center it was echoed on a bulletin board where students had been invited to finish the sentence “I write because . . .”

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About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.