Momentum: Bowdoin’s Writing Center Sees Growing Numbers of Students – Bowdoin News

December 13, 2021 by No Comments

Louise Cummins tutors a student in the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching.

Right from the start of the semester, the Writing Center—which is part of Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching—was prepared for a full schedule. By the end of September, 154 students had made a total of 211 writing appointments—almost double the 121 appointments made by 86 students in the autumn of 2018.

While the start of the semester is often the busiest time, interest in the center stayed strong throughout the fall.

There are likely several reasons for the growing popularity of the Writing Center, including its emphasis on fostering a collaborative, accepting environment where students from different backgrounds feel comfortable. 

Katie Byrnes, the director of the Baldwin Center, says the uptick could also be due to students returning from a year and a half of remote learning. “They may be primed to take advantage of resources available because it’s been so hard studying remotely and being on their own. They’re much more likely to meet with someone to work on papers, or to meet with someone to work on improving a skill.”

Writing assistant Elise Hocking ’22 also wonders whether the pandemic has helped boost numbers. “Last year, many people felt disconnected academically and socially, and I think the Writing Center builds connections,” she said. The writing process can be both isolating and stressful, she added, and checking in with someone while working on a paper can be reassuring and validating. 

“Writing is a social process,” Hocking said. “And I think the Writing Center highlights that for people.”

Additionally, Byrnes attributes the rising demand for writing assistants to word of mouth. With increasing numbers of students using the Baldwin Center’s resources each year, more are reporting positive experiences to friends and classmates, she said.

But another crucial piece to the Writing Center’s popularity is due to its director, Meredith McCarroll, who has restructured the program to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion. McCarroll is Bowdoin’s director of writing and rhetoric, director of the first-year writing seminar program, and a lecturer in English.

Her work in this area was recently recognized by the Small Liberal Arts Colleges–Writing Program Administrators, which awarded her the 2021 Martinson Award for Innovation, citing the anti-racist framework she has established for Bowdoin’s writing program.

Linguistic Justice and Anti-Racism

A couple of years ago, after noting that many writing assistants were white and graduates of private high schools, McCarroll began implementing a number of changes to the program. One was shifting the hiring process to open the field to more candidates beyond students recommended …….



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