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Kayla Sweeney: So, have you started your semester of work yet?

Ashly Bender-Smith: We have our meetings tomorrow and then classes start Wednesday

KS: Okay, and are you, sorry, I'm still learning a little bit about who you are, but are you a professor or do you do Writing Center work or both?

AB: I don't anymore; I am a professor at Sam Houston State University in the college of business here. So we are, do you want me to tell you a little bit about how we're a little different?

KS: Yeah, I would love that. I noticed your university work, but I just saw the university name, so I didn't know what your role was?

AB: So, I am a professor and I teach a junior level and a sophomore level 1:00business communication course. We have some other courses on the books that we haven't been able to offer recently because there is such a high need for the courses that we offer, that are required to take that junior level course, and so that's what we do. There are six of us, and we're hiring. We've like been hiring forever because like I said the need is so high. But what that means in terms of kind of maybe what you might be more familiar with coming out of an English department is that one, there is not a lot of variety in what we teach in terms of courses, and there is a little less flexibility. So like when I taught 101 and 102 I kind of, I don't know how to say this.  When I taught 101 2:00and 102, I felt a lot of freedom to kind of decide whatever I kind of wanted to do to help students explore and strengthen and grow their writing style and understand how that fit in relation to the different contexts they might be writing in, and so it felt really open. But in the business communication courses I teach, there is a shell for what we teach and it's not necessarily more limited, like I can always say "this semester we're going to explore different things about flex-work policies and you will communicate about that in different ways and think about how that might work within different disciplines of business but it's still within that shell. So, I don't want to say that there is not room for flexibility and creativity, but it just doesn't feel that wide 3:00open. But it might just be that I am further in my career than when I had only been teaching 3-5 years when I was teaching freshman English. 

KS: Yeah, I can see that being frustrating though. I know it's very very different, but I think that in teaching English, I had more freedom to do creative things in general than other departments. So, I don't know if it's like that in higher ed too. But business, I don't know enough about business--

AB: There are a lot of cool things that we can do, particularly in terms of getting into multi-modal types of projects and, umm, kind of having what you might call a genre set. So, we're going to create multiple documents for 4:00multiple types of communication. That's the other thing. I do way more types of communication than writing. So that has been a little bit of learning. But this is what I was going to say. A lot of people that I didn't know when I started this job, right--I thought I was just going to be coming in and teaching and be in my box, but actually, we kind of represent what it means to teach communication to all the other business disciplines so, as a unit, we also kind of function like kind of like a WPA. We don't schedule the classes, or anything like that, but we decide what our program is going to look like, and we must communicate that to these people who honestly have no idea what we're doing

KS: Wow

AB: So that part is fun, and one thing I have been kind of hoping to get more into is going to more Writing program kind of conferences, WPA kind of 5:00conferences, because I didn't realize how much even though I don't have that title, that is the work I'm doing. Assessment. Program Review. It's a mess. It's--it's not a mess. 

KS: Right! It's probably a lot of hard work though...Oh the job description. I don't feel like that in the Writing Center. I taught a year in Malaysia and it was like--you have a little job description, but it has all this stuff**add more. So, I know you were the administrative assistant from 2012-2014, is that right?

AB: I'm thinking. There's a little delay too in the recording. It's okay. I just 6:00wanted to let you know if you're seeing weird things on your end, I'm having a delay on my end. I'm trying to think. I was a tutor and then I applied for one of the assistant director positions, like the grad student positions, and then I did that for two years (6:27)

KS: Okay. Yeah. 

AB: But I don't know, is that what you meant by the administrative assistant role?

KS: yeah, I think, I think that's how, that's what that would fit into. That's what we would call like--do you know the current staff of the Writing Center in terms of like the higher staff?

AB: I know Bronwyn and then Cassie. So, the director, associate director and 7:00then when I was there, we just had--4 assistant directors who were grad students, but I would think of an administrative assistant as the person who sits at the front desk. 

KS: Right, so we. I think, I think that's what they're referring to as those grad--we have, how many do we have, 3 PhD students that fit into that role. And then all the grad students, we work as Writing Center consultants, but the PHD students would be those, we call them AD, assistant directors.

AB: yeah, that's what I was. 

KS: So, I think, it may have also been a typo here. So, do you feel that that work has influenced what you're doing now? You're talking about writing work you're currently doing. Has that all kind of played into what you're doing?

AB: My writing center work--writing center work is really how I got into the field of rhetoric and composition and I started in my undergrad and I just stuck 8:00with it all the way through my PhD. Even after I was done at the Writing Center, I moved over and I was the business communication consultant in the business school. That's how I got into what I do now. But then, I know it's more now, but then it was basically just a one-person writing center for the business school. Umm

KS: Yeah

AB: I think the thing that uh, the thing that really carries through for me is my conception of how we do communication feedback. So, in terms of it being developmental, in  terms of it being a conversation, in terms of it being kind 9:00of careful when we're frustrated with our students about how we talk about them, and the things we do with their writing and in terms of ethically uh how do we share or represent writing to other people and I think that my background in WC work helps me be an advocate so when other upper level faculty say "our students are terrible writers, they turn in terrible things to me" then I can say, well , you know, that might be because they are struggling learning your content and so maybe they're not doing as well as they normally would in their writing or maybe they just don't care about your class or your assignment so they didn't put a lot of effort into that assignment or they're busy. You know, there are so many other things it could mean except "they're terrible writers"

KS: Yeah

AB: So, I think that really, I mean that's kind of WC ethos and that's 10:00something, I try to be an advocate in that way   KS: Yeah, that's really cool. Like that is something I have definitely loved about the WC and its neat to see that that was still, I guess, it's not just the WC right now at UofL, but that's a WC Ethos you say like in general. Do you mind, let's see, umm, I've got several questions, but I don't know, I'm more like an organic conversation person, but I do want to make sure I ask some of these. So, you, you said that before you were an AD I guess, so you were a tutor first? Right? Not a tutor, but a consultant. Yeah, so did you I don't know if you remember, how did you get 11:00into that in the first place? Like when you first came to UofL.

AB: So, when I first came to UofL, my first year, there were a lot of changes in the opportunities that were available to graduate students while I was there. And I think there have been changes since then. And some of that just has to do with staffing and funding and all those things. I now see on this side of things. But, my second year there was an opportunity to swap out some of your course load to do a certain number of hours consulting in the WC. I don't remember if that was Bronwyn's first year as director or not, maybe it was his 2nd year. but like I said, I had started consulting at a writing center in my undergrad, and I did it for 3 years in my undergrad, and 2 years in my master's program, and so I didn't get to do that in my first year in my PhD program, and I really missed it. It was what I was really passionate about. So, I just went 12:00to Bronwyn and said I really, really, really want to do this. And basically, told him what I just told you and was like please, please, please, please. And so, I got to be one of the PHD students who did one class and then whatever number of hours of tutoring. I don't even remember what it was. 

KS: Yeah. That's so cool that you--I can think of a couple people in our program right now, some of the upper level masters students and PHD student who are like that, who just love it so much and can't imagine I don't know, the way they talk about it reminds me of how you're talking about it. That's so cool to see that 13:00passion. Can you tell me I don't know, this is a really broad question and so if you want me to be more specific, please tell me but what was the general structure of the program? So you kind of told me that already. I guess in terms of maybe it would be more helpful to ask what "a day in the life" looked like for you at the WC at that time.

AB: Umm, so, when I was a consultant, I mostly just went for the hours I worked. Umm, yeah, pretty much just the hours I worked. and we were in a different space than y'all are in now. So, but, sorry, once I became an assistant director, I, then I spent a ton of time in the AD office and also I was actually just 14:00thinking about this because I was recording videos for my class this morning and I wanted to sit with not just a wall, so I was like, "oh I'll have my window blinds" you can see it's still early morning, I am a get up well before the crack of dawn kind of person, and so I would go, we were on the 2nd or 3rd floor of Ekstrom, and umm, that's the library right? I have library names stuck in my head and actually when I think of the library on my campus now, I think of it as Ekstrom, and I have to be like, wait that's not it. But the Writing Center looked out, like one wall was just windows and it looked out onto the Quad. and the AD office had windows that kind of looked across the tutoring area out the, 15:00like, toward that wall. So, I mean, almost every morning, I was just sitting in the AD office in the corner by the windows, watching the sun come up, like light up the quad, getting ready for my classes, getting ready for the day, and we had you know, each semester each year, we would have certain projects that we would work on as ADs. So, one year, Adam Robinson, who you may have heard of, he was Cassie before Cassie

KS: Yeah!

AB: He and I were tasked to figure out the website which we did not do a great job at that. But like, it was very confusing trying to learn this new program the university was switching over to. Honestly, I think Bronwyn ended up coming in and just like saving the day and like figuring everything out, but we spent a 16:00lot of time being like "how do we do this again?"

KS: Well, he speaks very highly of that work, just so you know. He mentioned that you, you specifically, greatly influenced how our website is today. SO, just you know that's not how he--

AB: We did work together to kind of figure out the structure and what was going to be offered and how it was going to be placed and together, with the tutors and the other ADs, we built first drafts of a lot of those resources that I still sometimes assign to my students today. Uhh, the person who was AD before me, uhh her name is Barrie Olsen now, but her name was Barrie Harvey, no, flip that--now she's Harvey, then she was Olsen, she had built a lot of the early digital offerings that we had umm, so we updated some of those, reused some of those, so we worked on that, and then she had basically piloted some of the 17:00social media and then, when I came on as AD, I basically took over her role and then I worked on developing out that social media so I don't know what y'all use now, but I used Hoot-suite to basically schedule posts about things to I think just twitter and something else. I don't even remember. Facebook. Twitter and Facebook. So I set up those accounts and when you sent me the Skype, I was like "oh duh, I should have remembered that. I used that all the time." And then, Barrie started the blog and so I kind of continued with that and I would coordinate with the consultants to, I mean basically have writing center appointments with them like "what are you going to write the blog about? this is 18:00the week you're signed up for. So, I set up that stuff. And then, and this is one of things I am most proud about, and every time you all post one, I just like love it, I don't know, I like I'm just so proud of myself which is silly. But I came up with that How I Write series. 

KS: Yeah, you're kind of famous for that.

AB: That's like my one thing.

KS: No, that's fantastic. I was doing some reading about it yesterday, and I would love to learn more about its purpose. Do you feel, I don't know how to ask this, that How I Write series, I was kind of curious from your perspective, from someone who actually piloted it, the influence that that had on writing center work at UofL, or UofL in general, I don't know, do you remember its first 19:00entrance to the world? You know. 

AB: So, I got this from this other website that I read then, I don't remember which website it was, it may have been Lifehacker or something, they did a every now and then article called "How I Work" So those five questions are actually pretty similar to the "How I Work" questions and when I started doing it, part of it was you know, a lot of people imagine the WC being for their English class and I wanted a way to help people whether it was faculty or administration or students, see that writing is part of everything, you know, it doesn't matter 20:00what you do, you're going to do some kind of writing. And, we tried to, we were pretty active in terms of trying not to hit too many English faculty. That was an important first thing for us as part of that goal. And, so we had a list of people that we sent requests to, and we would kind of like backlog them, so when I got somebody's "How I Write" I would put them into the schedule and I would send them an email and say "this is when you should expect it." I'll send you a link when it comes live, like, these things, umm, my husband now was an engineering student at the time so Dr. Heeb was one of the like, one of the big 21:00wins I thought, because he has a really good reputation with the engineering students, and so that was cool and we had some other people from other places but we had two other big wins. Our first non-campus person was Mike Rutherford who writes for Card Chronicle

KS: Cool!

AB: --he basically is Card Chronicle. So that was cool. Adam Robinson got that, and I still follow Mike Rutherford and I so desperately want to be friends with him, like he's so cool. But he's just like a normal dude, you know?

KS: Yeah.

AB: But he was our first big off-campus person and then we got uhh James Ramsey who was then the president of the university and

KS: Wow

AS: That was a huge win. In fact, Bronwyn made up bump every other person. Cause he was like "we just have to put this one up right away" which I get from a political sense. You know it's the president of the university...but also, involving the administrators in that helped them to understand what we were doing in the Writing Center, so I think that made an impact--


KS: Yeah! I was just thinking. Wow, because Writing Center work. Sorry I didn't mean to interrupt you. Because Writing Center work is so, I don't want to say niche, but it's like, in its own corner of the university, sometimes seen as--what do they call--like on the fringes

AB: Uhm, like a support service

KS: Yeah, so to have that positive communication with presidents--that's so cool that you all did that.

AB: It was cool too because he did his--the way he did it--and he talks about this, if you go back and read it--the way he does a lot of his writing is he records it in the vehicle, like in the car, then he gives it to his secretary and she writes it up. It was really neat to help students, or whoever, people, whoever's reading that, to see these other ways to compose messages.


KS: Yeah, and I meant that's something we still tell people. If you can't write, if you can't physically write, record yourself talking. So that's neat to hear someone like that do that. And then you also did the dissertation retreats, right? That's something I read about. Again, I'm not a PhD student so I don't know the level of stress that goes into writing a dissertation necessarily, I can imagine it and imagine it and definitely working PhD students and seeing that. I just thought that was a really cool thing you co-piloted right?

AB: Yeah, the first year of the DWR I was a consultant and then the next two 24:00years, I was an AD and so you just had to be there, you didn't get paid any extra. You get food and you get to be an AD. We did, I don't even remember what I did. But we led these lunch workshops so they wrote in the morning, and then we'd have a mini workshop and then they would write, and then they would do their consulting, we'd do 2 consulting sessions in the afternoon. And so, if you were a participant, you would do one of those two and then you would write for the other hour and then you'd go home. Or do whatever you want. But I mean that was cool. It was really fun, and it really helped the students in terms of the PhD candidates blocking time. The candidates were pretty much all at different 25:00places in the process. One of the things we learned, I mean I don't know if Bronwyn already knew this or not since his wife is also in education. In education, your defense, your dissertation defense is your first three chapters of your dissertation. Like, you're halfway done by the time you defend. But it's all like the introduction, the lit review, and the methods. Those are kind of like the 3 things you write up. And then you defend it. And then you basically collect your data and write up your results. So, we actually, after the first time, we did a spin-off DWR just for the education school because we wanted to kind of meet them where they were.

KS: Yeah

AB: Um, so we did that, it was cool, it was fun, I got pegged because my MA is 26:00actually, it's from New Mexico State and there's a strong Prof Com emphasis, professional communication emphasis, at New Mexico State and so I got pegged to work with all the science and engineering candidates, which meant a lot of being like "explain this formula to me." They were all pretty far along.

KS: Wow, yeah. That would be very difficult. That's cool that you've had that training though to maybe be more confident to us lower ones in society, because I know that's something really cool and enjoyable about WC work, working with all these fields, but it's a challenge.

AB: There's a really good article called something like "The Science of 27:00Scientific Writing" I think. And a lot of what I talk about in WC appointments with those people is stuff from that article like having linear sentences structure, teaching them how to edit their own work, things like that. And then just asking them questions umm, I will say for the record, every year Bronwyn scheduled the DWR over my birthday week. And every year I was sick.

KS: Oh no! That's horrible

AB: That's irreverent to like the meaning of those things, but I just wanted to get that in, one more jab at him

KS: Yeah, he absolutely needs to remember that. He also, this is off, off, maybe not focused on this either, but he told we had a Bronwyn Day last Friday, this past Friday, so he won't tell anyone his birthday. And the 28:00consultants, we're all a bunch of goofballs, you know, we love our work, but also, we have a lot of fun, which is a blessing, but no one would tell us his birthday, I think Cassie had a feeling it was maybe in January. So, we picked a day in January, last Friday, and just threw a birthday party. I don't know if he enjoyed it or not, I think he did. We made oatmeal cookies and brownies, and I made a painting for him,

AB: Oh cool!

KS: And he mentioned that you had to. Because we have this inside joke about that, not me and him, but our whole cohort, about the turnip, that phrase that's like "do I look like I just fell off the turnip truck? He used it like 4 times 29:00in one class period, so I drew a turnip truck and he said you had drawn a picture or painted something. Like a rabbit and a lion, or something.

AB: Yeah, it's in his office. 

KS: Yeah, like that was something he had told you all.


AB: Yeah

KS: It was funny because he was like "oh you made me this and I'm going to put it besides, Oh! it's the person you're interviewing." 

AB: Yeah, my grandmother made that. It was the dissertation gift I gave him. Thank you for putting up with me. Poor Bronwyn, when I, we had this like come to Jesus meeting about my dissertation after he agreed to be my advisor and I was like here is the list of things I could write about. Here is the list of things I definitely don't want to write about. And on the definitely don't want to write about list, was Technical and Professional communication and now, that's what I spend my whole life doing. 

KS: that's so funny


AB: But there wasn't anyone there at the time really who could have directed a dissertation like that, and I just really didn't want to do it. And I was just much more interested. Anyway, sorry, now we're way off on me and away from the Writing Center

KS: That's okay, you're part of it!

AB: Anyway, he did that in that meeting or in another meeting, he told me this parable about the basically the moral of the story is "it doesn't matter what your topic is, it just matters who your director is. I actually have a copy of that painting in my office and um, it, where I have it hanging is right by the door and you see it when you walk out. So, I keep it there to remember like, I just relied on Bronwyn so often to be like "this thing will be fine because Bronwyn is going to be there. If anything happens, I can count on him. So now 31:00when I leave my office and I'm like, now it's your turn, remember you're supposed to be the lion.

KS: That's so cool, he is really great though. Like, I think, and it sounds like it was like this by then, way back then, but I really appreciate the community at the WC and the sense of support. I've just been so so surprised maybe by that because you think of going into university culture in general or grad school programs and you think about competition and you think about the imposter syndrome and everyone trying to fight that and then you go to the WC and there is so much comradery and so much support, even with those higher than you. And I appreciate that so much. 

AB: I remember. So, the year I started as a consultant, you know we had to go to training, beginning of the semester meeting. And, I remember Bronwyn saying very 32:00seriously and you know the tone he uses when he's like I am dead serious about this thing I'm saying to you.

KS: Yeah

AB: And he was like, the students you are working with are not kids. I never want you; I never want to hear you say anything about the kids who are coming here. They're adults. They're people. And earlier when you were asking me how the WC work influences me--when Bronwyn said that I was like, he's being over-the-top about this. I know a lot of teachers who will refer to their students as kids. It's fine. But the older I get and the longer I teach and the more I work with students, that is something that I think is more important, you know, every year. I think that's part of what you're talking about. 

KS: Yeah

AB: When you go into the WC, you are going to be treated as a competent person 33:00and I think a lot of times, they don't get that in the classroom. 

KS: Yeah, yeah because you're seen, like your competency is related to your performance and I mean, yeah, that makes sense to some degree, but at the same time, like, I think what you were talking about earlier, what were you saying, you were saying when we work with writers, we are advocates for them. And thinking like, everybody approaches education in a different way. Everybody has a different background. Struggling with writing doesn't mean you aren't intelligent. I appreciate that and then it's cool to see that that's kind of the way things were back then. Um, let me think, we've talked about a lot of this 34:00stuff. Yeah, I guess this is kind of an interesting question. You've talked some about this--so you worked with Adam what was his last name again?

AB: Robinson

KS: Robinson--and were there any other people you worked with at the time that you remember, I don't know, you enjoyed working with them or they were influential in your time working there. Whether that's people under you or over you.

AB: The whole time I was there, the woman that ran the front desk, Robin, Robin Blacket, man. She's like a good solid foundation. Like you could count on her, she's reliable. It just, I mean, it just really felt like I don't know. She was just reliable. You knew when Robin came in, if there was a problem, you knew 35:00she'd help you fix it. And she's just so nice. Of course, Adam was great and in fact, 2 semesters while I was there Bronwyn was overseas and so

KS: Wow AB: So, it was me and Adam.

KS: Wow! 2 whole semesters.

AB: Yeah, it wasn't for a whole year--they were separate times, but it was two semesters. One of them was my 2nd semester there.

KS: Oh, my goodness.

AB: I remember it was right after I had, it was the semester after I had defended my dissertation. I told Bronwyn, "well, if you're going to take the semester off, I'm going to take a semester off" and he was like "okay." Um, you know he had a Fulbright, he was going to go and write and do other work, so it wasn't fair for me to be like "if you're taking the semester off. . ." But what 36:00I loved about his response was he was like "well, it's your time and money and process, so if that's what you want to do, you do you." And there was no weird tone, he was just like "okay" And I had to be like "wait, what?" But, let's see, Robin, Adam, Bronwyn. There were,man, there were so many other ADs but a lot of times, they were focused on a particular area. Like we had an AD for the Health Sciences campus and other stuff. Barrie, who I mentioned earlier, Barrie and I were in the same cohort, we were best friends, maid of honor in my wedding but she had every position that I wanted the year before I had it. 

KS: oh okay

AB: I always kind of felt like, not that I was following in her footsteps, but 37:00kind of doing things in partnership with her. So that was really influential. Jessica Winck was an AD the year after me and Jessica has a very strong focus on like social justice, ethics, respecting students, and I think between her and Bronwyn, they both really shaped, and of course the readings we do and the field, but the 2 of them were always kind of constant reminders of the things you should be considering, and as you can tell, that definitely has shaped how I imagine the work that I do. I don't want to not mention people as implication that they weren't important, but these were people who were really important. And then there were a few people who were consultants and later, who did more. 38:00Amy Nichols and I did a lot of work together. She was a consultant when I was there, but I think later, she became an AD. And she did a lot of community outreach stuff with the WC. That was really cool. That's a passion for her and I think she's at Berea now. 

KS: That's cool. Berea is such a cool place. 

A: So Amy Nichols, and then the other person who, this is such a terrible way to say this, I think she was always a consultant because she's an MA student, so I guess she was just there for the 2 years, but her name's Carly Johnson. Now she's married and her name's Carry Hess. but Carly just oozes positivity and 39:00like, and I know that she oozes positivity and care and confidence and I know that her outreach persona is not always an accurate representation of how she feels, but she is the only person on my social media who I never talk to, but I refuse to unfollow her because she makes my life better. And when she first started at the WC, I remember, the kind of person I am is not always particularly warm at first. I try to do better about that. But I remember when she came into the training meeting day thing, I remember thinking "this girl does not know her place," she just walks in like she runs everything and getting to know her made me realize how wrong my thinking was on that. That there were 40:00so many other things. And so, knowing her and the Writing Center gave me the opportunity to know her, I think has made me a kinder person.  KS: that's so cool. That sounds corny the way I said that, but I appreciate that you mentioned the person at the front desk because Amber, that's the lady we have at the front desk right now, I don't know what we would do without her. It's the same thing. She's incredibly influential to our work. She's just very kind, she brings us bagels. But also keeps things together in a way that a lot of people couldn't do. You mentioned a consultant. Again, I think what you're showing is that Writing Center ethos is all different people at different levels working together. That's really cool. But I don't know, I had something else I was going 41:00to say with that. But I appreciate that you shared that and it's neat that it has influenced you so much as an individual, not just professionally too. 

AB: I it's kind of embarrassing to talk about how sometimes I thought about things initially. To say, "I think that thing that Bronwyn said was over the top" or "this was my initial reaction and it was bad." But it's true and it really is those experiences that we had there that really strongly influences how I live my life today.

KS: Yeah and I mean, that, this is also corny, and I am very idealistic so that may come out but that's how education should be. That's what we want, you know. It should shape us as people, but it's so funny because there are people I thought about when you were talking about all those people. There is a 42:00consultant I work with Rose, and I'll mention her by name because I'll give her a shout-out here on the record, but she, the person you were talking about who has that passion for social justice and just, she's that person I would say in our cohort. She's quiet a lot of times but has such a high view of people and thinks so critically. I hope I have a high view of people, but her critical thinking also shapes that. And so, she challenges me in the way that you're talking about. Yeah, that's so neat. It's, I guess as someone who's only been in WC work for not even a year, knowing that this has been something that's been forming, or been a part of the culture for more than just, like it's not just our cohort. 


AB: Yeah

KS: It sounds like it's part of Writing Center work as a whole. Umm, let's see, this is something you've talked about already so if you don't have anything else to add to this, that's okay, I'm just curious how the Writing Center changed during the time you were there. You said there was a lot of shifting. You've already spoken about that some, but is there anything else you would add? I can't remember when we moved downstairs. Bronwyn has mentioned that before. We are on the first floor of Ekstrom.

AB: Right. I've seen the new space, but I've never worked in the new space. So, when I started, I can't remember exactly. I can't remember if Bronwyn had already been a director for a year, but I think he had already been the director 44:00for a year. No. That's not true. No. Um, I think that I started consulting the first year that Bronwyn was director and then, he was director and Adam was the associate director all 5 years that I was at Louisville. No, sorry, my last 4 years at Louisville. There was someone else who was the director before Bronwyn and so, but I didn't work under her so I don't really know what that experience was like and I guess now that I think back about it, there were probably a lot of things that Bronwyn was testing out and getting under control that I didn't even know were a thing. Um, because I was just there doing my work, you know?

KS: Yeah

AB: They hired--Adam and I left the same year, so they hired Cassie after I left 45:00and then moved downstairs. But I don't know. It's just the same thing. You do your AD work, you do your consultant work, you cover, try to finish your dissertation.

KS: Yeah. Okay, yeah, cool. And Bronwyn was gone 2 of those semesters. You all had the dissertation retreats come about, you had the How I Write, so it sounds like a lot--

AB: Yeah, we really exploded that thing. Oh, we started doing the--whatever that beginning of the year library party thing is. 

KS: Yeah, yeah!

AB: We started doing that while I was there too. I mean, it was fun, it was interesting, but it's it's crazy. Have you been to it?

KS: I was trying to remember if I went or not. I feel like the beginning of the semester is such a blur, but--I think I know what you're talking about but I'm 46:00not sure if I went. Do you want to tell me more about it, maybe it'll...?

AB: Uh, it's like a thing where, it was probably more important then because the library services were kind of spread out, so students would kind of like tour around the library and each office would have different activities or engagements things that students could do.

KS: Almost like a fair or something.

AB: Yeah, and we had, I'm trying to remember. We had stuff where, we had a thing where people were writing a story together, so you would write down and you would write a couple sentences, and then get up, and someone else would sit down and they would--and so then, as the day went on--or maybe that was an idea we had that we didn't end up doing. We had other stuff like, we had this big long sheet of paper that was like "if you were stuck on a desert island, what book 47:00would you want to take with you?" And then, I think we ended up hanging that in the Writing Center afterward. So, it was just kind of stuff to get students thinking about what we did, and what we had to offer, and to engage them while they were there and familiarize themselves. We started hosting the artwork, the student and faculty artwork, while I was there. 

KS: Yeah!

AB: So, we kind of, while I was there, we started the DWR, we strengthened our social media though it's even better now, and just kind of digital outreach kind of stuff. And then we started laying the foundations for community outreach things, but that really grew later. The stuff with what's the house, the home for single parents? DO you know what I'm talking about?



KS: Wait, is it the learning house? Is that right?

AB: Maybe, but anyway. We just started trying to do, testing out, new things. So, the DWR was, you know, kind of an example of that and then the education DWR. But really the community stuff with people off-campus started after I left. 

KS: Yeah. Did you all have, I wish I knew, I should have looked this up--I didn't think about it till now. How many students came to the Writing Center per day? I mean, who knows, I don't know how you could remember that. 


AB: per day?

KS: Or were Writing Center services popular on campus or?

AB: In the time that I was there, we saw a huge growth in the number of appointments that we had. I don't remember what they were when we started, but I think one semester we did something like 2000 appointments. I don't know if that number seems high or low. And you know, that's not something that we talked about a lot with the consultants. Which, now thinking back, maybe that's something? But Bronwyn did a beginning of the year, Bronwyn did a blog post 50:00either each semester or each year, like kind of a summary post and I think he put those numbers in that post.

KS: Yeah, he told us, I don't remember the number. Again, I wish I had this. But he told us at the end of last semester, how many appointments we had done. But I don't remember. But he does share that with us now which is cool. I appreciate it.

AB: I think it was just one little blip in a sea of things. But I'm pretty confident that the number of appointments and students that we were seeing increased in my 4 years there, 3 years in the writing center. And I think a lot of it had to do with doing better at meeting the faculty where they were and meeting the students where they were in terms of connecting with them and letting them know that we're there and what we do. 


KS: Yeah. Did you all do--we do presentations. We're doing some this week--like at the beginning of the semester, when you go into classes--that kind of thing.

AB: We did do that, and I think that's one of the things like, I think we got better at talking about why it mattered to have a Writing Center come when we were talking to faculty. So, in terms of meeting faculty where they are, I mean helping them understand why they should invite us and what we can help their students with. And making it easy for them, like that is such a big thing. You know?

KS: Yeah, and I think that's important because they don't know what we do a lot of times. And that's not necessarily their fault. I think it's important to do what you're saying because a lot of faculty, I think if they know what we really do, you know, then they will understand the value of the services. That's really 52:00cool. We've talked about a lot in this amount of time. Is there anything else that you would like to share? I have, I mean I have some other questions, but most of the things like, what was rewarding about working with writers? I feel like we've talked about that. But if you would like to expand on that, I would love to hear anything that you have to say or would like to share. 

AB: So, I mean, I wrote, I think the email was like "how I impacted the Writing Center" and I was like "I have no idea." But then I was like, no, I participated in the GWR and then you know, I helped get that going and then you know, the How I Write thing is my little pride baby. It's embarrassing how much I'm like 53:00"that's me."

KS: No, that's so cool!

AB: I mean I think those are the two, like, biggest contributions besides my daily work and then pestering Bronwyn. 

KS: We all pester him. I think it's cool that he lets you, you know? But I mean the fact that what you're talking about in terms of culture, like I said, is still kind of true today, means that you probably greatly impacted that. Because you were someone who is semi-in power. But ya know?

AB: It's weird to realize that people see you that way, you know? When we were ADs, we were, we would like schedule specific times to go into the consultant 54:00office and like check-in. We started these mentorships.

KS: Oh! I was going to ask. We do that too. So, you started that?

AB: That was Jessica's idea--I think it was Jessica's idea. That was not my idea. I just helped start it. So, I had like 5 consultants that I met with like every other week or something. And then, I am like a super, super structured kind of person and so I'd be like "we're going to meet! We're going to talk about these things" which does not help with the sense that I'm in power. 

KS: You seem very friendly though. Bronwyn told me I could tell you that you're a very friendly person. He specifically told me I could tell you that.

AB: I am but sometimes when I'm in charge of "the thing"--when I lead committee 55:00meetings, I walk in and I'm like here's the agenda, here's the timeframe and then I'm like the task master and I'm like "we have 5 minutes to discuss this."

KS: Honestly, I appreciate people like that though, because you know those meetings where you're like "this could all be said in an email." That kind of thing. Or this individual question could be dealt with individually. So, that's a good thing too. We had a mentoring meeting one time that was wonderful, I will say. But it was basically all of us hanging out for an hour. But it was so good. It was a really rough point in the semester. But we've had other ones that have been super structured and those are helpful too because sometimes there are things you do need to talk about as a 1 year MA student that you're not, you don't have a question for in your head, but then when someone asks you and says "we're going to talk about this" and draws it out of you, it's really good. 

AB: Is Susan Griffin still there?


KS: I don't think so. 

AB: She's in the English department. She's not involved in the Writing Center. She, so she teaches Lit and she was the chair of the department the whole time I was there and like, except, she stepped down at some point. And I remember when she was the chair, she was always super formal. And then as soon she was not chair anymore, she started wearing these gorgeous shawls and beautiful dresses but, and I never had class with her. But I heard these stories about how one time a grad student was supposed to memorize something for her class and she didn't and everyone else had and they did like a recitation, I don't even know why they were doing this, but this one student hadn't memorized her part and so she couldn't contribute to the recitation and when she admitted that she was 57:00wrong, Dr. Griffin just laid into her about how disrespectful it was to her classmates that they had all done this work and she hadn't done it, and then I also heard that in department meetings, she would, if someone raised a topic that wasn't on the agenda, she would be like "not on the agenda. If you want it on the agenda for next time, you can make a motion but we're not talking about it now." And I never had a one-on-one interaction with her, but when I think about how I want to lead something, I think about those things for her. Because a lot of times, I know it sounds so embarrassing for that one student who was taken to task, and I'm sure it was, but it's kind of nice in terms of being the 58:00other students who actually prepared, to be like, she's not yelling at that person because they didn't do their work and she's upset with them. She's advocating for us, right? She's talking about how this person is disrespecting us.

KS: And holding high expectations. I mean, there's time for grace, but I think that's a valuable thing that we don't always do is holding those really high expectations, so yeah.

AB: And then, you know, not that Bronwyn doesn't have high expectations, but I think he lets you see them in his disappointment, which is equally effective to be clear.

KS: Absolutely. We actually talk about it. Bronwyn's disappointment face. We use 59:00that term sometimes because he is very personable and I don't know, like, he treats people with value but yeah, you want to please him. Like it's just like a natural--

AB: Like a year out maybe, he was like "the consultants talk about this thing, the Bronwyn face."

KS: Oh, my goodness! That's actually what they call it. I guess it's not the Bronwyn disappointed face, it's just the Bronwyn face. That's funny.

AB: Because the way he listens, right? It's not always, it's a different disappointed thing. it's a smaller facial twitch. With either, he just listens so sincerely. Does he still say, "there are no emergencies in first year comp."?

KS: Yes. Yeah. And he tells us that with writing center consulting. Just like there are no emergencies in a writing appointment. So, if someone makes you feel like that, "you are my last hope for this paper, or I will fail" don't buy into it because it is ultimately their responsibility not yours.


AB: I think that is how he shows those high expectations. With the students I try to be more Bronwyn. With my colleagues I try to be more Susan Griffin.

KS: Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk. I've enjoyed learning from you and 

AB: Thank you for listening to all my stories.

KS: That's so fun. I mean, for an oral history, you need some spunk and some like, some of the more personal elements I think are really important so yeah, thank you.

Cut-off at 1 hour.