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Andrew Hutto: When did you work at the Writing Center and was this for your MA, PHd or both?

Daniel Keller: This was my Phd, and I believe it was 2004-2004

AH: Were you a consultant for both of those years? Or Tutor? How did they frame the nomenclature back then because now there is an emphasis on "consultant".

DK: I don't remember nomenclature back then, I want to say it was consultants.

AH: I know Bronwyn has really keyed in on that. Wanting to reframe what we do 1:00instead of having the power position of "tutor". Maybe speak a little to the training process. You arrive at campus for your PhD - In person training? How long did it take? What did you cover in that training?

DK: This is my training or how we trained the MA students?

AH: Oh so did you all train the MA students while being trained yourselves? How did that work?

DK: Here's my memory of it. I was really fortunate. I came in with a fellowship 2:00so my first year as a PhD student I didn't have to do anything except go to class and be a student. Then I got a position with the Writing Center and at first I was attached to the Writing Center Research Project (WCRP) because it was housed there at the time and so I did work for the writing research project at the time. My job was that I was scanning old WCJ articles (Writing Center Journal) back before the oldest issues were online. I guess it was before some library database had them so if researchers wanted access to some of the oldest Writing Center journal articles we had them on our website. So I would scan old 3:00WCJ articles and then clean them up in photoshop and then load them up as PDFs on our website. So that was part of my job for the WCRP and then I was involved with the Writing Center survey. Sending them out and getting response.I think at some point I crossed into working with consultants more. At some point I crossed over to sitting in on the class. So Carol Mattingly was the Writing Center director at the time and she taught the class on Writing Center tutoring and I remember sitting in on that class. I don't remember if I might have led part of 4:00it? Because I know there was me and one or two other PhD students. So she would teach the class and there would be a bunch of MA students in it and I think me and maybe one other or two other assistants. I think we were called assistant directors back then. And we were assistant directors and most of the time we would just chime on whatever scholarship we were reading and discussing that day. Whatever main point Carol had for the class that day, we would mostly chime in with our experience and views on things. I think there might have been one day where we lead a portion of that training class. I have no ability in my memory to remember if that was say a summer class, summer training session or an actual autumn class that stretched over the whole period. That has vanished from 5:00my memory.

AH: That's interesting. Ours was in the fall semester and was a full course when we all arrived but we also had the summer online training.

DK: Yes that's right

AH: So were you thrown into consulting or was it a gradual process? How did you actually start consulting with writers? Did you do that while you were in this class discussing scholarship?

DK: So I worked as a Writing Center tutor at my previous institution. As a master's student at my previous institution I worked there at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. I got my Bachelor's and Master's there and at the time 6:00the deal for the Master's students was that you would teach one class and work for 10 hours in the Writing Center each week. So I got my training experience there. So I don't know if everyone else had that same background so I didn't have to receive any additional on the ground training before I became one of the assistant directors. I know I would do tutoring. I remember vividly tutoring at that Writing Center. I remember also just being around when the Ma students were tutorsing so that if there was some sort of issue that came up would help 7:00intervene in some way. I don't think any issues ever came up but I was there.

AH: Were all of these in-person, face-to-face consultations?

DK: They were all in-person. I don't think we had anything come in over email . I don't think we had anything like that at the time.. I think towards the end, I have a vague memory, of one of the other assistant directors, her name was JoAnn Griffin, towards the end, with Joanna Wolfe she wrote up some research with Joanna Wolfe who was one of the professors there at the time on distance consulting but I have no memory of us doing that there at that time.

AH: We haven't done a single walk-in yet so it is a totally different experience.


DK: You have also changed locations too, right?

AH: So we are in the base floor of the library? Were you in the basement of the library or in the humanities building?

DK: We were in the library, like the second or third floor. We had these beautiful windows.

AH: Oh, I remember someone talking about that. I don't know what year they moved. Maybe 2011? 2012? Something like that? We are on the first floor now which is really nice for visabitiy sake but obviously this semester it hasn't really...

Dk: Right. That makes sense because some students had trouble finding where we were.

AH: Now we have this big sign that directs students there. So we can jump into the next question if you want to talk about the tutoring space, if there is 9:00anything of note about it. Did you have computers for students? If you could recall or speak to how the environment was arranged - Do you have resources for students there?

DK: Yeah so the way it worked, there was the main library floor and there were these double doors that lead into a thin hallway and in that hallway were two offices. The director, Carol Mattingly, and I forget her title but there was another person there, Ruth (Miller, associate director), who did all the scheduling, and there was a front desk person. Once you got back past there the room was a big square and on the sides of the walls, the two walls on the side 10:00there were these long tables with big desktops. The back wall was windows, just giant floor to ceiling windows. And in the center of the room there were a bunch of round tables and somewhere in there, there were bookcases with grammar books and that kind of thing. Most of the sessions we did students brought in paper copies. Some students would work at the computers. They would type, look up research but I don't have any memories of sitting at a desktop looking over a draft with a student on a screen. Most of the time they brought in a paper copy. Eventually I saw some students bringing laptops but a lot of it was looking at 11:00paper copies in my experience.

AH: Do you think you worked with mostly undergraduates? Graduate students? Or was it kind of mixed?

DK: It was mostly undergrad. Kind of like your typical undergrad, there were a lot of business students who for some reason had this awful assignment. I have a really strong memory of this over one summer, these business writing students had this awful assignment where they had to write about an internship experience they had but they couldn't use first person. The professor for whatever reason was so strongly against them saying "I", "Me" or "my" that the students had to write "well the worker did this", "the worker did that". The students were at a 12:00loss as to how to do this and make it not sound awful and so I remember dealing with that assignment several times over one summer. But occasionally you get some grad students who mostly came in as English language learners and they would come in for help. I think those were the only only grad students I would work with. I think at the time we even had as an option for a session was just like language practice. I think we had that as an option. If students wanted they would just come in. I hope I am not making this part up. I think we had board games so you could even just play a board game with the student and it was like this low stakes language practice for English language learners.


AH: That would be really fun to do. I feel like 70 percent of my appointments last semester were graduate students and that because we are not able to outreach to undergrads in the classrooms. So for your time, the undergraduate students were probably the majority of the population. What kind of issues in writing or concerns about assignments did students typically bring to you?

DK: I think most of the students, on was the typically thing where they didn't 14:00know how to word there concerns, "just help me make it better" so you would do a kind of standard practice back then which was to read it out load and point out things that sounded off and to give your best feedback based on the bigger problems. Then there are issues like that business writing assignment where they had to avoid the first person. I think one of the grad students needed help, the ones I worked with anyway, with english language learning issues. I think occasionally we would have a grad student who was working on their dissertation and they were really just wanting feedback on "does this make sense" as you kind of slowly went through several pages with them. I do also remember, it kind of 15:00felt like some of my experiences were multiple students from a class were for whatever reason that teacher was really strong on sending students or the students were kind of scared of that teacher so I would get a lot from them. I remember several students felt like their professor expected a certain kind of performance, a certain kind of argument. The professor wanted the students to make their own argument, to put their own ideas down, but the students felt like they would do better if they parroted what the professor said, and I would sit 16:00there and would actually say that I have heard stuff about this professor and I think they are being genuine when they want you to share your ideas genuinely and they were like "no I think I am just going to say what I think they want me to say" That was an early and interesting insight to get at that point in my career and at the time I felt kind of sad about it. But that was a strong rhetorical awareness that they have of how to succeed.

AH: To that end, how do you think some of those early experiences affect your instructing style as you've progressed through your academic career. How did those Writing Center consultations affect how you sort of viewed students in writing as you worked your way through the academic world?

DK: I think by seeing some of those it may me more aware of the need to be a 17:00transparent teacher and to explain explaining why I am doing certain things so thinking about that business writing example ow those students where just flummoxed , they were just perplexed and I think from situations like I learned to be clear about why I am doing certain things so that if it seemed I was being particular for no reason they would have a reason for it. It has made me be extra clear. And another is to realize that whenever I teach writing to students it makes me aware of the very different experiences they are bringing into the room, so that they will have some professor telling them that using "I, "me" and "my" is wrong., and they will have that sense that it is wrong and is always 18:00wrong, or if I get a sense that the student is maybe parroting back some of the things that I say I probably shouldn't get too depressed about that. I should probably go "so okay I want to hear them genuinely but maybe this is the smart move for them and that is fine". I think that the Writing Center experience overall helped me get a better understanding of students. I mean you can read about this stuff, you can read about how students feel and how they are told writing myths but kind of living it in the Writing Center really had a lasting impression on me.

AH: Correct me if I am mistaken but you were also doing research at the time? You have a co-publication from 2006. Was that something you were thinking about as you were consulting? Talk to me a little bit about how that project came about.


DK: That's that survey? So several of us, Jo Ann Griffin, Iswari Pandey, Anne-Marie Pedersen, Carolyn Skinner and me. That was the big Writing Center survey. We would go on the big Writing Center listserv and announce the survey and they would give us all this data on how big the Writing Center was and how many visitations they would get and we decided to do two things with it. We 20:00wrote a big just the facts release and posted to the website I think and then we wrote a journal article that had an argument to it. We all split up different parts of it, so I mostly wrote the part about writing space and what we were earning from the survey and how some of these Writing Center spaces were really tiny or really big. Some one else did the part of longevity, how some of these Writing Centers had only been around for a year and some had been around for 20 years and so what was really good about that article is that we put it into 21:00conversation with these tropes about Writing Centers. There is this trope about Writing Center scholarship where the Writing Center is always being beleaguered, the unappreciated part of the university. Looking at some of the Writing Centers that have been around for decades pushed back on some of those myths. A lot of the Writing Center assistant directors did that work. Some of us were kind of in charge of sending the survey out and collecting the data and we all wrote it up together. While some of the directors were overseeing the actual tutoring. I think I myself was still working on the journal scamming at the time. So that's my memory about that. I just reminded me of something else we all did back then, 22:00and I don't know if this will be a question you raise or not, but we also did sessions for entire classes. We would invite entire classes in and do workshops. We'd bring an entire English class in and we would do a workshop on punctuation and Carol was really big on trying to get faculty in to get help and training on assignment design, responding to student writing and so we would also be involved with those to. Especially for the students we would devise our own workshop. We would come up with materials, we would make a plan for it. I 23:00remember there was this kind of magical filing cabinet that had a stash of what people had made over the years for these workshops so we would go to the filing cabinet and see if anyone had done anything on punctuation before. What can we steal? And I think even after I left and got a job - I got an email just as I was leaving, "did we move some of the items from the filing cabinet because we can't find some things." So that was another thing we did in addition to the Writing Center research project and tutoring and overseeing that.

AH: You might have mentioned this, but did the Writing Center have a website attached to U of L at the time and if so were you guys reasonable for writing blog posts, or did you have a blog or anything to that effect?


DK: I don't think we had a blog, we had a website. I think Ruth was mostly in charge of the website. So Carol was the director and Ruth was like associate director I think and she was responsible for the scheduling and I think also the website. I don't remember writing much. We didn't have a blog. It wasn;t much of a web presence. It was your standard introduction page, hours all that stuff and I think we might have had a picture of all us.

AH: Did the website have the ability to schedule an appointment? Or would 25:00students have to call the front desk? Or was most of it walk-ins?

DK: I think most was walk-ins, I am pretty sure they could call and I don't know about the scheduling link. That was one of those things I just never dealt with.

AH: As we have talked a bit about the Writing Center's history and some of our strategies it was brought up at some point in time, I don't know if this was during your time, where you had brief sketches of each consultant's specificity and students could select consultants based on their specificity. Does that sound familiar?

DK: No it really doesn't.


AH: Did you find that you had recurring writers that appreciated your style or that you clicked with and worked on longer-term projects?

DK: Yeah, I think I had some students who would try to come back when I was there. But I think a lot of it was kind of random walk-ins for me.

AH: I don;'t have a ton more to cover. If you can think about perhaps how the Writing Center changed during your time there, I know it was relatively brief but if anything you noticed changing while you were there, or maybe how the pedagogy of consulting changed or perhaps how you viewed yourself at the start of your consulting at U of L versus how your consulting was at your previous institution; if there were differences how you were instructed or if you found 27:00in the literature new ways of approaching consultations.

DK: Like you said, I wasn't there quite as long as some other people because I had that fellowship on each end and then my time might have been split a little differently than other people. One year I might have focused more on the WCRP research and the next year I think I was more involved with the tutoring. I did tutor throughout all of it, but in terms of my assistant directing it was kind of split of that way. I don't think the pedagogy really changed much in my time there. I don't think the space really changed that much. In terms of how it 28:00affected me is that at my previous institution there was really no training to speak of. The person that was running that Writing Center had been running it forever so my knowledge of how to tutor really came through the various classes I took to become a master's student. So I was teaching classes and I would bring my knowledge of writing to tutoring sessions. It wasn't until I started there that I read some of the key books on tutoring practices. So then I was much more 29:00sure of how to do this stuff and I think by the time I left the position had helped professionalize me. I walked in as a good tutor and a good teacher but by the end I think I had a much better sense of the Writing Center field and the Writing Center tutoring. So it really just helped professionalize me.

AH: You can take a pass if it is difficult to recall the specifics but I am curious if there were any articles you read at the time or any Writing Center books that really stuck out to you. Something that you thought about during some of the sessions. Like "okay I am connecting my actual practice to this article I read".


DK: Nothing.

AH: No worries if nothing comes to mind, I know it's a more specific question.

DK: I think eventually I would come up with something but I have pandemic brain where I am lucky to remember what I am supposed to be doing next. I am sure there were but I can't think of anything off the top of my head. You know less than a piece of scholarship, I remember going to a Writing Center conference for 31:00the first time when I was there. At my previous institution I didn't go to any Writing Center conferences, I didn't even know they existed. I think I went to one when I was an assistant director there and there was a really stunning presentation that a director and her assistant director did and it was really stunning. They did this thing where they did a bunch of interviews with students, well the director did an interview with students, and she found that she kept getting the answers that they thought she wanted here like how the Writing Center helped them so much and all this stuff. Then she sent her tutors out to interview students about the Writing Center and writing papers and she said that they got these dramatically different answers. They shared some of 32:00that research at the conference and it was just kind of eye-opening how so much of writing scholarship at the time was about giving students a "writerly identify" and about making sure the paper was theirs, and the students that were being interviewed by these tutors were saying, writing for a class, that they had no attachments to what they were writing. I know that doesn't mean that it is that way all the time for everybody, pedagogy can make the other happen. It can make students feel their identities or ownership of a piece but it was really interesting hearing that. It was the kind of thing I had in the back of my head as I was pushing a student saying "no, no, no I am sure your teacher 33:00really wants to hear from you" and they were like " dude I just want to get an A, I just want to say what the teacher wants. Then I would remember that panel, that presentation. That was one that had an impact.

AH: Thank you for sharing. I found several times just reading the articles for the introductory class and being like "oh wow I remember that term or theoretical model of instruction and it happens and it's a really cool thing to see. Well, wonderful, I don't really have anything else for you. I really appreciate your time, this was a treat to me and I look forward to transcribing and entering it into our ongoing history of the Writing Center. Best to you the 34:00rest of the semester and I hope you have a great weekend.

DK: Thanks a lot. It was good talking and best of luck at Louisville, I miss it, it's a great place and I hope you have a good time there.