Transforming the Writing Center

Isaac Sonquist, Contributor


The Writing Center has been through many changes since last spring, such as gaining a new director, Dr. Jennifer Forsthoefel. Other changes include the name and the new online tutoring option, opening Oct. 8.

The change in the name from Writing Lab to Writing Center reflects a trend that is taking place across the country and internationally. Over the years, the sciences have been getting more respect and funding than the humanities in regards to student resources.“it is not a secret that a lot of STEM areas get a lot more resources than humanities,” explains Forsthoefel. The Writing Lab wanted to give more respect to the field of writing by creating a space for students where they can get help with a focus in writing specifically. Like a science lab, at the Writing Lab, students can get help in a lab setting with tutors who are experts in their field.

Writing Labs, however, wanted to separate themselves from science labs. “We want [people] to actually know that we do something a little bit different than [what]  is being done in labs,” states Forsthoefel.

This name change also is in effect due to the Writing Center Studies movement taking place across the country. Writing Center Studies describes the scholarship surrounding Writing Centers. Foresthoefel believes that aligning with current scholarship is very important in regards to separating Writing Centers from science labs.

Another major change to the Writing Center is a new online tutoring system created by Groeneveld Kenney (the former director) to “leave her mark” as she left the Center, which Nursing and Graduate students have asked for frequently due to their limited time on campus. The online tutoring system is a combination of Zoom, which is like Skype, and Google Docs, in which tutors from the Writing Center can interact with students virtually. To do this, students can go to the Writing Center’s webpage and click the link that takes them to their appointment sheet. Once they are there, they can upload their writing, sign up for an appointment, and then meet with a tutor who will invite them to Zoom, virtually having a face to face conversation at their appointment.

The online tutoring system was piloted this summer and is still in the processing stage. There are still technical and logistical things needed to be worked on to improve online tutoring. “We’re still learning,” says Forsthoefel. The Writing Center is researching new ways to do this online form of tutoring.

Forsthoefel’s professional dream is to have a “thriving Writing Center” and for Augsburg’s Writing Center to “be a model for other Writing Center’s in the Twin Cities.” She also hopes that the tutors and the students who come to the Writing Center take ownership of the space.

In addition to being a space for teaching and learning, Forsthoefel wants the Writing Center to also be a research space. “We have such an incredibly diverse population here and the tutors have an advantage of seeing a big volume, a massive volume of students … they can get a really clear sense of ‘this is what the culture of writing is for our students and the culture of writing in general’,” she said. “That is so valuable for a university to have and for our education system to have.” Forsthoefel believes the tutors should not only be teachers, but researchers and active members on campus. She hopes there will be a “common knowledge” of where the Writing Center is and how it can benefit students.

The Writing Center is hoping to change its location, but for now, it is located on the street-level of Lindell Library to the left of the circulation desk. Any additional information, such as the Writing Center’s schedule and information regarding online tutoring, can be found on the Writing Center’s website at inside.augsburg.edu/writingcenter/.

This article was originally published in the October 4, 2019 issue.