The Writing Center's History
As we settle into our new home at the Miriam B. and James J. Mulva Library, the Writing Center's third home, we want to celebrate by looking back at how the St. Norbert Writing Center has evolved since its founding in 1977. From its humble beginnings in Boyle Hall to the Todd Wehr Library to its present location, the SNC Writing Center’s history encompasses 32 years, multiple directors, hundreds of consultants, and thousands of student writers. Considering the prevalence of writing centers in colleges and universities across the country, it is astonishing to realize how quickly writing centers have become such integral parts of efforts in higher education to create the “well-rounded student.”
Writing Centers began appearing in colleges in great numbers in the 1970s, and St. Norbert College went right along with the trend by establishing the “Write Place” in 1977. Its mission was to give students who did not meet the college’s writing standards a way to catch up and develop into mature writers. Over the next three decades, writing centers across the nation worked to shed this early "remedial" image by reaching out to all students on campus. Writing center directors and staff shifted from near-exclusive focus on lower-order concerns of writing like grammar and spelling to help student writers recognize and revise higher-order concerns, such as continuity and organization. After all, proper grammar can only do so much in an unorganized paper with flimsy content.
At St. Norbert, the Write Place made this shift very early in its history. As former directors Maureen Harrington and Cathy Upham note in documents in our archives, "Essentially, the tutors at the Write Place function as a test audience for student papers and ideas. In the tutorial, the emphasis is on helping students improve their writing skills, NOT on finding and fixing all the errors in the students’ final drafts.” Students learn how to strengthen their critical writing skills by repeated visits to the writing center, potentially working on different needs each time. To learn how to recognize students' writing needs, consultants at the Writing Center go through an intense week of training before consulting with their first writer. Only student consultants are employed at St. Norbert College; this strategy provides students with peer review that can be used for help with any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to polishing a final draft. Kalin Lebrun ’08, an SNC Writing Center consultant for two years, explains that the tutoring session “ goes beyond whether the student received a good grade on the paper—I wanted the students to learn something too and to be able to help themselves.”
The Writing Center serves as a hub for all three divisions at the college by working with student writers from all disciplines. The Writing Center is also a key component in the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program, part of the college's General Education curriculum. The WAC philosophy expects writing to take place in all departments of the college, not just in the English department where writing is stereotypically centered. This interdisciplinary collaboration forms an integral part of the liberal arts legacy that St. Norbert College proudly describes in the college catalog: “Writing is integral to the liberal arts curriculum at St. Norbert College. To write is to think, to learn, to discover, to create, and to express. To write is to participate in the world—locally and globally.”
The SNC Writing Center is currently experiencing rapid change. Consultations have increased from 1029 consultations in the 2006-2007 school year to 1614 during the 2007-2008 school year, a jump of 57%. The past school year has seen even more consultations than the last. During the fall 2008 semester, the Writing Center started booking consultations online. The Writing Center website also underwent an overhaul to reflect its new space in the Mulva Library with a heightened presence online.
Though the people, hours, and locations have changed over the past 32 years, the Writing Center has always provided St. Norbert College with a commitment to student’s writing, helping them acquire the best writing skills they can to better equip them to become successful after college. We look forward to building on this commitment long into the future.
-Nicole Jagielski, Writing Center Research Fellow 2008-2010
Thank you for your interest in the SNC Writing Center.
We look forward to working with you this semester!
Meet with us on the third floor of the Mulva Library, room 303.
Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Sunday: 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.
The Writing Center will not be open during advisement days.
The Writing Center meets social media!