The New and "Revised" Writing Center

New building, new name, new goals: the Claremont McKenna College Writing Center is undergoing a serious face-lift in the fall of 2011. With the finishing touches finally being put on the Kravis Center, students will see significant changes to the Writing Center's new home and its new outlook. Currently, the Writing Center is located on the top floor of Bauer Center, which may feel a little removed from the rest of campus. The Kravis Center offers a more prominent location and has a central courtyard in which students can do work in the lovely California sun, providing a better gathering place for students. Veronica Salas, a freshman who will be a full-time Writing Center consultant next semester, thinks that “with the new, central space people will think of [the center] as more legitimate.” The space will also be laid out differently than the current center, where students walk right into the main conference room. Instead, the new large central reception room, with a smaller side room on the side in which consultants will meet with students to work. This increases the privacy of the conferences, plus, the reception area can be used for workshops and other functions.

There have already been substantial changes to the Writing Center this year. There are now two faculty members associated with the Writing Center: Faculty Director Professor Audrey Bilger and Associate Director Professor Christine Crockett. Senior consultant Andrew Bluebond feels that this dual-leadership adds stability to the center and elevates it to the status of other important institutes on campus, such as the Rose, Kravis, and Burger institutes. Bluebond also notes that “consultants are starting to work much earlier now, often starting as first-year students, which means they will have more experience, and that will contribute to the overall increase in quality at the Center.”

This year, too, has seen the addition of the workshop series, “The Craft of Writing.” The series of Friday afternoon speakers and practicums have focused on subjects such as “The Art of the Interview” and “Comedy Writing.” The response from students has been overwhelmingly positive, and the workshops have filled up within hours of being posted online. In light of this success, Professor Bilger plans to continue “The Craft of Writing” workshop series next year, including workshops on subjects such as editing Wikipedia. In addition, there will be a series of lectures at the Athenaeum to launch the new name of the center: “Writing and Public Discourse.” These talks will feature a range of writers, journalists, professors, and other professionals for whom writing is an integral part of their career.

What’s in a new name? Professor Bilger says that the title reflects a broader mandate for the Center in the coming year. Rather than just acting as a “grammar police” for students who wish to come in and work on classroom-assigned essays, the new Center for Writing and Public Discourse will work with writing in a larger context. “Everyone writes, and they do so in a wide variety of contexts, both inside and outside academia,” Bilger points out.  She will be working to enhance opportunities for people in all fields to work on writing and communication. She will also be working on bringing in more journalists to the Center to represent writing as communication and public information, in addition to being a scholarly pursuit.

 

The school's new focus on writing, however, is not limited to the Writing Center itself. Instead of taking Lit 10, freshmen starting in 2011 will be enrolled in a Freshman Writing Seminar. Although, the Freshman Humanities Seminar will remain unchanged  The difference between Lit 10 and the Freshman Writing Seminar will be a shift in focus: the course will now focus on writing with a decreased emphasis on literature. This change is the result of an effort by CMC’s Literature department to to enrich the first-year experience and to bolster student’s writing skills. “The ability to communicate effectively is an essential skill,” Professor Bilger explains. “Writing should be at the center of our academic culture."

Ultimately, the main goal of the Literature department and of the Center for Writing and Public Discourse remains the same. “My hope is that the center will instill a love of writing in people,” Professor Bilger says. With the variety of writing opportunities, communication workshops, and a brand new space in which to do it all, what’s not to love?