The CMU Writing Center is dedicated to supporting a culture of writing in the University community and to providing a collaborative environment that assists writers in developing writing strategies and skills across disciplines and beyond.
Writing Central: The Writing Center at Central Michigan University
The Central Michigan University Writing Center (CMU WC) is founded on the philosophy that writing should be at the center of a college education. The CMU Center has been in existence since 1978, when the then “Lab,” under the auspices of the English Department, began providing one-to-one peer tutoring to basic writing students. In 1998, with funding from a CMU New Initiatives grant, the Center expanded its vision, its mission, and its services, offering assistance university-wide while continuing its involvement in the basic writing curriculum. The Center has grown tremendously since 1998. It now includes three sites, staffed with over 50 writing consultants offering 500 to 600 service hours per week, and provides multiple services to the university community: on-site and online sessions, workshops, and faculty development (WAC-WID). Three sites are on campus: Park Library 400 is the newest and most-centrally located site; the Anspach 003 Center is in the building that also houses the English Department and many of the writing and humanities classes; the Towers Writing Center is in a large dormitory complex on the southwest end of campus. The Online Service primarily serves students in CMU’s large Global Campus programs and online courses.
Services are provided by paid and for-credit peer writing consultants, undergraduate and graduate, working 6 to 20 hours per week, including several graduate assistants (10 in Fall 2012), a director and an associate director. The CMU Writing Center is funded by its dean and the provost, with an operating budget of approximately $100,000, excluding regular staff salaries and graduate assistant wages. Consultant wages, which start slightly above minimum wage, vary depending on status (graduate or undergraduate student) and on the length of time (training and experience) at the Center.
Education and supervision is an important part of the Center’s ability to provide quality services. All consultants take Eng 510, Writing Center Practicum, in their first semester of working at the Center, sometimes with a combination of for-credit and for-pay hours (e.g., Eng 510 requires 5 non-paid hours per week for working with students, plus discussion sessions, and assignments). On-going training continues through staff meetings and as needed for individual consultants throughout the year.
Center services include one-to-one consulting, on-site and online, for-credit classes, workshops, and outreach. One-to-one consulting resulted in close to 15,000 sessions in 2011-12. The online service is offered to students in Eng 101, first-year writing, and to students in CMU Global Campus programs (national and international). In addition, the Center offers three one-credit writing classes: Eng 099, Writing Workshop, is a required, one-hour companion to Eng 103, an alternate first year writing competency course. Eng 299, Writing Workshop II, provides support similar to that of Eng 099 to students in any other university class and is offered in both on-site and online formats. ELI 099 is designed specifically for international students who are enrolled in language learning classes in CMU’s English Language Institute. Classroom sessions and workshops include orientations to college writing and to the Center, peer-editing, model genre critiques, research writing workshops, etc., and faculty development for writing-across-the curriculum / in-the-disciplines and collaborates regularly with other CMU groups and initiatives such as the Center for Teaching Excellence, the Teaching-Learning Collective, and the Writing Intensive program. The Center has also been able to do some outreach to the university and surrounding community: editing and publishing an annual basic writing student publication (Carved Marks), providing training and development support for area high schools, working with writing in K-12, offering writing sessions at Make-A-Difference Day, providing writing workshops during various summer camps and programs, etc.
The Center is affiliated with and supports a registered student organization, the Writing Circle. This student organization invites all university students to participate in activities that support writing and teaching writing, and it allows members to apply for student funds to support on-campus activities and conference travel.
During the academic year, the Center is open on campus over 125 hours weekly among the three sites: Sunday 5:00 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Friday 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The online service operates continuously during the year (24/7, with a 2-day turn-around time for submitted papers,). The on-campus Center is also open in summer, but hours are substantially reduced (approximately 20 to 25 hours/week).
The Center works with writers throughout the CMU community: graduate and undergraduate students from a wide variety of courses and instructors (over 150 different courses and / or instructors in 2011-12), native and non-native English speakers, and staff and faculty who want feedback on their writing. Our records show an interesting three-part distribution of usage. In 2011-12, permanent weekly appointments accounted for slightly less than a third of the sessions; the online service represented another third, and the university-wide on-site service was the largest portion with almost 7,000 sessions, provided to on-campus students, faculty, and staff. Such usage patterns, which include both younger, novice and older, more expert writers, fits the Center’s philosophy: that writing is essential to a college education and requires on-going support throughout university careers and beyond.