I have an adage in my life: when one has an excuse to chat with Dr. Alison Gibson, one should not pass on the opportunity! Thankfully, I recently had the wonderful chance to interview Dr. Gibson, Director of the Writing Center, about her history with writing centers, her experiences expanding the one at Wheaton, and her vision moving forward.
Before my first Writing Center consultation ever, I was quaking in my boots. After spending a week going over the best practices and principles for consultations, I felt as ready as I could theoretically. However, as soon as I received the inaugural email–an automated copy of my first client’s appointment confirmation–I promptly did what any healthy, self-regulating individual would do: I called my older sister to fix my problems. Thankfully, Lindsay was a fellow Writing Center Consultant and knew what to do to assuage my fears. Two years older than me, she was the Writing Center Manager that year and the holder of all wisdom in my eyes. I frantically picked up the phone, waiting for her wisdom to flow over me, for all my fears to be alleviated.
Three years later, it is my senior year, and I would like to pass on what I learned much as she did. My roommate and fellow senior Writing Center Consultant, Meghan Kwong, has helped me accrue a list of insights for newer consultants. This list is not exhaustive, nor is it to be followed in every case. Every client is unique, which is part of the beauty of working at the Writing Center–each session will bring someone and something different!
So, what are some things I’ve learned in my time at the Writing Center and how has that shaped the way I hold appointments?
Why do you write?
For some, the answer to that question might be as narrow as “because my professor told me to,” or as vast as a daily necessity to understand your own thoughts. Wherever you land on this spectrum, wherever your choice of study and career takes you, writing has the potential to be meaningful in your life both materially and spiritually.
I have a confession to make. On day one of Writing Center training, I learned to avoid the metaphor of a “fix-it shop” when describing my job. But I still find myself saying things like “I help people fix things that don’t work in their papers” when I’m explaining the Writing Center to other people.