NSights Blog

It's not just editing: Writing Center, in new location, filled with opportunities for students

The Writing Center, now located in the Pennington Student Achievement Center, has resources and services that go well beyond one-on-one editing.

When the University Writing Center moved into the new Pennington Student Achievement Center, I knew the space would affect how we work, but I couldn't have anticipated the diverse uses that have emerged.

While the Writing Center carried out its mission in our previous location in the basement of Mackay Science, the inherited furniture and layout seemed to keep our progression in limbo. We had computers at each of our consultation stations, but that seemed our most innovative approach, and being tucked in the basement, underneath the stairs, in one of the oldest buildings on campus did not exude potential.

Now, however, situated in the newest building in the heart of the campus, we have a space designed for writing center work, a space that pulls natural light in, a space that encourages students to experiment with how they use it.

In one of the simplest shifts, the white board walls in our consultation rooms have become brainstorming canvases and organizational drawing boards. Writing consultants and students collaboratively bounce ideas back and forth, writing options in colored markers, drawing arrows to show potential connections. At the end of sessions, students snap photos of their thinking made visible on the wall: they know what they want to say and how they want to say it.

Inspired by our student employees, we have a group room that faces Peavine Peak, filled with tactile elements spread throughout the room, inviting students to touch and shape and think. This creative space offers new ways for students to engage with writing and reading and often is the location of unique projects, such as blind date with a book/comic, collaborative poetry, and word games.

Open use of our writing lab also encourages collaboration between students and our writing consultants and provides a supportive space for students to work. We have style guides, such as APA and Chicago style manuals, and other writing resources for student use. Fourteen touch screen computers are available for students to research or write for their academic work. While students work in this space, a writing consultant is available for quick questions, making this a perfect environment for students to experiment with using the Writing Center.

Our space also includes presentation screens in each of our group rooms and in our main writing lab area. For consultation rooms, the screens allow students to bring research or slides into their consultations in ways that encourage discussion about the ideas (not just squinting at small glowing squares). Our large screen in the main room highlights writing tips, famous writers, writing consultants, and much more.

Overall, the new Writing Center space is one that is filled with opportunities for students to engage in their ideas, their writing, and their technologically-driven communications-we are eager to see what students come up with next for ways to use the Writing Center spaces. 

So, even though one-on-one consultations may be what the Writing Center is best known for, our new Pennington Student Achievement Center space has expanded what is possible for the people who work here and also for the students who seek our support.

Maureen McBride is the Director of the University Writing Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. She joined the Writing Center in fall 2010 when it was reopened under the new student fee structure.

Writing Center Facebook page

Maureen McBride