Janelle Bates and Michaelann Nelson
Michaelann Nelson, associate professor of English, and Janelle Bates, graduate student in the Masters in Technical Communication and Rhetoric program, presented their research titled, “Writing Center Real Estate: How Writing Center Location Impacts Student Use” at the International Writing Centers Association (IWCA) Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland, October 11-15, 2023. Michaelann directs the Writing Center on the Price campus, where Janelle has tutored since 2021. Their project originated from a proposed move from a classroom building to the campus library. When they researched whether libraries were the best locations to serve students or not, they found that not much research had been conducted on the topic of writing center location.
Janelle was awarded a CHaSS Faculty-Student Summer Mentorship Grant to conduct research about the connections between location and student use, with Michaelann serving as her mentor. Hundreds of writing center directors from across the country responded to the survey they sent out, and their research indicated that when writing centers are located in highly visible, trafficked areas of campus, use increased by 44% from a previous location. They hope that their research can help writing center personnel and administrators situate writing centers in locations that will most benefit students.
Michaelann says, “It is really exciting to have some concrete evidence about the effectiveness of writing center location. I think writing center directors have always operated under the anecdotal assumption that location mattered, but it is nice to have some hard data. I have enjoyed connecting with writing center directors from all over the country through this project, with many expressing interest in the results. We look forward to turning our conference presentation into an article.”
“This has been a fascinating project,” Janelle adds. “Between researching articles, responses to our survey, and connecting with others involved in writing center work, I’m surprised about how much goes into a successful writing center. Location and the physical space of a writing center sends a clear message to students about who the writing center is for and who can use it. A highly visible and accessible writing center is clearly intended for all students. Unfortunately, sometimes writing center work is not valued by some universities’ administrations, and writing centers are placed as an afterthought, often in odd and hidden spaces. We hope our work will help those writing center directors, who might be in a position of not having any say in where their writing centers are located, have evidence that a move to a more visible and accessible location is worth the effort.”