6 Cornell students present writing conference kick off

Six Cornell College students presented at the Midwest Writing Centers Association (MWCA) conference, held March 3-5 in Cedar Rapids. The students gave a three-hour opening workshop, one of only three opening workshops offered for the entire conference.

Front row: Emily Andrulis, Sylvia Donahoo, and Kayla Morton. Second row: Laura Farmer, Hannah Robertson, Jessie Freeman, and Peter Catchings.
Front row: Emily Andrulis, Sylvia Donahoo, and Kayla Morton.
Second row: Laura Farmer, Hannah Robertson, Jessie Freeman, and Peter Catchings.

Chair for the conference was Laura Farmer, director of Cornell’s Madgetta Dungy Writing Studio. She was joined by the students as well as two staff members who also presented. The event drew 210 people, most from the 10-state area in which the MWCA operates.

The Cornell students presenting at the MWCA, all of whom work for Farmer in the college’s writing studio, were Sylvia Donahoo ’16, Peter Catchings ’16, Emily Andrulis ’16, Hannah Robertson ’18, Kayla Morton ’16, and Jessie Freeman ’17.  

Their workshop, “Who’s got the power, and where does it come from? Renewing our approach to conference dynamics,” focused on navigating various power dynamics present in one-on-one conferences. Topics were how to mentor someone when the student is older/younger than you, from a different cultural background, is writing in a discipline that is not your own, and is a friend of yours/not someone you know.

“The students absolutely nailed it,” Farmer said. “They started preparing for this in December, and we’ve been meeting every week to work on the session. They did a lot of research and reading. We tested the presentation on our colleagues at Coe College, and modified it based on their feedback. We have a really strong staff of student consultants here at Cornell, and they did a magnificent job.”

Cornell staff members Jessica Johanningmeier, director of the Quantitative Reasoning Studio, and Writing Program coordinator Gabriella Torres gave a presentation titled “The Learning Commons Model: Collaboration, Continuity, and Challenges” about the learning commons model in place in Cole Library, specifically how the Writing Studio, Quantitative Reasoning Studio, and Academic Technology Studio complement the work done by the consulting librarians.

The Writing Studio, located in the Cole Library, employs 20 students who offer individual conferences for anyone who wants to improve any aspect of their writing. Student consultants participate in two or three training sessions per block. These sessions focus on a variety of topics, including how to help students from a variety of academic backgrounds and learning styles.

Cornell students are encouraged to bring any and all writing assignments to the Writing Studio.

“We’ve worked with students on writing projects ranging from term papers to breakup letters,” Farmer said.

The Writing Studio does a brisk business, and has strong support from students, faculty, and administration.

“As of early March, we’ve had about 1,600 consultations so far this academic year,” said Farmer, who is her eighth year as director of the writing studio. “That’s well ahead of our pace last year, when we had about 1,500 consultations for the entire year. When I first came eight years ago, we were doing about half that many,”

The MWCA conference attracted representatives from a wide array of educational institutions, including liberal arts colleges, universities, community colleges, tech schools, high schools, and Bible colleges.

“Learning to write clearly is critical, no matter what type of school you attend,” Farmer said.

At the conference, Farmer was elected 2017 chair of the MWCA.