Savannah Nickerson

Contributed article

Keene State College research and writing tutors Savannah Nickerson, Tom Lupetin and Arianna Jones, as well as  their mentors Kate Tirabassi and Elizabeth Dolinger, headed to Columbus, Ohio last week to present at the combined International Writing Centers Association and the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing.

The Director of the Center for Research and Writing Kate Tirabassi explained that this is the first international conference that undergraduate tutors will attend.

“It is an opportunity for professional development,” Tirabassi said. She also commented on the prestige that will come from this conference because the tutors presented on a type of integration that is not being done elsewhere yet.

The Center for Research and Writing has been going under developmental changes so that each tutor is trained in both research and writing instead of just in one aspect like previous tutors. Before this they were called the Center for Writing. Just a few weeks ago, their name change was approved and they are now the Center for Research and Writing. They presented on “The Art of Effective Integration: Interweaving Research and Writing Tutoring Services at a Public Liberal Arts College.”

After the conference, the tutors had discussions around what ideas they would pull from the experience and how they are going to bring back new tutoring techniques to Keene State students. “It was really cool to be able to present our ideas on an international level, but it was also awesome to be hearing from other writing centers across the world sharing their ideas with us. We reflected on those ideas we heard and are planning to create new resources that will pertain to our campus well,” Lupetin said.

Lupetin also commented on how to share those new ideas with the campus. “I think it is really important that these new and upcoming resources are heard by the college administration and then communicated to all students across campus by them. It is important that students utilize us, and the way for that to continue to happen is if the college itself encourages active engagement,” Lupetin said.

The Assistant Director of the Center Molly Parsons had a similar thought process as Tirabassi. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity for tutors to see and interact with their professional community. Our tutors are practitioners,” Parsons said.

Attending this conference also benefits the other tutors who are staying behind and Keene State as a campus. First-year tutor and KSC sophomore Julia Messinger pondered questions that she is excited to hear the answers to, like: “What do other tutors do to handle difficult appointments? What are important features of a writing center to other staff teams?” She also mentioned her excitement to hear about different viewpoints that are rarely shared when tutoring on a small campus.

Erin Morley has presented at a wide range of conferences but decided to stay behind for this one. However, she still thinks the information and knowledge that the tutors will bring back with them will have a huge impact on the center.

The team of research and writing tutors was awarded travel awards to cover the registration costs and the cost of travel expenses by the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing. The tutors had submitted essays describing their undergraduate work and the necessity of their work  to the development of peer tutoring. The essays include work tutors have done with marginalized or underrepresented writers on campus and the benefits of having a diverse tutor team.

To prepare for the conference, they had been meeting weekly.

“The team going to Ohio has weekly critical thinking meetings where we can plan for the trip and our presentation. During these meetings we go back into the archives from previous presentations that we could potentially pull from for ideas. We use these resources to help shape our new presentation,” Lupetin said.

KSC junior Arianna Jones mentioned that she was nervous about this conference but had been preparing by pulling from ideas from other tutors.

The Center for Research and Writing is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with more hours at the Research and Writing Help Desk in the Mason Library Monday through Thursday and Sundays. The tutors mentioned that they are excited to continue to welcome all students to their spaces.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Savannah Nickerson wrote this article as well as traveled to the conference to present with the Center for Research and Writing.