Adapting to a lack of in-person work as a student has changed much of the way students operate. The Gonzaga Writing Center is no different.

The recent shift to entirely online interactions has altered the delivery for much of what the Writing Center offers. Students from all majors can now receive feedback on their writing from a fellow student via Zoom. 

"We were in a situation like many writing centers around the country last spring where we had to transition into a different way of being," said John Eliason, director of the Writing Center.  “At that point we had been a face-to-face Writing Center predominantly.”

Haley Wilson, a senior writing tutor who’s been involved with the Writing Center since she was a freshman said that she was a little bummed out about the shift to online-only. 

“I love the Foley Writing Center space and I loved being in the space surrounded by all the other tutors," Wilson said. “But at the same time, I was surprised by how much doesn’t change.”

The transition has had wide-ranging implications for the Writing Center including shifts in the number of students utilizing what the organization has to offer, and the number of students that they are able to serve. 

“We transitioned to Zoom and like most writing centers in the country our numbers declined," Eliason said.

When asked why he thought fewer students were utilizing the services provided by the Writing Center, Eliason said that student engagement has dropped significantly across the board in academic settings. 

Eliason also pointed out that students can experience “Zoom fatigue” from a large number of online meetings which leads to fewer students seeking out help from the Writing Center because this could be seen as just another online meeting. 

However, he noted that in recent weeks traffic has risen significantly citing midterm assignments as a potential reason for this. 

Due to its move to Zoom, the Writing Center is now able to assist students that  it previously had not. 

Whereas before the Writing Center would provide writing feedback only to on-campus undergraduate students, now the center is extending writing tutoring to all online students in both graduate and undergraduate programs. 

“Since we’ve gone to remote only via Zoom, we’ve been more true to our aspirational goal of reaching a wider scope of students in Gonzaga’s undergraduate and graduate programs," Eliason said. “We’re striving to be an academic support unit on campus that really helps people be their best. We’re working all the time to be more inclusive and to be more responsive to people’s express needs." 

Eliason also said that in addition to feedback, the Writing Center has been providing another valuable service.

"Most students appreciate the time with the tutors, they appreciate the social dimension sometimes as much as the intellectual," Eliason said.

“It’s another chance to connect, we’ve been missing that. We’ve been missing those faces this year,” Wilson said. 

Adapting to the challenges of 2020 has meant an increased awareness of the presence of social justice within the services of the Writing Center. 

“I think the role of the Writing Center is always evolving," Wilson said. “Something that we’ve been working on recently has been writing a solidarity statement for the Writing Center and thinking about what kinds of trainings we’re doing, what kind of students we’re working with, thinking about accessibility.” 

Wilson is confident that the role of the Writing Center will continue to improve and with its now extended services, provide instruction that she sees as powerful to undergraduate, graduate, in-person and online students. 

“In many ways, writing defines a lot of what we do not just in the academic world but in our personal lives as well," Wilson said. "I kind of see what we’re doing as providing people the equipment and skills to articulate what they think and be able to understand what other people think too. I think that’s more important now than ever.”

Luke Kenneally is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @lone_trombone.

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