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An Open Letter to New UWC Consultants

April 4, 2016

To the Future Consultants of the University Writing Center,

When I was in your seat a year ago, the same thought coursed through my head of why I was qualified for the job: I’m a good editor. Friends frequently ask me to edit their papers. I was an editor on my high school newspaper. But as some of you are learning during your hours at the center, this is only a small portion of the job. The most important part, in my opinion, is learning to create a dialogue about writing. This is, perhaps, the best advice I could give you after my experience in the UWC, and I can say that it is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult thing you can do as a consultant.

Don’t get me wrong, editing skills are awesome. They can definitely come in handy with sessions, but they’re not the end all, be all hallmark of a good consultant. Rather, a consultant who is able to have a conversation that is open, honest, and equitable is preferred, as this is where we strengthen others’ writing, as well as our own.

Through this conversation, the client and the consultant are able to mutually discover meaning in the client’s artifact, whether it be written, spoken, or visual in nature. These conversations are the mechanisms of creating and finding meaning. Of course, no two conversations are alike; some will take a little effort and be free flowing, while others will be difficult and not seem as natural. That’s okay. I can safely say that a solid majority of the sessions you encounter will fall somewhere between the two extremes. You get better at having these conversations over time.

So as you continue to read and research writing center theory and ideology, remember that it’s not vital to immediately spot subject-verb agreement or how to correctly cite a song using Chicago style, but rather that you can have these conversations to empower and strengthen the writing in our mountain community. Why? Becaause that empowerment and strength travels across the world once it leaves Appalachian and does some incredible things. Conversations can be awkward. Conversations can be exhilarating. Conversations can be scary. Conversations can be life changing. I hope you have the opportunity to have all these and more just as I have had in the past year. Good luck, and may your experience be as enlightening and empowering as those you inspire in sessions.


Jonathan Williams



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