Writing Center Journal


This essay examines the learning processes of writing center professionals through the lens of “networks of enterprise” (Wallace & Gruber, 1989), which reflects on the dynamic processes through which creative people, like writing center professionals (WCPs), bring together the diverse and complex tasks undertaken in their everyday work into a cohesive and satisfying career. While there is substantial turnover in the profession, some WCPs stay in writing center positions for decades. Drawing on information gathered through surveys and interviews with ten long-term WCPs (with an average of 28 years of experience), as well as reflecting on his own career, the author attempts to discern what long-term learning WCPs take away from work. This piece shares participants’ responses to the following questions: (1) What do writing center professionals learn from the diversity of their duties and long-term exposure to the ideas of writers from a multitude of disciplines? (2) Are the lessons, processes, or theories, WCPs encounter in the center of use in their own scholarly, administrative, or creative pursuits? (3) To what degree does such learning make WCPs better at their jobs and motivate them to spend years or even an entire career in the writing center? Though not unanimous, the participants’ answers indicate that WCPs do indeed gain and apply to their work —including their own creative and academic writing projects — a deep, broad, and ever-growing network of knowledge gained from tutoring, training tutors, teaching, and performing the many practical, rhetorical, political, and administrative tasks required in these positions. Most, though not all participants, cited the building of such knowledge as a key motivation for spending their career in or around writing centers.