The Nancy A. McDonough Geschke Writing Center: Advancing the Liberal Arts at Marygrove One Student at a Time
Most Marygrovers, I think, are unaware of what a special thing the Nancy A. McDonough Geschke Writing Center is. That’s too bad, because what we have in the Writing Center is unique.
Most writing centers on college and university campuses look like clinics. They have a receptionist, examination tables, and a general air of bland utilitarianism. That should come as no surprise, because, essentially, they are clinics: places students go in search of an accurate diagnosis for what ails their writing. That’s not what we do.
Our approach to writing center work is intimately related to the English Department’s philosophy for teaching writing: that writing is a process; that the writer (the student) is the driver in this process, and that writing is a way of being in the world.
The Writing Center’s philosophy augments this project. In the Writing Center we focus on building relationships: between the student and the tutor, between the tutors and the instructors, between the tutors and the directors, and between all of them and the work of writing. This gets rid of any “clinical” aspects of writing center work (“might be a little discomfort”) and focuses instead on the “humanity” part of the humanities.
This is not a hit-or-miss relationship-building, either. Unique to the world of writing centers and composition programs nation-wide, Marygrove College requires all freshman in composition classes (English 107 and English 108) to attend eleven half-hour sessions per semester, paired with one tutor (or “writing consultant,” as we call them) throughout the whole semester. In this way, students become acclimated to the work of writing and form relationships with their tutors. Very often, after students finish the composition cycle, they return to the Writing Center and seek help with papers for other classes in our Writing Assistance Program, which operates through the Writing Center.
Dedicated in 2009, created thanks to the generosity of Nan and Charles Geschke, our Writing Center is the perfect metaphor for what we do with our students: In its welcoming space, its thoughtful design, the loving attention to detail we find here, it says to students, “This is a comfortable, safe haven to help you with the transformations you will undergo in your time at Marygrove.”
The Nancy A. Geschke Writing Center declares to our students that writing is important. It declares that they are important. It is where we take students who may never have traveled beyond a mile of their homes, and we help to give them the world. The underlying ethos of a Liberal Arts education, going back to its medieval Catholic roots, is to set the human person free (libera). That’s what we strive to do in the Nancy A. McDonough Geschke Writing Center. One student at a time.
Michael Martin received his B.A. in English from Marygrove College and his M.A. in liberal studies from the University of Detroit Mercy, and his Ph.D. in English from Wayne State University in 2012. He is currently co-director of the Nancy McDonough Geschke Writing Center at Marygrove. His research interests include 16th and 17th century English literature, religion and literature, religious philosophy, religion and film, Continental philosophy, creative writing, poetry, and Romanticism.