Over the summer, the position of Director of the Writing Center changed hands. Lisa Breslin was promoted to Acting Associate Dean of Student Academic Life. Owen Horton stepped up to the plate with 5 years of experience working in a writing center and 4 years teaching experience.
Horton told me he appreciates the one on one format in the writing center in which the, “work that we do [can] be individually tailored to that student.”
“When I’m a teacher I’m in charge of 18-22 students,” he told me, “and I have a lesson plan and students either perform it or they fail. In a writing center, no one fails.”
So, why did Horton choose McDaniel? What drew him to apply for a position here?
“The size, the liberal arts emphasis,” and the focus on “environmental stewardship,” he said.
“I liked the intimate atmosphere,” Horton continued. “I was coming from a large University and I wanted to come somewhere that the atmosphere was small.”
Having come from Michigan State University, and then spending his last 4 years teaching English at Western Michigan University, he said he was excited about, “meeting new people and getting to know familiar faces.”
As an undergraduate he felt like, “I was lost in a sea of people.” Horton mentioned, “one thing I remember; I still remember my student ID number because I had to identify myself so often.” He rattled off the numbers for me, “A28659967,” and he graduated in ’04.
Surprised, I asked why he was always identified by his number, “No one asked for your name,” he said, “Faculty are more interested in doing research than teaching. Undergraduates pay the bills, but get less of an education than you would here. The large Universities are really dehumanizing for students.”
Since gaining his position, he has encouraged the use of the term “writing consultant” instead of writing tutor.
“Tutor implies a relationship where the student is behind or remedial in their needs. Consultant implies a more professional relationship where a student wants to be taken to a higher level and we posses the skills to take them there. Consultant also implies that the student is doing the work, and we’re providing the suggestions.”
Junior Casey Dunn commented, “I think I pretty much speak for everyone that we’re very happy for Lisa and very proud of her and wish her the best in her new position. It was a bittersweet parting, but Owen has proven that he is more than fit for the job and I look forward to working with him as we continue to expand and improve the writing center.”
“He’s very nice and easy to talk to, and he knows a lot about grammar. He seems like he is very efficient at his job,” said junior, Christine Jubinski.
As the new guy filling in Lisa Breslin’s position I asked how he thinks he’ll be able to fill Lisa’s shoes.
“Poorly,” he immediately responded, “Lisa’s a great, energetic person.”
He believes to share a similar style with Lisa in how they view the writing center.
“The main thing is, I can’t match Lisa’s energy, her experience, but I hope to keep all good things the same and bring in fresh ideas to move us forward.”
Among these ideas include creating an online scheduling system where the consultant will have a profile and picture available so the student can pick a consultant that will match their needs and interests. For example, a consultant may list that he or she is good at assisting with term papers, or creative writings, allowing the student to find someone who feels confident in guiding their work.
The second change is the beginning of a pilot program with Student Academic Support Service that assists students to transition from the SASS office to the writing center.
The final change, Horton says is, “we’re going to start presenting at conferences regionally and nationally.”
Students who volunteer will most likely work on a collective study on writing center theory or techniques that they find work well. “It’s a great way to legitimize what we do for the students and the administration.”