As an academic article that is primarily narrative, Emma Harris and I wanted to use this space to raise awareness of accessible practices and technologies that we had put into practice here at the Michigan State University Writing Center (MSUWC).
For this article, I served as a co-author and co-researcher alongside my cohort colleague, Emma Harris. Our roles for this project were divided equally with each of us being responsible for one section based on our research interests and our individual narratives. We then collaborated on the introduction and conclusion
Methods and Tools
Background Research, Feedback, Synthesize
Our primary goal for this piece was to produce a conversation about the transformation that has occurred in Writing Centers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Essentially in our short time working with the MSU@WC, we had begun to notice the ways in which Universal Design had begun to manifest itself in some of our new practices as a result of COVID. Therefore, we began to look into tying scholarly conversations regarding accessibility to these practices and opening the door for further discussions and research.
As members of the MSU@WC’s accessibility committee as well as classmates in a Writing Centers and Access course, Emma and I often discussed matters of accessibility in our own Writing Center (WC). As graduate coordinators in the WC, we held a unique position as liaisons between administrators, staff, and clients. This opportunity allowed us insight into the inner workings and practices of our center and allowed us to begin to investigate our policies and procedures for concerns of accessibility. Furthermore, my position as Online Coordinator was an asset to this inquiry because at the time, months after the start of the COVID pandemic, our WC was operating entirely online. This meant that to an extent, I was able to review and revise our operating policies and procedures for the online environment. On the other hand, Emma’s curriculum of study was pedagogical, giving her the opportunity to apply her knowledge in the classroom to our WC inquiry.
After completing our Writing Centers and Access course, we began to compile key concepts that appeared frequently in our course readings. From these concepts, we began to draw connections between the concepts and our work, leading to the start of our drafting process. In the early stages of this process, we honed in on our individual skills and research interests which led us to deciding that the organization of the article be very sectioned; we would introduce our ideas and ourselves, I would discuss the online affordances, Emma would discuss pedagogy—particularly in the age of a pandemic, and we would conclude with a call to action.
Our drafting process was extremely messy; it started from organized notes about concepts and our work. Each line in our draft was a new idea and after a while, we just had several pages of notes and ideas. Before choosing to pitch our ideas to The Dangling Modifier (DM) journal, we began looking for connections between ideas and synthesizing them to the best of our ability; without any direction for where our article would go. Ultimately, we had a very academic paper that was several pages long; something that would later be a great limitation for us.
Eventually, Emma found a call for proposals that felt our initial ideas would be a great fit for and we began looking for a way to make this article fit the DM’s guidelines. The need for brevity was our greatest challenge as we felt almost all of our ideas were prudent. We also felt it was important to include our credentials to establish ethos in the article as neither of us had been published before. To combat this challenge, we enacted multiple sessions of peer review where we would try to reduce extra verbiage in each other’s sections. Although this approach was an extremely beneficial solution, we did ultimately have to remove quite a bit of theoretical backing. One solution we developed for this issue was to frame the article as primarily narrative and acknowledge the scholars who contributed to our understandings.
Ultimately, after very few suggestions and edits from The Dangling Modifier Journal, our article was published in June 2021. Although the final product wasn’t everything we had hoped for because of the length limitations, Emma and I were both very excited to have our first publication; especially that it was regarding the topic of accessibility.
Although this article did not turn out to be all that we had hoped for, because of the content and theoretical backing we had to remove, it still opened a conversation about accessible practices in Writing Centers as a result of the pandemic even though we weren’t able to engage in the conversation itself. That said, it was impactful to be able to make a statement about the importance of accessibility work in WCs. Additionally, this was my first opportunity to not only be published but to collaboratively write a (semi) academic article that showcased each of our specific focuses.