Graduate Writing Centers: Programs, Practices, Possibilities

Open Access
Summers, Sarah Elizabeth
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 13, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Cheryl Jean Glenn, Dissertation Advisor
  • Cheryl Jean Glenn, Committee Chair
  • Stuart Selber, Committee Member
  • Jon Olson, Committee Member
  • Anne Whitney, Committee Member
  • graduate writing centers
  • writing center pedagogy
  • writing in the disciplines
  • multilingual writing
  • distance education
In “Graduate Writing Centers: Programs, Practices, Possibilities,” I argue that Graduate Writing Centers (GWCs), which offer one-to-one writing consultations to graduate students across disciplines, blend traditional writing center pedagogies with tutoring practices intended to respond to the unique contexts of graduate writing. These sites also play an integral role in defining and attempting to meet the needs for writing instruction at the graduate level. In the seven years since the last comprehensive study of GWCs was published, the number of GWCs in the United States has grown from seven to over thirty. Through survey data from twenty-one GWCs and case studies at UCLA, Penn State, and Liberty University, my project identifies relevant issues faced by GWCs, describes in depth the practices and pedagogies developed by GWCs in response to their institutional contexts and the high-stakes demands of graduate writing, and theorizes the potential value of these centers to writers and their institutions. The descriptions and analyses in my project are significant in at least three ways. First, they are useful to GWC directors and consultants and those considering opening a GWC because they depict the range of practices and policies employed by GWCs. Moreover, they will help directors and consultants consider how to best integrate their practices into existing institutional structures and values. Second, this project contributes to the growing interest among rhetoric and composition scholars and universities in developing best practices for supporting graduate writers. Finally, writing program administrators at all levels can benefit from this project’s focus on writing in the disciplines, tutoring with technologies, and supporting multilingual writers. Increasingly, writing programs of all kinds are attempting to teach writing skills that will transfer across disciplines, to integrate digital technologies into their teaching and assessment practices, and to adapt their curricula and pedagogies to the needs of both resident and international multilingual students. I argue that one key site to locate and study these practices is the GWC.