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Hume Writing Center celebrates 10-year anniversary May 16-17

The George and Leslie Hume Writing Center celebrates its 10th anniversary this week. The center's birthday party also will acknowledge the legacy of retiring English Professor Andrea Lunsford.

L.A. Cicero Hume Writing Center directors

Associate professor of English and PWR faculty director, Nicholas Jenkins and center director Julia Bleakney at the Hume Writing Center.

The university community is invited to join students, faculty and staff of the George and Leslie Hume Writing Center in celebrating the center's 10th anniversary Wednesday and Thursday, May 16-17.

The birthday party includes award presentations and an event celebrating student writing through performances of original works.

The anniversary events also will mark the retirement of Andrea Lunsford, the Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor in the Department of English. A scholar of contemporary rhetorical theory, Lunsford joined Stanford in 2000 and served for a decade as faculty director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR), of which the Hume Center is a part.

"Andrea's legacy to the university has been to help build up an extraordinary writing program, one that is of national prominence," said Nicholas Jenkins, associate professor of English and PWR faculty director. "The Hume Writing Center is one of the very few writing centers in the country in which the large majority of sessions students have there are with professional writing instructors."

Tenfold growth

Since its opening in 2001, student use of the center has increased nearly tenfold, according to center director Julia Bleakney. Last year, there were more than 6,000 tutoring sessions.

The center is named for Board of Trustees Chair Leslie Hume and her husband, George; they endowed the center during the Campaign for Undergraduate Education. They have stayed involved since, visiting regularly to meet with students and PWR leadership. Jenkins calls them "truly remarkable friends of the university. We are deeply proud that Stanford's writing center bears their name."

The center offers tutoring, small-group consultations and workshops designed to help students improve their writing in all academic areas. Undergraduate visitors are frequently wrestling with Introduction to the Humanities or PWR papers, writing Introductory Seminar applications or applying for fellowships or jobs. Graduate students also have found help through "dissertation boot camps." The center also places student writing tutors in residences.

But the center has an equal commitment to celebrating writing as an art form. It has supported such popular series as "How I Write," which features faculty and professional writers talking about writing as a process. It also is home to Project W.R.I.T.E., which promotes writing outreach to students in East Palo Alto schools.

Writing as fun

As a result, the anniversary celebrations also will focus on excellence in writing and writing as fun.

On Wednesday, the Program in Writing and Rhetoric and the Introduction to the Humanities program will present its prizes for excellence in first-year writing. The Boothe Prize Award Ceremony will be at 12:30 p.m. in the Faculty Club Gold Room, followed by the Hoefer Prize Award Ceremony for excellence in Writing in the Major, which will be at 4:30 p.m. in the Faculty Club Gold Room. The day culminates with the student-led Celebration of Writing at 7 p.m. in the Hume Writing Center.

On Thursday, May 17, the Lunsford Oral Presentation of Research Awards will be presented at 12:30 p.m., followed by the Hume Writing Center Anniversary Celebration from 3 to 5 p.m., both in Building 460.

Leading up to the celebration, the center has sponsored humorous writing contests, including one for the best haiku.

Among the winners was student Shamik Mascharak, with a nod to academic writing:

Writing my paper,
Panic slowly setting in,
It's gonna be rough

Among the other submissions:

Professors tell you
The tests are like the P-sets
And laugh to themselves
Haikus on Stanford
Are quite hard to come up with
Oh look I am done

A tutoring model

Jenkins and Bleakney credit Lunsford with the Hume Writing Center's model of using the 30 lecturers who teach PWR courses as writing tutors. That model – plus the extensive services offered by the center – distinguishes it from other college and writing centers. Lunsford also helped promote a student-centered tutoring model that encourages give and take between the tutor and the tutored.

Stanford students, although academically gifted, can struggle with organization and structure, developing a thesis or simply getting started. First-year students, Bleakney said, quickly discover that college writing is profoundly different than the writing they did in high school.

"It's not just learning to write at a higher level, but the depth of analysis is more complex, as is the use of evidence," she said. "One of the best things we can do for students is convince them it's OK just to get some ideas down – that what they write initially doesn't have to be something that they will turn in to their professor."

Added Jenkins, "Our goal is to assist them with more than just the immediate problem. We want them to take away thoughts, principles, tactics and ideas that will help them again with other writing and communicative tasks they will confront down the road."

Future plans

Jenkins and Bleakney look forward to increasing awareness of the center when it moves within a year from its cozy basement headquarters in Building 460 to a more publicly accessible site on Lasuen Mall in Building 250. It will share the space with the Oral Communication Program's Speaking Center, which is part of the Center for Teaching and Learning.

They also hope to continue the digital media consulting pilot begun this year and to diversify the academic backgrounds of writing instructors and tutors.

"Writing and speaking aren't just important for humanities majors. They're also obviously crucial for social scientists, engineers and natural scientists as well as future doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and business people," Jenkins said.

He added, "I personally won't be completely happy until every student on campus has had at least four great and positive experiences in the Hume Writing Center. Numbers aren't everything, but they're not nothing either. I want every student to feel good and smart for having taken advantage of this special Stanford resource."