The Collegian
Monday, August 15, 2022

Writing project premieres on campus

University of Richmond staff members now have the opportunity to cultivate their writing skills both professionally and creatively through the university's new Staff Writing Project.

The Staff Writing Project Web site consists of resources for writing on the job, writing and speech center assistance, GED preparation, English as a Second Language tutoring and book discussion participation. It also links to the UR Staff Writing and Photo Space group.

The project seeks to provide the staff with tools for improving their on-the-job writing and offer resources for professional development, according to its Web site. The program also aims to inspire the staff and give them a space for personal writing. Overall, the project is geared to improve job performance, promote personal and professional growth, increase the inclusion of staff within the university community and encourage lifelong learning.

Lee Carleton, assistant director of the writing center, first developed the project for his English 383 (Introduction to Composition Theory and Pedagogy) class, which students must complete to become a writing tutor.

"[It was] inspired by a good caffeinated conversation in [8:15 at] Boatwright," Carleton wrote in an e-mail. "Kathy Carmody and I envisioned a collaboration. As the Coordinator of Learning and Development for the university staff, Kathy was interested in providing the staff with a tool for improving the writing they do on the job, and encouraging their pursuit of writing for personal as well as educational reasons. We brainstormed about the potential of having our apprentice writing consultants create a useful, accessible Web site that would meet these needs."

President Edward Ayers saw the class' work, he encouraged Carleton to continue the project and expand upon it, said Joe Essid, director of the Writing Center. During the summer Carleton and senior Connor McMahan worked to launch it and make it a readily accessible on the university Web site.

"I see any Web project as dynamic," Essid said. "As needs emerge in new areas, we can easily add to the initiative site."

Only a few staff members are involved in the project so far, but they have already led one book discussion during the summer on "The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker," by Mike Rose. Custodian Ofelia Dunlap said she had first heard about the Staff Writing Project when Carleton introduced himself at a facilities meeting.

"I learned from our discussions how to admire each job's different kinds of talents and intelligence that are involved to be a 'good worker,'" Dunlap wrote in an e-mail. "Personally, I am developing my English as a second language by just reading different blogs on how others write their ideas. It gives me more confidence at work how to communicate with others."

Carleton and Essid said the project went along with the Richmond Promise to engage in the Richmond community and to provide opportunity for students, faculty and staff of all means and backgrounds.

"Our staff members work hard and are very much a part of the Richmond community in two senses: They live in the metro area of Richmond and they contribute their time and energy to the University of Richmond," Essid said. "The Richmond Promise aims to forge stronger links between 'town and gown,' as the old saying goes.

"Through our efforts to improve the caliber of staff writing, we'll see staff step up in their neighborhoods, in city council meetings, in their churches and community organizations. Good communications skills will help our staff become leaders and advance in their careers and life away from campus."

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