Meet our New Program Assistants: Reflections on Being an Online Writing Consultant

Peer Writing Center Program Assistants: Julia Van Goor & Jordyn Houle

When we started this position as Program Assistants in the Sweetland Peer Writing Center (PWC), neither of us were quite sure what to expect. The job was new, the virtual environment was new, and the people we would be working most closely with were new. But over the course of the semester we learned firsthand that the uncertainty of the semester made space for invention.

In August, we quickly learned that we were not alone in working to adapt the PWC to the virtual environment. After virtually consulting all summer, we had both experienced difficulties working with the PWC Online platform. With the support of the wonderful Sweetland community, we were encouraged to revamp our virtual consulting protocol for the semester. Jordyn had the idea of switching to Google Meet and Google Docs and worked to rewrite the consultant appointment protocol to fit the new system. Julia worked to update the wording for writers on the PWC website and appointment form accordingly. After some fine tuning with Interim PWC Faculty Director Shelley Manis and Program Administrator Dan Hartlep, we settled on a new system of virtual consulting for the term and planned a training session to familiarize all current consultants with the updated procedures as well as best practices and advice.

We found that despite occasional technical difficulties, the new system seemed to serve both writers and consultants well. Staff meeting presentations about inclusivity from fellow consultants further reinforced the importance of the closed captioning function on Google Meet and the addition of preferred pronouns to the appointment form. Thanks to the efforts of Shelley and Dan, and of course all of the amazing peer writing consultants, our semester was successful and productive.

Nevertheless, we (and several other consultants) concluded the semester feeling disconnected despite our productivity. Moving forward to next semester, we are working to find ways of building the community that we believe forms the backbone of Sweetland’s greatness. With the input of other consultants, we are finding ways of re-introducing informality to otherwise impersonal zoom meetings and brainstorming new ways to foster friendships within the writing center. We are excited to help bring these ideas to fruition next semester.