While marking its 30th anniversary in 2021, the Writing Center at Michigan State University continued to meet the changing needs of a diverse constituency by expanding ongoing collaborations worldwide.
In Fall 2021, Director Trixie Smith and Associate Director Grace Pregent traveled to Botswana with the purpose of developing a multi-faceted program featuring study abroad opportunities, student exchanges, workshops, and a plan to establish a writing center at Botswana Open University (BOU).
The program builds on a collaborative partnership with African nations that launched in 2018 and involved MSU, BOU, Canada’s Carleton University, and South Africa’s Mangosuthu University of Technology. Programs have been supported by a grant from MSU’s Alliance for African Partnerships and also have involved the expertise of MSU Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities, MSU African Studies Center, and the Canadian Studies Center to help further comprehensive writing support and programs across Africa.
“A lot of students are interested in learning about Africa, African culture, and the schools there,” Pregent said. “This program will focus on a part of the world where writing centers aren’t very common, with an eye toward supporting writing and research.”
“This program will focus on a part of the world where writing centers aren’t very common, with an eye toward supporting writing and research.”Grace Pregent
The Writing Center’s ongoing collaborations with African nations have consisted of the exchange of African scholars, literacy, and pedagogies, and have helped open the door to the new program with BOU. The new five-year partnership with BOU began in 2021. In addition to establishing a writing center and mentoring program, specific activities include a civic writing and community literacy engagement program, particularly for at-risk populations. The partnership also looks to foster collaborative research between MSU and BOU.
“Many African countries have their own national goals to help them move beyond being considered a developing nation,” Smith said. “Part of that involves increasing education and expanding the scope of technical colleges to increase post-graduate work.”
Pregent remarked that any increase in education translates into the need for writing and language support.
“No matter your discipline, writing is the common thread,” she said.
On their two-week trip to Botswana, Smith and Pregent met with BOU faculty, staff, and graduate students to assess needs and learn about challenges. They listened to common struggles similar to those they’ve heard from faculty and students at MSU, including fear of rejection and time management. The two also facilitated workshops at BOU’s five campuses, leveraging in-person and virtual presentations depending on the location.
Godson Gatsha, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Student Services at BOU, concurred that the science of communicating with different academic audiences is critical for success in any academic pursuit. He remarked that collaborating with the MSU Writing Center on academic and professional writing matters will enhance the ability of BOU staff and students to effectively communicate and disseminate their scholarly works. He said the partnership will promote virtual and in-person interaction since BOU students and staff use English as a second or third language.
“Such an exchange of ideas on writing will improve writing with special attention to different audiences, depending on the discipline.”Godson Gatsha
“Such an exchange of ideas on writing will improve writing with special attention to different audiences, depending on the discipline,” Gatsha said. “It will afford both institutions to appreciate the cultural dimension of the influence of our indigenous languages on English, and help our students and staff write with clarity of purpose.”
Since returning from Botswana, Smith and Pregent have outlined elements and executed plans for the program that will run through 2026. The two also are working with MSU University Advancement and the Alliance for African Partnerships to seek additional funding to support the project.
“It’s an incredibly exciting time at the Writing Center to look back on our history, to see what we’ve accomplished, and to think about where we want to be,” Pregent said.
Smith agreed, reflecting on the additional excitement of partnerships and programs that extend beyond the MSU campus and community to meet national and worldwide needs. She said, too, upcoming programs echo the Writing Center’s charge as a member of the International Writing Centers Association.
“Global partnerships are part of how we define community. They reflect MSU’s position as a land grant institution and top global research university, as well as our commitment to supporting writing centers worldwide.”Trixie Smith
“Global partnerships are part of how we define community,” Smith said. “They reflect MSU’s position as a land grant institution and top global research university, as well as our commitment to supporting writing centers worldwide. It’s a way we can help students and employees understand the idea of what it means to be part of a global system and to be a global citizen.”
To learn more about MSU Writing Center programs and services, visit www.writing.msu.edu.