University Writing Center Expands to the Hill District Community with Tutoring, Workshops and Classes

A new initiative is broadening the University Writing Center's reach into the neighboring Hill District community with the creation of a center that offers writing instruction and creative writing workshops to children and adults.   

In continuing Duquesne's partnership with Hill-based arts nonprofit ACH Clear Pathways, the new Community Writing Center will eventually open at the organization's new space in the Kaufmann Building in the Hill District. Currently tutoring and workshops are being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Going out into the community really puts the Writing Center's mission into action," said Associate English Professor Dr. Jim Purdy, director of the University Writing Center. "It speaks to Duquesne's commitment to community engagement."    

The Community Writing Center is a collaboration between three campus entities---the Center for Community Engaged Teaching and Research, the Department of English and the University Writing Center.  

a drawing by a student

Funding from the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts enabled the Community Writing Center to hire Duquesne students. Five students work as consultants and interns, using skills they've developed in class while learning together with community partners.  

"Community engagement is great for our students, and this opportunity is particularly suited for those in English education since it prepares them for classroom instruction," Assistant English Professor Dr. Sarah Wright said. "It's important to hear the diversity of voices that come from people of differing ages and backgrounds."  

This semester, the Community Writing Center has already engaged in virtual sessions with the ACH Clear Pathways' Smile Cohort after-school program for children ages 5 to 8. The kids get help with schoolwork and participate in creative writing sessions.  

girl on Zoom coloring

"It's been fun chaos with the kids," Purdy said. "It's an enthusiastic cohort of kids who are very excited to be working with our Duquesne students."  

Writing Center Consultant Megan Williams, a first-year student in the School of Education's Masters of Teaching in Secondary Education program, has been working with children on spoken word poetry, rap and creative writing. She is helping the students make their own "All About Me" creative writing books, which will be displayed at a December art showcase at ACH Clear Pathways.  

"The kids I work with love to talk about themselves, their families and their neighborhoods," Williams said. "Most of them prefer drawing to writing, but even if they aren't writing, it's about them learning how to tell the stories of their lives and learning about the narrative-building process."  

While the instruction has focused on children, the Community Writing Center plans to resume writing workshops and poetry classes for adult community members later this semester. Post-pandemic, the Community Writing Center will be a physical space for members of the community to meet and learn together.    

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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