Volume 21, Number 3, Autumn 2004

Wendy Kraglund-Gauthier

St. Francis Xavier University


wkraglun@stfx.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Successful journeys are made with eyes and minds open to new experiences and new ideas."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destination: The Journey


"Accidental tourists” hate traveling, and only do so with their eyes shut tightly . They fail to look behind to see the distance they have come and the scenery along the way. To me, successful journeys are made with eyes and minds open to new experiences and new ideas.


My own journey has taken its own turns. In 2002, I left a comfortable job teaching adult education in Prince Edward Island to return to my alma mater. I accepted a position at the Saint Francis Xavier University Writing Centre, and I work with a team of seven other individuals. We are in a unique situation, where, unlike many other Canadian writing centers staffed by peer tutors, we all have at least two degrees and are considered professional staff. We are “Academic Skills Instructors”, responsible for delivering our centre’s programming. Now I am also a graduate student, trying to assess the success of our own writing centre and compare it with other Canadian writing centres. My rather daunting task is to both qualitatively and quantitatively assess the programs and services we offer.


Among the programs and services we offer are eXcel, for students embarking on their university travels, and APEX, for students who have lost their way. The eXcel program is a transition program for first year students, launched in 2002. The initiative was ambitious. Six new staff members, armed with well-written but untried curriculum, delivered a year-long, optional non-credit course to 500 first-year students. Over the past three years, the curriculum has changed slightly, but the core ideas still remain. First year students need assistance making the leap from high school learning to university academics. Critical thinking, time management, research and referencing skills, and effectively preparing for examinations are necessary skills which students often lack. Adding to their academic challenges are issues of personal responsibility, motivation, and independence. The Writing Centre also delivers APEX, a mandatory program for students on academic probation. These students are seasoned travelers who had an itinerary, but somehow ended up lost. The baggage they carry often impedes their progress.


These baggage-toting accidental academic tourists face physical as well as intellectual challenges in their quests to develop as writers. Our Writing Centre is located on the periphery of campus, in two separate office blocks which are physically connected, yet unreachable from the inside. We are tucked out of the way, and for individuals who are uninitiated to the maze of corridors and dead-end hallways, very hard to find. Their journey to our offices parallels the journey they make as they struggle with the process of writing and becoming all that it is to be an academic writer.

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