New Research-Writing Studio proves popular, effective

Clarissa Mansfield
Western Libraries Communications

Studio aims to help Western students develop research and writing skills

The Research-Writing Studio at Western Libraries experienced record-breaking usage throughout fall quarter 2015, recording at least 7,500 visits, over 10 times higher than the number of visits received by the Writing Center at its former site. These numbers are all the more impressive given early concerns that students would not be able to find the new Research-Writing Studio after the Writing Center and Research Consultation merged services and relocated to Haggard Hall this past spring.

"After nearly 30 years with the Writing Center, I thought I would get misty-eyed about leaving my Writing Center identity behind," said Roberta Kjesrud, the studio's director of writing. "But no such thing. At no time in my history here have I seen students this engaged, forming community, taking charge of the space and their learning."

Fully staffed by a mix of both professional and student staff members who offer expertise to support the student research and writing experience, there are typically between one and four assistants available at any given time during the hours the studio is open. Involving student studio staff in the teaching and learning process also has its own benefits.

"One of the great things about having student staff as studio assistants is the unique perspective they bring," said Kelly Helms, the studio's assistant director of writing  "They know what it’s like to take the courses and complete the types of assignments that we often see represented in the studio, and they've struggled with the same academic and personal challenges that students using the studio face."

They're also familiar with the strategies and feedback that students most need, she added.

"This peer-based teaching and learning environment builds a community of scholars that would not possible without our dedicated student staff."

Centrally located on the second floor of Haggard Hall in a bright, inviting and open space, the studio offers students a dedicated place for writing and for obtaining research and writing assistance. Students are encouraged to collaborate with each other and with studio staff or to work on their own. The studio is designed to support students at all levels and across all disciplines.

"The research and writing process is almost always intertwined," said Gabe Gossett, head of Research Consultation and part of the studio leadership team. "Where at one moment a researcher is trying to make sense of the ideas they are trying to explore in writing, at another moment a writer is looking for sources that speak to the topic they want to write about. [The studio approach] offers as-needed support to build towards learning outcomes that will ultimately leave students better able to take charge of their own inquiry process."

The project's final phase is fully funded

The studio's immediate and extraordinary reception by students, faculty and university administrators makes clear the importance and value of the project. Western Libraries has announced that the final phase of the Research-Writing Studio project has been fully funded, thanks to the generosity of donors Cindy, Don and Adam Hacherl.

Cindy Hacherl is an alumna of Western and a graduate of the English Department with long-standing connections to Western. Together, the Hacherls are passionately committed to making the vision of the Research-Writing Studio a reality, and they recognize the benefit of this project for both current and future students.

Not only did the Hacherls make possible the creation of a collaborative workshop space in Haggard Hall 222 and the studio's current transformation, but their ongoing generosity mean that the full vision of the studio project can be completed.  This last phase will expand the studio toward the building’s entryway, increasing both its visibility and capacity. New furniture, access to electricity and technology, glass and acoustical accents and clear signage will also contribute to the completion of this expanded area.

Additionally, just as the Libraries face unprecedented demand for collaborative and individual work spaces, so too have they received increased requests for class workshops. Students using the studio on their own regularly request that their professor schedule a formal workshop, and professors who do that routinely encourage new students to connect with the studio staff for follow-up work. Because individual work and workshops are mutually reinforcing, there is a need for a second workshop and group instruction space. Plans call for creating an inviting, glass-enclosed teaching space with moveable tables and chairs and an instructor's station with audio and video equipment. Having this additional space will better equip the studio staff to help meet the needs of students engaging in research and writing work.

University faculty have repeatedly identified the development of student research and writing skills as an important role of the Libraries. Integrating the practices of research and writing is one way Western Libraries and the Learning Commons are working together to address this identified need, and it is through the generosity of the Hacherl family that the Research-Writing Studio will continue to grow in strength and ability to positively impact students engaged in research and writing at Western.

Thursday, January 7, 2016 - 8:36am