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Hancock to Present at 2018 International Writing Centers Association Conference

Published on 14 August 2018

This October, Kami Hancock, Ph.D., director of the College’s Norton Writing Center, will conduct a panel discussion on the role of writing centers in promoting social justice at the 2018 International Writing Centers Association Annual Conference in Atlanta.

The conference will unite writing center professionals from across the U.S. to reflect on how writing center professionals can engage in active citizenship and social justice work and reframe their work through a lens of active centership.

Hancock will lead a panel discussion during the conference along with writing center colleagues from Logan University and Augusta University. The panelists will share insight on the inherent prejudices and biases in scientific research methods, style and citation systems and discuss how writing centers can work with scientific writers through a social justice lens.

“We developed this topic by determining how students in our respective writing centers were using the spaces and services provided and examining what conversations were developing from those interactions,” Hancock explains.

Hancock has served as the director of the College’s Norton Writing Center for two years. At the center, she and consultants work one-on-one to assist students with various types of writing assignments from class papers and reports to resumes, personal statements and job or professional school applications.

Hancock notes that many students who visit the Norton Writing Center are English language learners. In some cases, these individuals can be international students who are attending the College on a visa and don’t use English regularly. In other cases, English language learners represent students who speak a different language in their home, but have been acculturated to using English throughout their education.
Because students who are English language learners utilize multiple languages, there can be a disconnect in their writing style or grammar that changes the meaning or understood context of their message.

“What we are seeing is that these students often encounter misunderstandings or miscommunication in understanding their assignments, or find it hard to communicate their questions,” Hancock says. “We work with them on the language and structure of their written assignments to bridge any communication gaps, while examining what is causing them.”

In her time working with students, Hancock says she has noticed other barriers when it comes to scientific methods of writing. During the upcoming conference in Atlanta, she and her fellow panel members hope to uncover the ways scientific writing, as a style, is bound up in questions of social justice.

“When we look at scientific writing as a whole, it is intended to be objective, but when we dig deeper, we can see a historical lack of inclusivity,” Hancock notes. “We will examine what it means to prescribe to this form of writing and what is lost in terms of autonomy or authorship when the writer has a different perspective than the larger consensus.”

The panel will discuss how writing centers can become engaged with the campus community as champions of objectivity, research and open-mindedness by approaching scientific writers holistically, avoiding inequities and inherent bias in language and scientific discourse, and encouraging students to be responsible and informed researchers and writers.

Hancock believes that addressing these issues will help students have larger discussions of health literacy that will help them better serve patients of various backgrounds.

“Pharmacists play a key role in helping patients to better understand their health care needs,” Hancock explains. “We talk with students about what their role will be as health care providers and build that into the frame of their writing. While the current assignment they’re working on may not seem to fit with their larger career objectives, the work will ultimately help them initiate more human interactions and provide better care to patients.”

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