The Story of Writing Support at Dartmouth
The Student Center for Writing, Research, and Information Technology has long demonstrated writing and research support at its best. Throughout its many incarnations, the aim of our center has been to provide peer-to-peer instruction that enhances Dartmouth students’ intellectual work at every stage of their thinking, research, and composing processes.
The story of Dartmouth’s support for student writing outside the classroom begins with The Dartmouth College Committee on Student English, 1947-1959, which suggested and created a Writing Clinic, where struggling writers could go for help. In the mid 1960s the Clinic was disbanded at the recommendation of Albert Kitzhaber’s report. By 1975, the English Department had created the Composition Center, a peer-tutoring program, and, in 1986, the Center began a small Writing Assistance Program, which offered writing assistants to faculty who wanted trained assistants to work with their students’ papers.
In 1988, the college hired a Director of Composition who was charged with the responsibilities of overseeing the Composition Center and its programs. In the year after this appointment, the college provided the Director with the financial resources necessary to further develop the Composition Center’s Peer Tutoring and Writing Assistance Programs. As a result of this investment, the support programs for composition grew exponentially, from a very small student-run program to professional programs that came to serve nearly one-quarter of Dartmouth undergraduates.
In 2003, the Composition Center collaborated with the Library and Academic Computing to conceptualize a new kind of center. Using Composition Center tutors and a few technically-competent staff from the Jones Media Center, the collaborators launched a pilot tutoring program designed to offer students help with their multimedia projects, as well as their papers and research projects.
When the College launched its freestanding Writing Program in 2004, the Center and Writing Program co-located to Baker-Berry. In that moment the Center became the Student Center for Research, Writing, and Information Technology (RWIT). Collaboratively overseen by the Writing Program, the Library, and Academic Computing, RWIT has become a central support service that assists students with a variety of papers and projects at all stages of the composing process. Now located in the Library’s collaborative learning space, RWIT offers assistance to undergraduate and graduate students through its peer tutoring program in the Center, its Writing Assistance Program (RWIT-in-the-classroom), a senior honors thesis tutoring program, internships available to Masters in Comparative Literature students, and tutors and writing assistants for students writing papers in French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. The Center serves more than one-quarter of the undergraduate population and a substantial number of graduate students.