Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fall 2017 Writing Webinars

SNL Writing will continue its Writing Webinar series in Fall 2017. These faculty-led one-hour sessions focus on specific areas of writing and are designed to help students at any stage of their academic journey at SNL.
  • Academic Toolkit – Getting Started:  Wednesday, Sept. 20: 7:00pm-8:00pm

  • Top 5 Grammar Mistakes: Wednesday, Oct. 4: 5:00pm-6:00pm

  • Citation Basics: Friday, Oct. 20, 2017: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

For more information contact:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Summer Writing Boot Camp: July 29, 9am-1pm

The Summer Writing Boot Camp is happening soon. SNL Students are encouraged to attend this boot camp where they can get help from SNL faculty on writing assignments.

To register: email

Walk-ins are welcome!
Date​:                                                             Location:
Saturday, July 29, 9:00am-1:00pm              Loop Campus, Daley Bldg., 14 E. Jackson, Lab 1325

Monday, July 10, 2017

The 2017 International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Conference

When Dr. Jaimie Hoffman was giving the first keynote speech for the 2017 International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Conference, a sense of camaraderie came over me. As she spoke about the importance of making higher education accessible, she reminded us that so-called non-traditional students were the new majority of students worldwide. Then she advanced her presentation to a slide that included the characteristics of this new majority. The first characteristic listed was adult students.

In that moment, I felt proud to represent an institution that has nearly five decades of experience making higher education accessible for adult students. I also felt the profound importance of struggling to keep that mission vital since as so many of the other speakers pointed out budgets for higher education are being slashed everywhere, impeding resources and innovations to help new majority students thrive in the academic environment.

After SNL Writing’s presentation on creating a writing program for adult students, we were able to discuss issues related to this with our international colleagues. One of our Irish colleagues confided that their institution has a reputation for being inhospitable to adults although they promote accessibility for other populations. In turn, another colleague asked us how our adult programs worked to provide access for people with physical and learning disabilities. The lively but brief exchange was a reminder that all institutions need to consider the intersections of their student populations and that we should be “asking the other question” when it comes to providing access.

After three days of productive dialogue, Dr. Craig Mahoney gave the conference’s final keynote. He spoke of the needs for institutions to be more nimble in creating programs that prepared students for a changing global landscape. In particular, he stressed that forward looking programs would help students become “critical, independent, autonomous lifelong learners,” professional self-regulating practitioners,” and “resilient and flexible collaborators.” These outcomes resonate with SNL’s andragogical goals and offer encouragement for us to maintain our core values as we adapt to the ever-changing landscape in higher education.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Writing Center Summer Hours

The University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL) will open for Summer Quarter on June 13 at the Loop Center location only.
Loop Campus Writing Center
(312) 362-6726

Monday: 10am-5pm
Tuesday: 10am-5pm
Wednesday: 10am-5pm
Thursday: 10am-5pm
Friday: Closed
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed

Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to register and make an appointment. Be sure to select the correct campus from the drop-down box at the top of the WCOnline scheduler when making an appointment online. Call either Writing Center with questions or concerns.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

At and To the Heart of Teaching: Thoughts on Emotional Labor

I was supposed to be devoting the evening to my own self-care because like most students and instructors I am exhausted. I should have closed my laptop, but I was lackadaisically pulling together a lesson plan. The ache in my fingers and burn in my eyes told me I shouldn’t be doing this, but it was week nine and I had to keep going. Sometimes we sacrifice self-care for the classroom. My plan was to shut my computer off at 9, have night cap and read some science fiction.

But the email came at 9:10pm. The subject line read, “Dropping the Class.” What little emotional energy, I had for the night was gone. For the last couple of weeks, I had reminded students of important dates—or as I called them in class Immovable Deadlines. This list included the deadlines for final papers and portfolios. The deadline to withdraw has long passed. I had no idea how to respond. I wondered if the student needed a) kind words of encouragement b) firm orders that she would finish the class c) some vague acknowledgement of her autonomy. Each student needs a tailored response. And I fear that the wrong response might discourage the student from completing the class or her degree.

Educators are so often expected to engage in a wide variety of labors. The article “A Glimpse into the Lives of New Writing Center Directors” reminds us that Writing Center Directors engage in three forms of labor: disciplinary labor, everyday labor, and emotional labor. But these types of labor are far from the exclusive domain of Writing Center directors. Educators regardless of function face similar types of work. But it is emotional labor that I find most arduous since it requires “mentoring, or nurturing of others; work of building and sustaining relationships; and work to resolve conflicts” (Caswell, Grutsch, and Jackson A4).

I am jealous of educators who seem unfazed by the psychic demands of their students or those instructors who cultivate a phlegmatic façade. Pegeen Reichert Powell suggests that emotional labor is important in composition and first year seminar classes as a tool for promoting student access to education. These issues are critical for our population at the School for New Learning. In the auto-ethnography “’Where is Merlin When I Need Him?’”, Benie B. Colvin notes that low self-esteem acts as a barrier to education for adult students. He acknowledges, “How the older student perceives him or herself, however, is critical to academic success” (23). Our emotional labor, our reassurance, can influence that perception and help students realize that they belong in the classroom.

As a college, we face new opportunities in which our emotional labor may be even more important. It can help us create a supportive environment that can promote both access and retention. Powell suggests “[i]t might be useful to think of access and retention as two sides of a Möbius strip—at any single point, each appears to be on its own discrete path, but if you follow a line on either side through to its endpoint, you realize that there is actually only one path and no real endpoint” (670). Our emotional labor can help our student negotiate this continuum even if we have to have a good night’s rest before we can respond to a frantic email.

Works Cited

Caswell, Nicole I., Jackie Grutsch McKinney, and Rebecca Jackson. “A Glimpse into the Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors.” Forum, vol. 18, no. 1, 2014, pp. A3-A7.

Colvin, Benie B. “Where is Merlin When I Need Him? The Barriers to Higher Education are Still in Place: Recent Re-Entry Experience.” New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 19-32.

Reichert Powell, Pegeen. “Retention and Writing Instruction: Implications for Access and Pedagogy.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 40, no. 4, 2009, pp. 664-682, Accessed 22 May 2017.

Monday, May 22, 2017

2 More Opportunities to Get Help at a Writing Boot Camp!

Do you have an incomplete grade? A final project that is dragging on? A current assignment that needs help?

Get help and finish your assignments or writing projects at one of this quarter's two remaining SNL Writing Boot Camps.

To register or for more information contact: with your desired session.  

Walk-ins are welcome! Walk-ins are encouraged!

To find out more about SNL Writing Boot Camps, watch LaTrice Jones, an SNL student, discuss her experience with SNL Writing Boot Camps:

*REMAINING* Boot Camp Dates and Locations
Wed., May 24, 2017: 5:30pm-9pm         Loop, 14 E. Jackson, Lab 1327
Sat. June 3, 2017: 9am-1pm                     Loop, ​14 E. Jackson, Lab 1325

Notes from the 2017 Teaching & Learning Conference

At this year’s Teaching and Learning Conference, SNL Writing presented in the Reflection and Metacognition session. Maria De Moya and Sydney Dillard from the College of Communication opened this session with an overview of reflective tools that instructors could bring into the classroom. Steffanie Triller, Kamilah Cummings and Nicholas Hayes closed the session with a conversation on how to use specifically design reflection questions to promote metacognition at various stages of an assignment.

SNL Writing shared typical reflective questions we have students answer at the end of each draft of a paper. These questions have students articulate what they are actually doing in their papers, what their strengths are, and what their weaknesses are. Fortified with this knowledge they will be able to lead their own improvements in their assignments rather than simply reacting to instructor comments. But the beautiful thing is that these types of questions are adaptable across disciplines.

Despite serving different populations and having different disciplines, both presentations recognized the deep benefit of fostering reflection especially as a way to engage in formative development before summative assessment. Participating in this session was a poignant reminder that although SNL has a particularly close relation to reflection it should be a skill that students learn to cultivate for themselves in any given situation. Crucially, these skill sets can help learners avoid the inefficiency of trial and error (“Practice-Based and Reflective Learning” and “Reflective Writing”).

Works Cited

“Practice-based and Reflective Learning.” University of Reading, 2016,

“Reflective Writing.” Writing Center: School of Graduate & Professional Programs. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, 2011,

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Winning Writing Showcase Entries Now Online

We're still celebrating all of this year's SNL Writing Showcase participants and our guests at Writing Showcase Live! It's not too early to start thinking about next year, eitherremind your students to download an application form for the 2018 Writing Showcase and submit their work to anytime before April 1.

Be sure to check out the winning entries from 2017, too, which are now posted (with permission) on SNL's Writing Guide. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page and click on "Writing Showcase Winners" to reveal outstanding work from 2016 and 2017.

More information about SNL's Writing Showcase and other SNL Writing events can be found on the SNL Writing Guide. Happy writing!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Spring Writing Boot Camps Start Saturday, May 13!

Writing Boot Camps start this Saturday. SNL Students are encouraged to attend a boot camp where they can get help from SNL faculty on writing assignments.

To register: Email

Walk-ins are welcome!

Date​:                                                             Location:
Sat., May 13, 2017: 9am-1pm                  O'Hare, Lab 204
Thurs., May 18, 2017: 11am-1pm            Online [Registration required]
​Sat., May 20, 2017: 9am-1pm                  Naperville, Lab 140​
Wed., May 24, 2017: 5:30pm-9pm         Loop, 14 E. Jackson, Lab 1327
Sat. June 3, 2017: 9am-1pm                     Loop, ​14 E. Jackson, Lab 1325

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Garden in a Battlefield: Teaching in Turmoil

by Nicholas Hayes

I am waiting to be bored, and it is hard given our current political and intellectual climate.

I’ve never been compelled to rush into exciting situations although I admire those who are. I think of an acquaintance who taught at the American University of Beirut and ran an organization to help children traumatized by conflict. He spent a life running towards the conflict. On rare occasion, I hear tumult I think about how I can avoid it. I will never be heroic, but I can console myself with the fact I am not complacent. Another former colleague would scold me because I am just talking about teaching and writing. Yet the mood of many people who work in education has become dire because of increasing uncertainties. I find myself wondering how I can address the needs of my students and myself in such times.

Betsy Devos is not lurking under my bed. (I am fairly certain of this point, but I will check tonight just to be sure.) Yet the concerns I have for the policies she might implement do keep me awake. The anxiety about potential changes that could be implemented by people in positions of authority drain energy that should be devoted to my students. Someone with a more heroic bent to their nature might be itching for combat, but I will grab my rhetorical arsenal only when called. Until then I will look for spaces where I can replenish my energies and practice self-care.

To that end, I have been reluctantly pulling myself to the gym twice a week. Less reluctantly, I’ve been giving myself time to work in the Lillstreet ceramic studio. The break from email and news is a welcome relief, and it makes me a lot easier for my family and friends to deal with. It also gives me the opportunity to relax, so I can better address the stressors in the rest of my life.

But the energy I need to guide my students comes from a different place, the classroom. For me the classroom has always been paradoxical. A few hours of orchestrating classroom discussions and facilitating small group activities means there is a good chance I will fall asleep on the train as I go home. Despite my physical exhaustion, a good class will leave me psychically energized. And when I am not nodding off or drooling on one of my fellow passenger’s shoulders, I will often take notes for next week’s class.

The classroom has this exhausting and energizing presence because it is a space set off from the rest of the world. It is in many ways sacred. This is why I try to perform little rituals every class. At the beginning of a session, we engage in a free writing exercise where students are allowed to purge themselves of the psychic noise and anxiety they carry with them from their day. I have to remind myself that I too should be engaging in this ritual instead of doing stage business at the front of the classroom. This moment where we purge our concerns helps us inscribe the next three hours with a focus on other things. Similarly asking a check-in question and having everyone (including me) answer it can help reassert the communal nature of and safety to speak in this space. For as Ilan Stavans reminds us that “Safety is a basic principle of education: Knowledge results from trust, and trust comes from care.”

There is never a way to fully sever the classroom from the rest of the world, and I wouldn’t want to. But in setting this space off from outside tumult and establishing its communal nature, I hope we are able to cultivate a vegetable urge to grow and change. In this time, we devote to tending our mental gardens I know that my heart will be nourished even if I must have patience. It is also a reminder of what could be lost if it’s not preserved. As the class draws to a close, I know I may need to turn my metaphorical plowshare into a sword to defend this space. But I will always know my plowshare is meant to help cultivate.

Heroes might spend the movie saving the world from apocalyptic threats (an alien overlord, an asteroid, or another political appointee) through non-stop action. Regardless of their success, real life will happen after the credits are over, and the rest of us get back to our slow work: cultivating thought, cultivating change. Andrea Lunsford says in her address “Composing Ourselves”, we need to say “I will teach writing, and I will teach a way to write a new story, a new political reality” (75). To do this, we must create a space in which we can care for ourselves and our students.

Works Cited

Lunsford, Andrea A. “Composing Ourselves: Politics, Commitment, and the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 44, no. 1, Feb. 1990, pp. 71-82, National Council of Teachers of English,

Stavans, Ilan. “The Safe Space.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 10 July 2016,