Valencia in History: The West Campus Communications Center/Writing Center

In celebration of Valencia’s 50th Anniversary, each month the West Campus Concentrate will include one or two articles about a faculty or staff member, or department initiative that has made Valencia “A better place to start.”

By Meenawattie Udho, Instructional Lab Supervisor

Reading large chapters, completing an untold amount of assignments and, of course, writing essays are as much a part of the college experience as waiting until the last minute to complete readings, assignments and essays. So where do instructors send students when they need help with these essential reading, writing or communications-related skills? The Communications Center/Writing Center, naturally.

This necessary student resource, however, did not always exist. In 1989, Professor Robin Simmons, a new English instructor fresh from Rollins College’s Writing Center, gained the approval of the then-provost of West Campus to open a Writing Center that would provide support to students across all disciplines. According to Robin, “Our first year we were in essentially a closet — a room about 10 feet by 20. The campus [provost] at the time, Dr. Ed Gross, liked to roam the hallways (mostly to smoke, which was still allowed on campus), and when he saw students pulling up chairs to sit outside because the ‘closet’ was full, he got us a bigger room. This happened five times in the 10 years I ran the Writing Center. We always outpaced the expected growth.”

The student population and technological needs continued to grow, and, in the early 2000s, the Writing Center finally found its home in Building 5, Room 155, in what is rumored to be an old bomb shelter, when the Writing Center merged with the Communications Center, the latter of which was already in place to support English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and developmental reading and writing students. Thus, the West Campus Communications Center/Writing Center (CCWC) was born — one of the few Valencia locations with a center dedicated specifically to communications.

As the CCWC matured over the years, many natural changes transpired. The Communications Center has consistently served EAP students, but with the implementation of Senate Bill 1720 in 2014 addressing college-readiness, the Communications Center adjusted its policies to welcome students from all communications classes and, eventually, all classes as students progressed in their degrees. This change allowed a smoother flow of feedback for students between centers where students could begin supported work in the Communications Center, receive intensive feedback in the Writing Center and immediately put into practice suggestions from writing consultations on the Communications Center floor.

Today the CCWC is in its prime and is a constant beehive of activity. The centers now serve thousands of students each year. In the spring 2017 semester, students logged into the Communications Center more than 18,280 times and consulted with Writing Center instructors 2,579 times, including at two “Mobile Writing Center” locations in the Communications Center and Library where walk-up consultations are offered.

In addition to intense student support, faculty engagement has also been a critical aspect of CCWC operations. The CCWC team has conducted outreach to various divisions around the campus and actively collaborates with faculty and staff to provide instruction to individual classes, customize various presentations, facilitate collegewide workshops and partner with librarians and other initiatives like Valencia Promise, Gateway Course Success, College Preparedness and Writing Across the Curriculum.

From a closet to a combined Center and two Mobile Writing Center locations, from peer tutors and one faculty member to consultants and a dedicated staff member, from paper logs to booking Writing Center appointments on WC Online, from a room full of round tables to a space with computers and a Speech Video Lab, the Communications Center/Writing Center has expanded, adapted and morphed. With the help of the CCWC advisory board, every year the CCWC team reflects on best practices and ways to consistently improve services. The centers will undoubtedly continue to evolve but always with the goal to facilitate student improvement in reading, writing and communications-related skills.

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