2019 Innovation Award Winner Interview: Undergrad Research & Writing Studio

Photo of the Undergrad Research & Writing StudioChris Ervin (Undergrad Research & Writing Studio Coordinator), Jane Nichols (Head, Teaching & Engagement Librarians), Beth Filar Williams (Library Experience & Access Department Head), Hannah Gascho Rempel (College of Agricultural Sciences Librarian & Graduate Student Services Coordinator), Dennis Bennett (Writing Center Director), and Uta Hussong-Christian (Science Librarian), Oregon State University, for their Undergrad Research & Writing Studio (http://writingcenter.oregonstate.edu/undergrad-writing-studio). The Studio is a collaboration between OSU Libraries and the Writing Center delivering peer-to-peer point of need hands-on and experiential learning. The 2018/2019 Awards Committee conducted the following interview with Chris Ervin, Jane Nichols, and Beth Filar Williams of the Undergrad Research & Writing Studio team.

What was the impetus for creating the Undergrad Research & Writing Studio?

The Writing Center was outgrowing its space and discussions began about co-locating in The Valley Library. This pressure for the Writing Center to move created an opportunity for us to rethink our service philosophy. We were aware of writing centers moving into libraries as a trend, but at the same time one of our colleagues was working with another university on the concept of studio pedagogy. In this model, students don’t have appointments, instead, consultants move from student to student in a point of need model. This mirrors libraries’ point of need service philosophy. The library wanted to be on board with the project because of the pedagogy model and because we strive not to just have “tenants” in the building but rather partnerships in offering services.

Why did your team think this model would be the most effective in solving the problem?

The studio pedagogy model was considered most effective because it mirrors libraries’ point of need service philosophy.

Using Service Design Thinking was considered an effective way for the implementation team to work in a short time frame, 9 months from deciding to move to the first day of service. This framework helped us see how our service philosophy would work in practice. The implementation team was comprised of Writing Center and library folks (librarians and library staff) who designed the Studio in a way that would best meet the needs of students. We were methodical about how we were going to create the Studio, using the service design method [Library Service Design: A LITA Guide to Holistic Assessment, Insight, and Improvementby Joe Marquez and Annie Downey]. With the Studio, we could establish more cohesive partnerships and deliver more cohesive services thinking about student needs. We did journey mapping (the daily journey of a student) to determine the best flow in making the Studio effective for student seeking help.

Now that you’ve moved out of the pilot stage, how will you sustain the Undergrad Research & Writing Studio?

Marketing is important. Our baseline numbers are about 70% higher than before the Studio. An individual consultation in the Studio covers both research and writing help, and we want students to know that. The space has a large footprint. We have the space to host multiple small-to-medium sized classes at the same time, not just a tour, but writing and research activities, using the research and writing consultants. Part of marketing includes reaching out to STEM and other disciplines, like the Department of Communications, who don’t use the Studio as much as other disciplines. We’ve found that international students love the Studio, and we don’t have to market to them very heavily as they already love us.

Another aspect of sustainability is training for consultants. We have a Research Based Writing Professional Development Seminar, which is 8 weeks, 50 minutes per week, and the Student Consultants are paid. On the staff side, we meet regularly, keeping the lines of communication open so that we all know what is happening. We rely on librarians to provide train-the-trainer trainings as well as co-training to keep the Writing Center/Library partnership tight. We’re also in the beginning stages of building out to other literacies outside writing and research. We want to create a stronger, more direct link with OSU’s Student Multimedia Studio, which is located in the library, so we can help students with projects like posters and videos.

 Did your results surprise you? How?

As we mentioned, the Studio saw a 70% increase in student consultations compared to the old Undergraduate Writing Center. We expected an increase in usage with the location change. Previously the Writing Center was in a low traffic building; now it’s in the library, a high-traffic place. And students can come in and use the space even if they aren’t seeing consultants, just to study. But the 70% increase was a bit of a surprise. Underrepresented groups are heavy users of the Studio, but that wasn’t too surprising because the library is part of academic affairs and has strong partnerships with other offices that deal with those underrepresented groups. One thing we have had to work out is the role of librarians, which at the beginning wasn’t 100% clear. For some librarians, being a consultant is a good role. For others, the liaison role is a better fit where they encourage other people to use the Studio, or train Studio Consultants. We’re still iterating, we can still grow and change, the Studio is only in its second year.

What has the response been to the Undergrad Research & Writing Studio (besides this award)?

Generally positive. It has shifted people’s expectations about what a writing center can do. We ask for feedback from students who use the Studio. We ask consultants what they think through journey mapping, or space mapping. We have had to reframe student perceptions. For example, some students were initially confused by the space being occupied by a service instead of a study space. Some faculty are just beginning to learn about the Studio through Studio staff and librarians. For some, it’s a great match, but others aren’t ready. A few faculty are really excited and bring their classes over. For example, we have a Fisheries and Wildlife class that is working on a project through the Studio. We also have classes from the social sciences, so it isn’t just humanities and writing or English classes that are using the space.

What advice would you give to other libraries who want to build a service or program like this?

Use service design to help you plan. We brought the Library Service Designauthors, Marquez and Downey, in during the planning stages to do training. Hire outside people to come in during the development, a third party can help facilitate conversations. Be open to discovering something you might not have thought of. Make sure your implementation team has people from all partners. Bring people on board who value collaboration or want to collaborate with the library, who are not territorial. We saw opportunities for student learning which we wouldn’t have seen without those partnerships. One thing we regret is not having students on the implementation team. We consulted with them, but didn’t have them on the team. This was in part due to challenges with the implementation timeline, which spanned three academic quarters. But also we hadn’t allocated money to pay students. So make sure you include in your budget money to pay students to participate in planning. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is very important; we created one for the pilot year and then renewed it for a three-year period. Refer to it, make it a living document, and add a revisiting piece to the MOU to ensure you go back to it. In fact, the next steps from our MOU include developing a shared goal statement and creating an assessment plan.

For more information, see also:

Deitering, Anne-Marie, and Beth Filar-Williams. “Make it work: Using service design to support collaboration in challenging times.” International Information & Library Review50.1 (2018): 54-59. https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/downloads/js956n13s

Oregon State University Libraries “Undergrad Research & Writing Studio.” https://guides.library.oregonstate.edu/studio

 

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