Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Writing Studio: A Year of Building

An Interview with Apryl D. Prentiss 

Assistant Professor of English & 

Writing Studio Coordinator

You have been at Reynolds a little over a year now. Please tell us where you were and what you were doing before you came here. 

I've been teaching at Reynolds full-time since 2017. Before that I was an adjunct at Reynolds and teaching full-time at Virginia State University. I absolutely loved teaching at VSU, but when a full-time opportunity to teach at Reynolds opened up, I knew I had to try to get it because I love the students here so much. There's something really special about our students. They are always on their way to another place, whether that's the workforce or another school. I find that there's a unique and powerful perspective that comes with that. It's also important that our students get a high quality education while learning how they can affect their communities. I really believe in the community college mission, so returning here for full-time work was an easy decision. I came on as the Writing Studio Coordinator in 2019 and have spent the past year working with the Studio team to develop the Studio and get it up and running. 

Please tell us what’s kept you really busy this past year.

Besides teaching, I would say my PhD work kept me incredibly busy this year. I finished up my coursework in June and am currently studying for my candidacy exams. I'm studying Cultural Studies and Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse. My research concentration is pop cultural expressions of protest, It's a great time to be studying that with all of the cultural pressure for real structural change in our society. I love it! I mostly center on what our pop culture productions say about the heart of our society and about what kind of change we're longing for. It's pretty cool that I get to research and write papers about Beyonce', Kesha, Game of Thrones, hashtags, etc. and how they are both constructed by our society and how they, in turn, construct and contribute to our collective consciousness. 

The Writing Studio. Please tell us more about it. How does it work? Where is it? 

I'm so excited that it's almost time to open after a year of preparation! We'll be offering services remotely via Zoom for Fall 2020, starting in Week 4. We're operating under a studio model, which means that students don't even need to make an appointment to get help. We're providing a virtual space for them to come in and work by themselves or with a consultant for short spans of time. It's a collaborative effort, so we're there to support and aid the students in developing the critical skills they need to contribute to the academic conversation at Reynolds. 

How is the Writing Studio a different learning model?

The Studio acts a third space for students to work in (aside from their classroom and their home). That's how it works in theory, anyway. Obviously, all of these spaces are blended right now with the pandemic. What we offer is a different type of collaboration and support. It's not directive or even corrective. We work with the students to build a self-awareness of what they, as writers, need to better express their thoughts, arguments, etc. 

The model also mirrors how we write in the real world. We write a little, run it by some colleagues, adjust and then finish writing. The focus is on recognizing how the writing process proceeds for each individual and providing support to them at a crucial stage of their process. 

How does the Studio work for students? Is it open to everyone?

Yes! Absolutely! Students and faculty can find information on how to access and prepare for their sessions on our website: when we are up and running. It's a very simple process. Students simply submit an electronic form to gain access to the Studio hours and then jump right in.  

How are the Studio’s operations different now with Covid-19 than originally planned?

This has been quite a journey. Much of the processes and plans that we spent the 2019/2020 academic year creating have needed revision or to be put on hold due to Covid-19. The main difference is that we are offering primarily Studio hours and workshops as services, and that all services will be offered remotely via Zoom. I'm grateful to have such a skilled and talented team to work with in planning around and adapting to Covid-19. 

What are your goals for the Studio?

Simply put, we want to construct a space where students feel comfortable to create and compose their academic writing. We want to relax some of the restrictions of traditional tutoring and work to build students up as confident and adept writers through collaboration with our consultants. We aren't a "fix-it" service. It's more like come on in and compose and let us help you discover how you write best, why you write the way you do, and how to adapt all of the above to the assignment in front of you. Ultimately, we want students to see that they have an important voice and that their writing contributes to the important academic conversations we're having at Reynolds. We want them to find, craft, and express their unique and powerful voices!