Our Community Writing Values and Approaches

Writing center work is rooted in the principles of dialogue, collaboration, and meeting writers where they are. Rather than go to a community group or organization with a predetermined plan in mind, we draw on participatory action research approaches that are grounded in the assumption that community members understand their own needs and conditions. We  enter in to university-community partnerships with a willingness and assumption that we will learn as much as they will learn. We work to open conversations with our community partners about what might be mutually useful and beneficial given their needs and our abilities and to do our best to make clear to them that “your agenda is our agenda.”

Our conversations with community partners are ongoing, because community work, like learning to write, is always developing.  In our community work we know we are building ever-evolving relationships between the University Writing Center and Family Scholar House and the Western Branch Library and that those relationships mean keeping a sense of flexibility and communication when creating and assessing programs.

Our goal is participatory community writing partnerships that allow us to create a sustainable, ongoing collaborations through which graduate and undergraduate students engage in community writing work that is meaningful and a learning experience for everyone involved.

We also believe in writing about these experiences, with the approval and feedback, and sometimes collaboration, of our community partners. Here are some of the places where we have talked and written about this work.

Blog Posts

Cotter Cup '22: Beyond the Contest, June 3, 2022

Reviving the "Cotter Cup" as a Student Poetry Contest with Western Branch Library. June 9, 2021

(Literally) Meeting Writers where they are at Community Literacy Sites. Rachel Rodriguez. April 15, 2019

Writing Center Receives the College of Arts & Sciences Community Engagement Award. Layne Gordon. April 18, 2018.

Showing Up Over and Over Again: Some Updates on Our Community Literacy Projects. Layne Gordon. January 29, 2018.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Fun Writing Comics at the Library in the Summer! Writing Center Staff. August 7, 2017

Community Literacy and the Writing Center: Building Foundations. Amy Nichols. March 8, 2017

Publications and Conferences


Nichols, Amy McCleese and Bronwyn T. Williams. 2019. Centering Partnerships: A Case for Writing Centers as Sites of Community Engagement. Community Literacy. 13.2. 88-106.


“Centering Partnerships: Envisioning Writing Centers as Sites of Community Engagement” Layne Porta Gordon, Amy McCleese Nichols, Bronwyn T. Williams. International Writing Centers Association Conference. Columbus, OH. Oct. 19, 2019.

“Ownership and Agency in Community Literacy Writing Center Work.” Layne Gordon. International Writing Centers Association Conference, Atlanta, GA. October 13, 2018.

"Moving From the Center: Connecting Writing Center Values in Community Partnerships." Jessie Newman, Chris Scheidler, Carrie Coles, Bronwyn Williams. Conference on Community Writing. University of Colorado. October 19, 2017.

"Narrating Community Partnerships: Mobility and Engagement Outside the University" Amy Nichols, Brian McAdams, Kathryn Perry, Bronwyn Williams. Watson Conference on Rhetoric and Composition. University of Louisville. October 21, 2016.