Colleagues, Classmates, and Friends: Graduate versus Undergraduate Tutor Identities and Professionalization
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This study provides a new framework for thinking about the value of writing center work by illuminating how tutors define and negotiate their various and emergent identities as students and as professionals. We build on conversations about tutor identity to argue that tutors’ multiple roles affect the dynamics of the writing center as a whole. From interviews with graduate and undergraduate tutors about professionalization and the writing center, we reveal that the tutors’ level of resistance to or acceptance of writing center work impacts the extent to which they see themselves as burgeoning professionals within that space and, concomitantly, affects the sense of community in the writing center. At our site of study, undergraduate tutors who self-selected into writing center employment generally had much more positive associations with their writing center experiences than their graduate student counterparts, who were often compelled to work in the center as part of their assistantships. We argue then that while writing centers can be valuable in building the professional identities of both undergraduate and graduate tutors, the ways in which these different populations affect our centers is significant. As such, writing center professionals at all levels should work to acknowledge different identities and foster community among tutors who come to us with multiple backgrounds, purposes, and agendas.