Equity Before "Equity": Catalytic Mentoring and Professional Development For An Openly Gay Writing Center Tutor

Janangelo, Joseph
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This essay is inspired by two of the questions from the editors’ CFP: 1. “What is the lived experience around graduate writing, especially for students from underserved populations?” 2. “What kinds of support do ‘graduate student writers’ from underserved populations need and want?” I confess to having put the words “graduate student writers” in scare quotes. That’s because I am writing about my own experiences as an openly gay graduate student who was, at times, under- and over-served by the academy. In this text, I discuss my work and professional identity formation as a writing center consultant at New York University (NYU) from 1986 to 1988. I will discuss how, at that particular urban writing center directed by Professor Lil Brannon, there was equity— “the quality of being fair and impartial” (Dictionary.com)—for this gay, out graduate student before the concept of “equity” was valued and long before it gained the compelling currency it holds in contemporary academe. I hope to show what the experience taught me and how it signified a transformation in my understanding of what it could mean to tutor other students and study student writing. This essay will be pointillist in approach. It will light on brief narratives of key events and move to a discussion of how these events influenced my work and sense of professional self. The following preamble is intended to offer some context for my early intellectual and professional development, as I experienced it.