Writing Across Communities and The Writing Center as Cultural Ecotone: Language Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Graduate Student Leadership




Kells, Michelle Hall

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The writing center as metaphorical construct and institutional space represents a cultural ecotone, a site that environmentalist Florence Krall describes as the “edges where differences come together” (4). The ecotone as a biological transition zone constitutes a locus of tremendous diversity and transformation. Extending the metaphor to social spaces, Krall argues, “Cultural ecotones are the pluralistic contexts out of which conflict and change emerge.” My own understanding of the role of writing centers and WAC in the 21st century university poignantly aligns with Krall’s notion of the ecotone and remains grounded in a cultural rhetorical ecology approach to the teaching of writing. The Writing Across Communities model represents a response to the transcultural, translingual, transnational, and transgenre universe in which our students write and live. For the past two decades, my colleague Juan Guerra and I have been re-visioning educational writing practice as ecotones of difference privileging ethnolinguisitically-diverse writers (Kells, 2012, 2013; Guerra, 2015). This concept has informed my work with graduate students as they begin navigating their futures.

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