In 1999 I had a student with brilliant creativity but terrible
writing skills. I spoke with then-provost of the University, Dr.
Willard Gingrich, who referred me to the director of the
University's Writing Center, Dr.
Derek Owens. I sent my student there, but he came back abashed that
he was being tutored by undergrads.With Derek’s encouragement, I
started the Writing Center here, in a tiny room inside the library.
We started with tutoring and workshops. Slowly, the Writing Center
became a force in the law school.
In late 2007, Deans Mary Daly and Andrew Simons offered us the
space vacated by the library’s computer lab, which had fallen into
desuetude. Dean Simons asked me to sketch a plan for the new
space, and throughout academic 2007-08, we worked with George
Pietramala, the architects, designers, electricians and technical
people. The construction started in May; in the late summer
the workers broke through the first-floor wall to install the glass
doors; and the new Writing Center opened in the Fall of 2008.
The Writing Center Consultants are the law school’s top students
and best writers. They keep the Writing Center open for walk-in
hours almost all week, helping students to brainstorm about ideas,
improve their research and writing skills, spruce up their writing
samples, and practice exam essays. The Consultants conduct
workshops on writing, bluebooking, outlining, grammar and
conciseness. Former Consultants (nearly 100, when added to the
current crop) form a network of smart, prosperous alumni at firms,
clerkships and government offices.
In 2007 we began encouraging students to enter writing
competitions, with admirable success. Some have won cash
prizes (as high as $5,000); some have had their papers published;
and one was honored in the Library of Congress. Currently, students
have papers circulating in the competition pipelines all the
time. In 2008 the Writing Center sponsored a reading by Daniel
Serrano (2001) from his novel, Gunmetal Black, and
interviewers from the Latino press interviewed him here. Our next
initiative is to help students get their papers published. The
Writing Center energizes us. Our warm space in its prominent
first-floor location trumpets the law school’s make-no-mistake
message about good writing.
Margaret V. Turano
Associate Academic Dean and Professor of Law