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Scholarly Writing Program offers support for faculty

When Beth Buggenhagen was a new associate professor in 2015, she craved camaraderie.

“Outside of your department it’s hard to make friends because it’s such a big university,” she said.

Buggenhagen, associate professor of anthropology and director of graduate studies and the African Studies Program in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, found the community and support she yearned for that fall in the newly formed Scholarly Writing Program.

The program is open to all faculty and supports their goals of publication and promotion. Faculty can utilize several services, including writing bootcamps, peer review groups and one-on-one writing consultations. The most popular componentof the program is the faculty writing groups, which serve about 300 faculty each semester. The groups meet once a week for three hours, starting with a discussion about a writing-related topic. Participants then write together for a couple of hours and debrief.

“It is increasingly difficult for all of us, especially for faculty who are teaching and doing a huge amount of service, to guard our writing time,” said Gen Creedon, director of the Scholarly Writing Program. “And then there’s an accountability piece – you’re setting goals in front of other people, and research says you’re most likely to follow through on those goals as a result.”

Faculty bring a variety of projects to work on, including articles, books, promotion statements and grant proposals.

Buggenhagen said the writing groups are just as much about solving the problems that get in the way of writing as they are about the writing itself. She said there are often structural impediments to faculty research, and the groups provide a space for faculty from across campus to discuss challenges they’re facing and get fresh perspectives.

“I have learned so much about all of the different kinds of obligations and responsibilities of scholars in different disciplines that I never even knew about,” she said. “Not only did I make friends, but I started to solve some of the problems I was facing in my department by talking to people outside of my department.”

Now in her seventh year of participating in the Scholarly Writing Program, Buggenhagen also co-leads some of the faculty writing groups. She said they help challenge the model many academics have followed for so long – doing research on nights, weekends and summer breaks because their other work takes precedence Monday thru Friday. The program encourages faculty to instead put their research and writing first.

“It shouldn’t be the thing that gets squeezed in and, as a result, squeezes out rest,” Buggenhagen said. “If you’re writing and everyone is writing, it is an act that can change the structure of the university.”

Creedon is hoping to offer more opportunities for faculty writing resources in the future. She said there is a particular hunger for additional peer review groups. The Scholarly Writing Program is piloting a “works in progress” colloquium this fall, which will meet monthly to discuss writing that is in draft phase.

Faculty interested in writing groups can submit an application online. Applications for spring semester are due Nov. 1. Faculty can also make appointments online for one-on-one writing consultations with Creedon.