January 25, 2020

Gwen Hale: The ‘Write’ Touch

Writing Center Director Gwen Hale says she and her team are here to help with everything from citation to grammar and punctuation. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Writing Center Director Gwen Hale says she and her team are here to help with everything from citation to grammar and punctuation. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

As students head home for the holidays, many of them can rest assured knowing their final papers were top-notch, thanks to Gwen Hale and UMW’s Writing Center.

For the past six years, Hale has served as the Center’s director, overseeing day-to-day operations and ensuring that she and her team of writing consultants are meeting the ever-changing needs of students, faculty and staff.

“From brainstorming to organization, from citation to grammar and punctuation, if it’s written, we help with it,” said Hale, who earned a Ph.D. from Middle Tennessee State University, where she discovered a passion for helping people put words to page.

In addition to one-on-one work with students – Hale’s favorite part of the job – the Writing Center offers workshops in all the above-mentioned areas, as well as events like last week’s Pajama Writing Jam and sessions to help students overcome their writing anxiety.

“Usually a teacher or an adult made them feel badly about their writing, and they internalize it,” Hale said. “Writing, while not easy, is a skill that can be learned if practiced.”

Indeed. The repeat customers are a testament to the Center’s success.

“It’s the initial fear of the unknown that keeps students away,” Hale said. “But if we can get them in the door and show them how friendly and helpful we are, they keep coming back.”


Q: What do you suggest for writer’s block?
Walk away for a bit, but don’t procrastinate. Your writing may not sound elegant at first, but sometimes all it takes is clearing it from your brain before the jewels start spilling out.

Q: The Pajama Writing Jam sounds like fun! What’s it like?
A: The Saturday before finals the Writing Center is open from noon until midnight to help students finish their papers. It started three years ago when we noticed students pulling all-nighters and sleeping in the HCC. At our event, they can wear pajamas, and we have coffee, soda, pizza and pep talks to keep them going. It’s been a huge success.

Q: You were one of the driving forces behind the Eagle Resources Closet on the fifth floor of Lee Hall. What led to this initiative?
A: So many students were coming to me and saying they had no laundry detergent, no winter coats, no clothing for interviews or student teaching, and no money for food. I figured if these students had the guts to come to me and others on campus, how many did not? (To date, nearly 100 visits have been made to the closet since its launch in August, and students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents have donated goods and their time.)

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: My colleague Victoria Russell once told me I’m a woman with many layers. Even with stage 4 ovarian cancer and being on chemo, I still stand in the pit at heavy metal concerts and can rap a bunch of old school ’80s songs. People are always surprised I was a cheerleader, because that defies everyone’s expectations of me.

Q: What are your winter break plans?
A: I’m going to crochet scarves for my students, visit my family and watch movies with my brother. Lately, I’m often in doctors’ offices, but in my downtime, I love being with my dogs, Sheldon and Doodle, and watching old horror flicks.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: If you ask the Writing Center consultants, they’d probably say, “I don’t hire mean people.” But I love what my mom would tell me: “There’s no act too big or too small that does not deserve a handwritten thank-you card.”

2019 National Day on Writing

The University of Mary Washington is celebrating the 2019 National Day on Writing, an initiative of the National Council of Teachers of English to promote writing not just as a critical part of literacy, but as worthy of celebration and greater attention in its own right. On October 21, from 11-2 p.m., several departments and offices on campus, including the Department of English, Linguistics and Communication; Honors Scholars; Writing Center; Simpson Library; and the UMW Barnes & Noble Bookstore will have tables set up at their locations with opportunities for student engagement.

Departments involved include:

  • Department of English, Linguistics and Communication
  • Honors Scholars
  • Writing Center
  • Simpson Library
  • Student Activities and Engagement
  • UMW Barnes & Noble Bookstore
  • Eagle One

Gwen Hale and Students Presented at Regional Conference

Gwen Hale (left) and tutors from the Writing Center presented at the PCAS/ACAS conference in Nashville

Gwen Hale, director of the Writing Center and Writing Program, presented at the Popular/American Cultural Association in the South (PCAS/ACAS) conference in Nashville, Tenn. Several tutors in the Writing Center also presented at the conference from Sept. 27 to 30. Hale presented “Making Room: Using Technology, Social Media, and Old Fashioned Ingenuity in Writing Centers to Serve the Influx of University Students with Varying Skill Sets, Educational Needs, and Social Backgrounds.”

Carly Boucher presented “Bridging the Gap of Different Englishes in American Universities,” Connie Dowell presented “Just a Blog Post?: Writing Centers and 21st Century Composition,” Sarah Foote presented “Voice is Choice!: The Importance of Finding and Teaching Voice in Writing,” Nicollo Madden presented “Pop Music as a Learning Devive for those with Autism” and Zehra Yousofi presented “Brawny: It’s More than Just a Paper Towel.”

“Aside from delivering amazing presentations, several of the UMW students were approached  by scholars from other universities. Zehra Yousofi was approached about applying for a graduate program at the University of Kentucky. Further, she was approached about publishing the paper she presented at the conference. Next, Nicollo Madden was approached about continuing his scholarship and applying for a graduate program at Morgan State University. The students attended numerous sessions and networked with scholars from all over the South. Now that they have had a taste of presenting at conferences, they have all concluded that they certainly want to do it again.” — Gwen Hale

Writing Contest Winners

The 2011 Writing Contest winners were announced Wednesday, Feb. 22. They are:

Meredith Stone:
“Learning about Race”
Instructor: Dr. Cooperman

Brooke Andrews: “What Makes an Effective Infographic”
Instructor: Dr. Hydorn

Arts and Humanities:

Katie Hubbard: “Embodiment and Sexuality in the Works of Mark Z. Danielewski and Shelley Jackson: Postmodern Reactions to Posthumanism”
Instructor: Dr. Whalen

Tracy Frelk: “The Corpse Beloved: Necrophilia and a Strange Feminism in Haggard’s ‘She'”
Instructor: Dr. Mathur

Natural and Social Sciences (Sophomores and Juniors):

Gemma Cohen: “Neighborhoods and Child Development”
Instructor: Dr. L. Martin

Sara Krechel: “Harry Potter and the History of Racism”
Instructor: Dr. Cincinnati

Ethan Bottone: “Keeping a Language Alive: Inuktitut”
Instructor: Dr. Bowen

Natural and Social Sciences (Seniors):

Dana Cazan: “Is It Time to Upgrade? The Technological ‘Participation Gap’ and Fairfax County Public Schools”
Instructor: Dr. Moon

Katie Geary: “Preferences in Human Mate Selection Explained from a Social Role Perspective and an Evolutionary Perspective”
Instructor: Dr. Liss

Kelsey Coates: “Busying Giddy Minds: A Pluralist Perspective on Argentina’s Invasion of the Falklands”
Instructor: Dr. J. Davidson

Brian Brown: “Imaginative Geographics: Culture, Power, and Memory in National Memorials”
Instructor: Dr. Hanna

Cameron Carroll: They’re Coming to Get You, America: The Popularity of Zombie Films and National Fear during the Cold War and the War on Terror”
Instructor: Dr. Ferrell

Congratulations, winners! Please look for their papers in their entirety in the forthcoming publication of the 2011 Writing Contest Winners.