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Writing Centers Doing Community-Based Work

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

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In an effort to illustrate the work described in this content suite, The Purdue On-Campus Writing Lab has a rich history and presence of community engagement projects. These projects include other campus organizations, other community organizations, and larger companies. This breadth of experience has been passed down as we continue to strive to improve and research ethical ways to conduct this type of work. Part of these efforts is to create more robust reports than the information we could find about past projects. Institutional memory, particularly in spaces as dynamic as writing centers, is often erratic, leading to inconsistent information about past work. What follows is part of a continued effort to uncover information about past projects that were not especially documented and document current and future efforts more thoroughly.  

This list of projects is no indication of if and how these projects were successful. It is not being provided as ideal or best practice - this is just a set of examples of what the OWL and, later, other writing communities have accomplished in the past. To encourage more robust documentation of these initiatives, this page models an archive of community-engaged work, acknowledges that failure is a large part of community-engaged work, and notes that a refusal to acknowledge this makes a partnership unsustainable or unbalanced, perpetuating this cycle. Despite the potential and presence of failure, discomfort, and challenges, community engagement projects have the potential to be highly valuable and worthwhile.  

Current Projects


Partners:  Purdue Writing Lab; Purdue Office of Engagement; Purdue Honors College; Purdue Office of Service-Learning; Purdue faculty members 

Overview: The Purdue Writing Lab created multiple iterations of a workshop focused on critical reflection and writing. This workshop was adapted for undergraduate and graduate audiences, as a learning module, and for a more general audience to help identify both the facts and impacts at numerous levels to establish a strong written argument for the project's efficacy, transforming reflection to critical reflection. Incorporated into the Advancing Graduate Research Impact in Society (AGRIS) Professional Development Module, the critical reflection workshop was developed in response to critical service-learning scholarship, framing critical reflections as tools to measure social impact. This graduate certificate course will be piloted Fall 2023, with this particular iteration of the workshop focused on increasing self-assessment and knowledge transfer.  

A general-audience version of this workshop can be found here (linked).  



Partners: Purdue Writing Lab; United Way of Greater Lafayette 

Overview:  An IRB-approved project, this survey hopes to help the Purdue Writing Lab gain a better understanding of the variety of ways in which writing plays a role in the daily work of local community-based organizations in the Greater Lafayette area and their corresponding capacity for completing this writing-related work. This will ideally help establish dialogues with potential community members to develop new ways to extend our resources beyond campus in effective and mutually beneficial ways.  

Past Projects


Partners: Purdue Writing Lab; Lafayette Adult Resource Academy (LARA) 

Overview: From 2009-2012 the Purdue Writing Lab helped host a spelling bee in which teams of three competed to win prizes and support LARA and literacy in the Greater Lafayette area.  



Partners: Purdue Writing Lab; Tecumseh Junior High School; Dave Hobbs 

Overview: Between 2007 and 2011, Associate Director Tammy Conard-Salvo and various Writing Lab consultants worked with Tecumseh Junior High School to judge an annual essay contest. Seventh and eighth grade students were provided with interactive activities centered around writing and skills necessary for standardized testing. Writing Lab “judges” read more than 90 essays and selected winners for both grades and an overall winner.  



Partners: Purdue Writing Lab; Lafayette Adult Resource Academy (LARA); WorkOne Express Lafayette;  Purdue Liberal Arts Community Engagement (PLACE); ] 

Overview: From 2007 to 2010, the Purdue Writing Lab worked with LARA to provide GED preparation, English Language Learner, workplace, and personal finance literacy resources. This project hoped to integrate local civil engagement into the OWL’s mission with both organizations providing opportunities to professionally develop. Using community knowledge, the lab investigated local engagement and public discourse to develop literacy resources that met community needs. 

For more information about this program please click here (linked: 



Partners: Purdue Writing Lab; The WiderNet Project at the University of Iowa 

Overview: In the early 2000’s, the Purdue OWL shared resources with the WiderNet project in the eGranary server, hoping to reach users who have unreliable internet access to improve digital communications to all communities around the world in need of educational resources, knowledge, and training. This plug-and-play server provides millions of digital documents without internet. 

For more information about this program, please click here (link: 



Partners: Purdue Writing Lab; Purdue Professional Writing Program; Tippecanoe County Historical Association, Purdue Liberal Arts Community Engagement (PLACE)  

Overview: In 2008, students worked together with a cohort based on major to take thematically linked classes that led up to a service-learning project. Students worked with local community organizations, such as the Tippecanoe County Historical Association. This particular partnership focused on the restructuring of exhibits at Fort Ouiatenon to highlight the fort’s importance to migration and immigration in 18th-century Indiana, retaining it as a vital space for community members and scholars to learn and explore.  



Partners: Purdue Writing Lab; INDOT; Purdue Civil Engineering 

Overview: Between 2006 and 2009, the Purdue Civil Engineering, the Purdue Writing Lab, and the INDOT Office of Research and Development in West Lafayette, Indiana, created and facilitated a 6-233k workshop series as a resource to help civil engineers at INDOT write clear, concise, and compelling documents. Tutors from the Writing Lab worked closely with INDOT engineers on technical research documents for publication within the company and peer-review journals.  



Partners: Purdue Writing Lab; OLPC Foundation 

Overview: From 2007 to 2008, the Purdue Writing Lab ordered laptops through OLPC’s Give One Get One program. This program allowed donors to purchase an XO laptop while simultaneously providing a second XO to a child in a developing country. With Purdue’s land-grant status and history of global engagement and literacy engagement, this program allowed the Lab to contribute to the program while ensuring OWL usability on these laptops. This program also informed undergraduate work in professional writing, technology, and engagement. In 2008, a student group worked with local teachers to develop a feasibility study on using the XO laptops in the Greater Lafayette area. Through this, the Purdue OWL connected local engagement, undergraduate writing projects, and global engagement.  



Partners: Purdue Writing Lab; Words on the Go (WOTG); Creative Writers in greater-Lafayette; Purdue Public Radio WBAA FM 101.3 and AM 920; CityBus of Great Lafayette; Tippecanoe Arts Federation 

Overview: Between 2007 and 2009, aiming to celebrate language and encourage use of public transportation, this project mounted poetry on board local buses to showcase local poetry and build a rich sense of community. With a strong focus on community participation, this program encouraged a wide range of community members to create poetry.  

Find Out More About Other Community-Based Writing


Partners: UW-Madison Writing Center; Evjue Foundation; UW Anonymous Fund; Altrusa International of Madison; UW-Madison English Department; library and neighborhood center partners 

Overview: The UW-Madison Writing Center offers The Madison Writing Assistance (MWA) program that provides free, one-on-one online and in-person writing support to all community members by going out into the community. These services are offered on a variety of document types including job documents, creative documents, and more at a variety of locations including libraries and community centers.  

For more information on this program, click here (link: 



Partners: MSU Writing Center; MSU College of Arts & Letters; MSU Indigenous Graduate Student Collective; MSU Center for Language Teaching Advancement (CeLTA); MSU Residential College in the Arts and Humanities Language and Media Lab; Lansing Public Schools; East Lansing Public Library; various schools, non-profits, libraries, and community centers.  

Overview: MSU values sustaining relationships with off-campus members of the community and participates in many programs including Beyond Insights, which provides weekly workshops centered around storytelling for 6th graders at a local public school; Community Writing Center (CWC), which provides tutoring services and encouragement to community members on writing; and hosts a community fiction contest. They are consistently looking for new opportunities to partner with the community and have an easily accessible outreach request form on their website.  

For more information on this program, click here (link: 



Partners: OSU Writing Lab; Columbus Global Academy 

Overview: The Writer’s Studio is a multiliteracy workshop that engages students of Columbus Global Academy, a school that works with very recently immigrated students such as refugees. Consultants highlight students’ background knowledge to challenge what constitutes literacy and writing.  

For more information on this program, click here (link:  



Partners: The University Writing Center; Family Scholar House; Western Branch Library 

Overview: The University of Louisville enters university-community partnerships without a predetermined plan in hopes that mutually beneficial, sustainable projects engage the community with writing. They host writing contests and provide tutoring, workshops, writing groups, and events such as parent-child story writing evenings.  

For more information on this program, click here (link:  



Partners: Eastern Michigan University Office of Campus and Community Writing; Ypsilanti District Library; 826 Michigan 

Overview: Based in community, advocacy, inclusivity, and support, YpsiWrites is a collaboration that provides workshops, events, resources, activities, and personalized writing support to the community. These workshops include “Adult Resume Writing,” “Culturally Relevant & Anti-Racist Approaches to Tutoring in Writing Centers,” and “Writing as a Gift.” 

For more information about this program, click here (link:  



Partners: Salt Lake Community College; The Community Writing Center 

Overview: Providing workshops and coaching, this partnership provides a space for the community to write and find fellow writers with the belief that everyone is a writer. They host teen-specific programming, writing competitions, and even created a community anthology.  

For more information about this program, click here (link: 


Partners: Temple University Press; The Writing Program, Syracuse University; New City Community Press; Gifford Street Community Press; London Metropolitan University; Parlor Press; The Fed-A Network of Writing & Community Publishers; public schools of Philadelphia; various neighborhood and community groups.  

Overview: This group works to publish the stories of the community including those of student, immigrant, laboring, and disabled communities. They provide classes in writing, art, and photography with the goal of creating anthologies. Furthermore, they host writing groups, after-school programs, and author-assistance programs.  

For more information about this program, click here: (link: