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OASIS Writing Skills

Social Change at the Writing Center

This guide includes information about the mission, staff, and history of Walden University's Writing Center.


Social change is a part of Walden’s mission, and as a team of writing professionals, we believe writing can be a central tool for exploring, envisioning, expressing, and enacting social change. In addition, many of us volunteer in our local communities, conduct our own research around social change, and engage in meaningful dialogue around social issues.

Take a look below at our various resources and discussions of social change here at the Writing Center, and check back for updates, new resources, and new initiatives. You can also learn about the Writing Center’s social change committee by contacting Beth Nastachowski, committee chair, at

Recent Events & Activities

March 2021: As the third Social Change Committee staff opt-in session on diversity, equity, and inclusion topics, Amber Cook and Vania Bright led a discussion on Chapter 5 of the seventh edition of the APA manual, which focuses on bias-free language, providing a space for Writing Center staff and Editors to workshop approaches to take when commenting on the nuances of bias-free language in paper reviews and form and style reviews. (Internal Staff Professional Development)

February 2021: Writing Center staff attended various presentations on Writing Centers and Access, hosted by Michigan State University, which will continue during March and April 2021.Topics range from the relationship between higher education and individuals with disabilities to multilingual writers and students right to their own rhetoric and language.

February 2021: Writing Center staff attended two conferences: the Racism in the Margins conference (hosted by the University of Connecticut) which provided a platform for educators across disciplines to come together and collaboratively explore ways to approach teaching, responding, and evaluating writing with more ethical and social awareness, and Writing Centers and Access (hosted by Michigan State University and which will continue during March and April 2021), which focuses on a range of topics, from the relationship between higher education and individuals with disabilities to multilingual writers and students right to their own rhetoric and language. (External Conferences)

November 2020: For the second staff opt-in session exploring diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) topics, Social Change Committee members Tasha Sookochoff  and Veronica Oliver led a discussion and workshop on intercultural inquiry, building off a previous presentation by Jeannie Headley and Veronica Oliver to the social change committee, which encouraged participants consider how to acknowledge white racial habitus, elicit situated knowledge, and engage difference in dialogue as a foundation for future DEI discussions and actions. (Internal Staff Professional Development)

October—December 2020: The director of the Writing Center facilitated a series of discussions with staff on the social-justice paradoxes inherent in center work. The team read and reviewed relevant literature, including Cedric Burrow’s “Writing While Black: The Black Tax on African American Graduate Writers,” Shannon Carter’s “The Writing Center Paradox: Talk About Legitimacy and the Problem of Institutional Change,” Asao Inoue’s “Afterword: Narratives That Determine Writers and Social Justice Writing Center Work,” and Alexandria Lockett’s “Why I Call it the Academic Ghetto: A Critical Examination of Race, Place, and Writing Centers.” In partnership with center staff, the director will release a statement in 2021 capturing these discussions and identifying a path forward for the center to address these paradoxes in its practices. (Internal Staff Professional Development)

October 2020: For Global Days of Service 2020, Amber Cook and Veronica Oliver organized Writing Center staff and WeCAN (Walden’s Change Action Network) member involvement in the University of Minnesota’s Mapping Prejudice project which exposes structural racism by mapping historical racial covenants that restricted land to white people in Hennepin county, and their effect on Black communities. (Volunteering)

August 2020: Writing Center Social Change Committee members Beth Nastachowski, Jes Philbrook, and Sarah Prince followed up on their previous opt-in session on Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist with additional discussion of Kendi’s text with staff to continue reconceptualizing what it means to be antiracist and how to use an antiracism lens, or framework, for daily and systemic decisions. (Internal Staff Professional Development)

July 2020: The Social Change Committee developed a series of opt-in discussions and workshops for Writing Center staff to explore topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The goal of these sessions was to provide Writing Center staff opportunities to continue to engage in DEI topics and initiatives throughout the year and beyond. The series launched in July with a workshop led by Beth Nastachowski, Jes Philbrook, and Sarah Prince, focused on Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, with participants discussing Kendi’s antiracism/racism framework in relation to higher education and writing center work, policies, and decisions. (Internal Staff Professional Development)

March 2020: Writing Center members attended the Cross-Cultural Collaborations workshop, organized by the Center for Social Change, which brought the Walden community together to explore inclusive, self-aware communicative practices. (Walden Conference)

February 2020: The Writing Center engaged in a department-wide discussion of Dr. Asao Inoue’s 2019 CCCC Chair’s address, which questions the way standardized expectations about writing and communication can contribute to and increase inequality. Members of the Social Change Committee facilitated small group discussions, and each group submitted recommendations for further discussion and next steps for the Writing Center’s director.

January 2020: The Writing Center said farewell to our first Intern, Patrese Nesbitt, as part of the Writing Center Student Internship program, a 9-month, paid internship. Patrese is a DrPH student, and over the last 9 months contributed to the Writing Center by providing paper review appointments to undergraduate students and publishing two blog posts on our website: “The Art of Storytelling: Mastering Paraphrasing” and “How to Manage Procrastination and Brain Fog.” We are thankful to Patrese for working with us, and we look forward to seeing all of the wonderful things she accomplishes!

January 2020: Two members of the Writing Center staff, Claire Helakoski and Jes Philbrook, were recognized on the Walden Employee Portal for their volunteer work (note: only faculty and staff can access these profiles). Claire discussed her volunteer work with the Scholastic Art & Writing high school competition and at the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center, an organization that provides free after-school writing programming to local children. Jes shared her service as a volunteer English writing and language tutor for the International Institute, along with volunteering as a birth doula for Twin Cities Doula Project and on election day last fall for Kids Voting Minnesota Network, helping to facilitate mock voting for elementary school kids at Peter Hobart Elementary. Writing Center staff volunteer in their communities throughout the year.

November 2019: Members of the Writing Center joined two advisory boards this year. Veronica Oliver and Dan Fleischhacker joined the Center for Social Change Advisory Council, with Laura McCormick, one of our newest Form and Style Editors, continuing her membership on that council. Jeannie Headley, Ellen Zamarripa, and Beth Nastachowski joined the newly formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee.

October 2019: The Writing Center welcomed Dr. Anne Phibbs for a workshop called “Beyond Diversity 101: Micro-inequities, Implicit Bias, and Moving toward Equity.” This workshop has prompted engaging conversations across the Writing Center about the impact diversity, equity, and inclusion has on our work and ways we can better create an inclusive environment for students and staff.

October 2019: The Office of Writing Instruction added two new questions to their myPASS registration system, which now asks students their preferred name and the pronouns they use. Just in October, 64% of students who registered for a myPASS account chose to enter the name they would like to be called, and 77% chose to enter in their pronouns. We hope that these small changes to our registration form help foster respect and inclusivity for students among our team and show students our dedication to these values.

October 2019: Jes Philbrook, Max Philbrook, and Amy Bakke volunteered with almost 40 other Walden employees at Second Harvest Heartland for Global Days of Service. They sorted and packaged fresh produce that would be distributed to families in need across the Twin Cities.

January 2019: Staff members (and Social Change Committee members) Beth Nastachowski and Amber Cook presented a faculty webinar titled “Who Gets to Say What's Correct? "Standard English" as a Cultural Construct.” In their presentation and the fruitful discussion that followed, Walden faculty and staff discussed cultural assumptions about nonstandard dialects, linguistic diversity, and pedagogical strategies that consider multiple Englishes.

November 2018: The Writing Center published a Diversity and Inclusion Statement after a year of research, gathering ideas, writing, and getting feedback on the statement. The statement records not only what we have done, but also our commitment to what we will do as a Writing Center.

October 2018: Writing Center staff partnered with Breakthrough Twin Cities again this year for the Global Days of Service. Building on the success of our work with BreakThrough Twin Cities last year, we reviewed students’ practice ACT essays. We worked with 21 students, giving each student two reviews of their essay that included a score on their practice essay and suggestions for how to improve future ACT essays.

October 2018: Writing Center staff offered Reviews for Social Change during the Global Days of Service week (October 15th–19th) as part of the paper review service. This initiative gave students the opportunity to receive feedback on writing projects from outside of Walden that contribute toward social change. Student submissions included drafts of grant applications, a journal article, and a newsletter.

August 2018: Writing Center Writing Instructors Ellen Zamarripa and Miranda Mattingly presented a new social change webinar, "Using Restorative Writing to Enact Social Change." In this session, they introduced the concept of restorative writing and how individuals can use it to process events in the context of (a) their own feelings; (b) their community; and (c) social change. Watch the recording to learn more!

February 2018: This February, members of the Writing Center participated in a celebration of Douglass Day, the day Frederick Douglass chose for his birthday. On Douglass Day, we joined Colored Conventions, the Smithsonian, and universities across the United States in a transcribe-a-thon of the Freedmen’s Bureau Papers as part of the Smithsonian’s Digital Volunteers Transcription Center. Eight Writing Center staff members gathered virtually on February 14, each transcribing portions of the Freedmen’s Bureau Papers, transcribing a total of 60 pages and reviewing a total of 13 pages. We were a part of over 1,500 other volunteers at the transcribe-a-thon!

Want to get involved? You can learn more about the Freedmen’s Bureau Papers, and you can join the Smithsonian’s Digital Volunteers to help transcribe more of the Freedmen’s Bureau Papers or contribute to any of their other projects.

We at the Writing Center enjoyed this opportunity and plan to continue working in the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center in the future!

January 2018: At the start of the year, committee Chair Beth Nastachowski co-presented with Center for Social Change director Bill Shulz at Walden's winter National Faculty Meeting for attending faculty. Beth discussed the Writing Center's social change committee, focusing specifically on the challenges and benefits of our virtual volunteering, while Bill gathered feedback on ways the Center for Social Change can support Walden faculty and students.

October 2017: For the Global Days of Service this year, Writing Center staff members partnered with BreakThrough Twin Cities, a Minnesota organization that assists students with their ACT essay and test prep. As their Mission and Vision report, BreakThrough Twin Cities assists high school students prepare for college and provides professional development for high school educators. Writing Center staff helped students prepare for their ACT essays by giving feedback and filling out a sample ACT rubric for their practice essays.

This volunteer opportunity was fulfilling for both Writing Center staff who were able to share their writing expertise and the students who received in-depth feedback. We hope to partner with BreakThrough Twin Cities more next year!

October 2017: The Writing Center partnered with the Center for Social Change for a social change webinar. Writing for Social Change: Exploring Perspectives. With over 200 attendees, Writing Center staff Amber Cook, Jes Philbrook, and Beth Nastachowski discussed with faculty, students, and alumni their visions for social change and how writing can help them explore and achieve those visions. Watch the webinar recording to join the conversation!

September 2017: The Writing Center announced new policies from the social change committee around the use of gender-neutral pronouns and identify-first language. Learn more about these policies in our blog post.

Writing for Social Change Resources

We also hope students are interested in learning more about how they can use writing to achieve their own social change goals. The following Writing Center resources address various aspects of writing and social change, and we encourage you to use these resources to help you think about how writing—including the academic writing you do at Walden—connects with social change. Of course, also see the Center for Social Change for more social change resources.

Webinar Recordings

Writing for Social Change webinar series:

  • Exploring Perspectives
  • Grant Proposals
  • Using Restorative Writing to Enact Social Change

Podcast Episodes

Our WriteCast podcast series has featured social change episodes. Visit the podcast player and select the following episodes to hear the conversation!

  • Restorative Writing Follow-Along Activity (Episode 61 Bonus)
  • Restorative Writing (Episode 61)
  • Writing for Social Change: Letters to Legislators (Episode 56)
  • Inclusive Language: Gender-Neutral Pronouns and Identity-First Language (Episode 46)
  • Social Change and Difficult Conversations (Episode 36)
  • Taking Your Academic Writing Outside of the Classroom (Episode 31)
  • How Academic Writing Helps You Beyond Academia (Episode 23)
  • Social Change and Scholarly Writing: Balancing Passion and Objectivity (Episode 4)

Transcripts for each episode are also available on the podcast webpage.

Blog Posts

We’ve explored social change in many different ways on our blog, including an explanation of our inclusive language policy, reflections on community partnerships and social change, and tips for how to write for positive social change. You can also hear from fellow students about their social change interests in our Student Spotlight series.

Browse more social change blog posts using the Social Change label.

Faculty Voices: Walden Talks Writing Video Series

Learn about our faculty contributors' experience with writing for social change, including the importance of writing to social change and specific times they've used writing to enact social change.

Writing for Social Change in the Doctoral Capstone

Visit the Doctoral Capstone Form and Style website's page on social change for resources on writing about social change in the various, required areas of the doctoral capstone.

Writing Center Social Change Committee

The Writing Center’s Social Change Committee’s mission is to engage with Walden students and staff, as well as the rest of the Walden community, around social change. The committee’s purpose is to identify, prioritize, and coordinate Writing Center social change initiatives.

If you’d like to contact the committee, you’re welcome to e-mail the committee chair. We also encourage professionals from other writing centers or universities to contact us if you’d like to discuss your own engagement with your university’s mission and social change.

Current Committee Members 


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