2021 Martinson Award Press Release for Bowdoin College

Press Release

SLAC-WPA is honored to present a 2021 SLAC-WPA Martinson Award for Innovation to Bowdoin College’s Writing Program for its antiracist framework for the hiring of peer tutors. The award committee unanimously decided that this initiative stood out as a model of innovation. 

The Martinson award recognizes an innovative and successful initiative in a writing program or writing center from a SLAC-WPA member college. The award was created to honor the accomplishments of our colleague Deborah Martinson, who passed away in 2014. Deb was an active, engaged member of SLAC-WPA; she hosted our annual conference, served on the executive board, and built and supported writing communities within and beyond our organization. Deb was known among her colleagues both at Occidental and in the larger community for her boundless spirit, her insight and intelligence, and her wisecracking sense of humor. Her simultaneous dedication to both writing program design and writing instruction that helps students overcome academic barriers characterizes Deb Martinson’s career and the criteria for this award. 

We believe the antiracist framework employed by Bowdoin’s Writing Program represents many of the values of small liberal arts institutions. It takes a novel approach to combating implicit bias and to diversifying writing center staffing by doing identity-blind hiring (no interview). It’s impressive to see the changes to the diversity of the staff and look forward to future updates of how these changes impact writing center use. We hope as other SLAC institutions hear of this initiative that it will prompt a larger discussion around best practices for hiring peer tutors.

The Martinson Award will be presented to Dr. Meredith McCarroll, Director of Writing and Rhetoric at Bowdoin College, at the next annual conference of SLAC-WPA. The award confers a $500 travel award to attend this conference, where Dr. McCarroll is invited to share highlights of the development of the antiracist framework. 

Small Liberal Arts Colleges-Writing Program Administrators (SLAC-WPA) was founded in 2007 when a group of writing administrators came together at Swarthmore College to talk about teaching, writing curriculum, and writing support. The central mission of SLAC-WPA is to support the teaching of writing at small liberal arts colleges where size, residentiality, curriculum, and faculty structure present unique opportunities for teaching writing. SLAC-WPA welcomes information and discussion about administrative and scholarly practices, and supports research on the theories, histories, and cultures associated with writing in the liberal arts. In addition, SLAC-WPA hosts an annual conference to address issues that emerge in administering writing programs and writing centers, to share research on teaching writing in the liberal arts, and to foster a nationally-inflected collective identity.