Creating a place for faculty across all disciplines to share community and accountability, and increase their productivity

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George Mason University is known for having students and faculty members with great writing and communication skills no matter what field they are in.

The Faculty Writing Community, an initiative of Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) at Mason, is a big reason why.

This program supports Mason faculty as they work on their various writing projects and offers accountability, productivity, and community.

“WAC at Mason started in the ‘70s. It’s almost as old as the university itself,” said Tom Polk, the director of WAC.

“WAC began facilitating writing events for faculty about 10 years ago in collaboration with the then Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence. We wanted to provide a space where faculty could talk about their writing and receive some mentoring,” said Polk.

“That collaboration has continued as the program has grown, and WAC now partners with the Stearns Center and Faculty Affairs and Development to run these events.”

As an extension of the Office of the Provost, the Faculty Writing Community is open to all who want support or guidance with their writing.

Art Taylor, an associate professor in the English department, was recently selected as the incoming Fellow for the faculty writing community.

Having benefited from participating in WAC sprints and retreats, Taylor says he’s happy to step behind the scenes to help plan and organize events and initiatives. “To step into the incoming Fellow position is really just to cheer fellow faculty writers on during writing sessions and saying ‘let’s keep going!’” said Taylor.

Michelle Williams, a second-year Fellow, is an assistant professor in the Department of Global and Community Health. Williams works with Taylor and Polk to organize and facilitate the program’s activities. She also actively participates in the writing events.

“I got involved before I even officially started working at Mason. It’s been a great way to connect with faculty across the university as opposed to only faculty in my department,” said Williams.

Taylor, who is currently working on a fiction novel, said “It’s sort of a respite, an oasis away from the demands of teaching, where we’re giving our all the rest of the week to the students.”

The program has regular participants from all colleges and many departments, he said.

“The program’s focus is to serve faculty writers who need to find time for their own research and writing outside of the classroom,” said Taylor.

Although writing is often thought of as a solitary activity, “There’s a social exchange at the base of writing and the program brings out that sense of community,” said Polk. “When you think of a writer, you think ‘Who are you writing to?’”

The program organizes Friday writing sprints where faculty get together and devote time to projects of their choosing, “When you see people beside you working, it builds your own momentum,” said Taylor. “We spend two hours with the cameras off, writing our individual projects. Then we come together and ask ‘How’s it going?’”

This semester, over 50 faculty members have registered for the Friday writing sprints. They also have two yearly retreats where participants and guest speakers attend.

 “A university is essentially a campus full of writers,” said Polk. “We provide some support and accountability to keep their writing moving.”