by Casey Dawson, WIC Graduate Assistant

This year, the WIC Program added an additional member to our team: Dennis Bennett.

Dennis joins us as our first ever Assistant Director, though he’s no stranger to Oregon State’s writing programs. Dennis is a writing and learning technology specialist with two decades of experience in writing program administration here at OSU. He currently serves as the Director of our university’s Graduate Writing Center and also teaches technical writing courses through the School of Writing, Literature, and Film. He has a combined three decades of experience in writing programs as a teacher, tutor, writing program administrator, and project manager.

We caught up with Dennis to talk about his experience coming into the WIC Program, what he’s excited for in higher ed, and more.

What has been the most exciting aspect of joining the WIC team?
One of the things I like about WIC is that it’s both faculty and student facing. My writing center background has given me perspective on the student experience, but I haven’t had much formal faculty-facing experience since leaving Washington State University in 2004. At WSU, I was part of the Center for Teaching and Learning, and hosted faculty workshops on a semi-regular basis. Becoming part of the team that supports faculty here at OSU has been exciting.

In higher ed, what has shifted or stayed the same since your last experience in a faculty-facing role? What challenges or opportunities do you think these changes present?
Higher ed has changed a lot since 2004, certainly. But what has really stayed the same is that faculty still want time to talk to each other. They’re most excited when they’re talking to one another and sharing their knowledge about teaching and learning together. I was doing faculty-facing work in the ’90s, and this was even true back then! You never want these things to change, at OSU and elsewhere. Get faculty in a room talking to each other, tackling problems and sharing information–it’s great. It benefits faculty to do so and they feel those benefits.

As far as changes in higher ed in the past 20 years, I’ve noticed that faculty today are generally more positive about the students they’re working with at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Overall, faculty are far less prone to the “student deficit” learning and teaching model.

You’ve been the director of the Graduate Writing Center here at OSU for some time, and also have decades of experience working with student writers from both the instructor and tutor perspective. How do you think these experiences have shaped the perspective that you bring to the WIC program?
Writing center work is inherently student focused. Its fundamental to writing center work that you listen to your students–not just to the ways that they struggle with the content, but also their struggles with the institution. It’s important to pay attention to their own interpretations and experiences across all the parts of the institution. I spent about 20 years doing that, so I bring a real student-centered focus to this work. I think that focus aligns really well with the values of the WIC Program. 

How do you think the WIC program is evolving to meet the needs and experiences of the newest generations of college students?
The WIC program is especially evolving with the rise of generative AI – that’s a place in which our program can play a strong leadership role, since we’re stewards of writing, critical thinking and the connection between them, as well as ambassadors and advocates for students and the student experience. Generative AI is probably the next frontier in writing education, so I’m really excited to be part of that.

Who has had the greatest impact upon your work as a writer and writing educator?
That’s a tough question. Probably Nancy Grimm and her short book Good Intentions, in which she details the ways that having “good intentions” when working with students isn’t always enough–that you have to theorize and uncover how your good intentions may actually be counterproductive to students and their perspectives and experience in the institution.

In an alternate universe where you didn’t work as a writer or in writing programs, what do you think your career would be?
I think I’d be an engineer – probably a computer science engineer.