Our background stretches back quite a way: In the 1937 Tennessee Alumnus, Professor Edwin Kirkland reported on the newly created “English Laboratory” to help some struggling writers in English classes. We were among the first in the country to establish such a service.
We’ve evolved in so many ways since then! Back in the 80’s and early 90’s we shared space in part of a room where classes also met and served only 300 students per year. We moved to HSS 212 in 1996, and some years later we expanded to another room, then to another, and now we also staff satellite locations across campus, including in Hodges Library and on the Ag Campus in Pendergrass Library. Today we’re no longer a “Laboratory” serving only a handful of writers—we’re a nationally recognized writing program—recipient of the Writing Program Certificate of Excellence, the highest award given by the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the leading national organization for college writing instructors—serving many thousands of students each year.
The ability to write well is an acquired skill that takes a long time to develop and takes a lot of support—years of practice over all the college years and across all the disciplines, plenty of feedback or “coaching” from others, and instruction from well-trained faculty whose assignments and responses to student writing are designed to enhance learning.
We could not help students or faculty without support ourselves, and the generosity of Jim and Judi Herbert, UT alumni, has helped us take transformational strides towards our goals. Their gift helps us support upper-division and graduate writers, faculty who teach with writing in courses across the disciplines on campus, and more. In 2019, we were re-dedicated with a new name to honor Judith Anderson Herbert, whose passion for helping students improve as writers now ensures that more UT students graduate with better writing skills. You can read more here about Judi and the Herbert family’s support for the University of Tennessee.