This year, the College has welcomed Stephanie Dunson as its inaugural director of writing programs, another change on the list for students returning to the purple bubble. Dunson will work with individual faculty members and departments to ensure that “professors are able to teach writing effectively, whatever that looks like.” She also intends to help professors with their own academic writing.
Dunson, who earned her Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, explained that she did not find the position in a traditional way.
“I was not looking for a job,” Dunson said. She had been serving as a professor of American Studies at the University of Rhode Island when a friend sent her information about the position.
“The [job] description just seemed like everything that I do,” Dunson said. “It just presented it all. It was all in one place.”
Dunson’s career includes serving as a consultant to the Bard Institute for Writing and Thinking and coaching post-doctorate students in writing at Yale.
She has also served as the Director of Writing at Mount Holyoke College and worked at the Center for Academic Development at Smith College.
While Dunson will serve as a resource for the mostly student-driven Writing Workshop, she envisions dealing with faculty more than students.
“The faculty reached a point where they realized … that it just made sense to have someone here,” Dunson said. “What was good for me is that there was complete faculty consensus. That always makes life easier when you know you have the support of everyone here.”
Dean Bolton emphasized the necessity of Dunson’s coordinating role to streamline campus resources. “We’re very excited just having a full-time director of writing programs. Williams has been really hungry for it, and it’s been a few years coming,” Bolton said. “Everywhere I go to introduce [Dr. Dunson] to faculty and staff, the first thing they say is, ‘Oh thank goodness you’re here.’ Having an extra professional resource on campus will be great for running the Writing Workshop and for making sure that faculty and staff who work with students have a central place to put their heads together with expert facilitation.”
As for her first year at the College, Dunson is prepared for the unexpected. “Part of my job for this first year is to figure out what the position should be,” she said.
Dunson exhibits genuine excitement and describes the position as a “marriage of teaching and consulting and working with writing but also being able to work in an interdisciplinary context.”
She said one thing she would like to see blossom in the future is a lecture series with essayists and also alumni outreach programs and summer workshops for both students and faculty.
Already, Dunson said she feels at home at the College and is looking forward to the ways the writing programs could grow during her tenure.
“It was this specific job at this specific institution that was the most meaningful thing for me to be doing in my career right now,” she said.