Carrie Luke always has loved language, but traveling to one of the world’s most multilingual nations gave her a whole new perspective on language and writing instruction.
In July of 2008 Luke, the Peer Tutor Program coordinator at the Sweetland Writing Center, helped to facilitate a writing workshop for underprivileged printmakers at Artist Proof Studio, a community art education center in Johannesburg, South Africa. Sweetland sponsored Luke’s to travel there with Julie Ellison, a U-M American culture professor. Although the young artists’ writing skills needed improvement, they were fluent in a mixture of South Africa’s 11 national languages.
“I was used to conversations always being in English. The dynamic is completely different when the spoken language can instantly change from English to Zulu to Afrikaans,” Luke says.
Over the course of the two-week workshop, Luke describes the artists’ progress as incredible. “When you have an intense one-on-one relationship with someone, you see (his or her) writing improve exponentially. It’s exciting to see the light bulb moments,” Luke says.
Luke shows this same enthusiasm when working with the undergraduate writing tutors at Sweetland. “It’s really rewarding to be able make a difference in the lives of undergraduate students. They come to us as already talented writers with good interpersonal skills, and we enrich that,” Luke says.
Currently Luke manages the administration of the program, such as recruiting new tutors, coordinating training for paid tutors and SWC 100 course assistants, and managing the Online Writing Lab. “During training, we focus on a variety of topics, from multiculturalism to writing style to best tutoring practices,” Luke says. “We always encourage faculty to nominate students for the program.”
Always one to multi-task, Luke currently is working on a Master of Arts degree in written communication at Eastern Michigan University. “Eventually I’ll get my M.F.A. in creative writing and I’d love to formally teach, but I learn so much at Sweetland on a day-to-day basis that I’d have a hard time working anywhere else,” Luke says.
As an undergraduate, Luke subconcentrated in creative writing and composes mostly poetry, although she says she hopes to write a novel someday. A large portion of her inspiration comes from growing up in the small community of Willow Run, a short drive from Ann Arbor in Ypsilanti Township.
One recent writing achievement was having her poem “Willow Run Village, 1945” performed by the U-M Glee Club in November. Set to the music of former U-M faculty member and Grammy-winning composer William Bolcom, Luke says she was ecstatic not only to be selected, but also to be the only woman involved.
Luke, who doubled majored in women’s studies and English during her undergraduate career at U-M, says, “I’m a feminist at heart, and I try to live it instead of talking about it. The Glee Club experience was an instance of living my feminism in a cool way.”
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Carrie Luke, on facilitating writing workshops: “It’s exciting to see the light bulb moments.”