When we first came up with the idea of launching a blog, our central intention was to extend the reach of the Student Learning Commons and to promote the idea that the SLC is not just an “academic service” but is also a community hub for the learners and writers who attend Simon Fraser University. We know that many students only come to the SLC when someone has told them that their writing “isn’t good enough” or that they “need help.”
We want to make some changes to this stale narrative, by recognizing and reinforcing a few key facts:
- Academic English is no one’s first language;
- All writers “need help” when they are writing. Indeed, the most accomplished writer you know of is a writer who had someone else read their drafts, provide them with feedback, and “help them” improve their prose. Much of the published writing that you read has also been professionally copyedited – a level of “help” that exceeds the bounds of academic integrity and the work we do at the SLC;
- Learning is not simply a means to an end (i.e., a degree, or a good job), it is also an important part of our daily lives. When we are learning, we are growing, challenging ourselves, and (potentially) contributing to the world around us in unique and valuable ways.
When we thought of all these key messages, we also realized that an important function for the blog was to try to break down barriers that some learners and writers may have in accessing the Student Learning Commons. We recognize that many people feel that the SLC simply isn’t for them, whether that be because they “don’t need help,” or they “don’t care enough about their grades,” or they simply don’t see themselves as being the kind of person who would go to a learning commons.
All of these reasons have validity, and yet none of them means that the SLC actually isn’t for you. And so the initial theme we came up with for the blog was “The Student Learning Commons is for Everyone.”
To this end, we were inspired by Hafuboti’s Libraries are for Everyone image series. And that is how our blog banner image was initially conceived. Indeed, several early drafts of the image actually sported the tagline “The SLC is for everyone.” And the thing about that tagline is that we really do mean it. We really do want the SLC to be YOUR “writing and academic success center” and we really do want the SLC In Common blog to be YOUR online writing and learning community.
I’ll warrant that the more skeptical or cynically inclined may see the final banner image for our blog as simply “diversity clipart.” Indeed, a lovely human who I know, who shall remain unidentified, used that very phrase to describe the image to me prior to the launch of this blog. But, I want to take this opportunity to assure all you beautiful cynics out there that’s not what it is... or, at the very least, that’s not all it is! In conjunction with the name of our blog (“In Common”), that image speaks to the opportunity that university provides us to find the things that we share in common with people who we otherwise might assume are completely, and fundamentally different from us. At its best, academic discourse challenges us to really consider the ideas of others, even when we do not initially agree with or see ourselves within those ideas. At a time when public rhetoric seems to have little to do with really hearing, considering, and responding to those with whom we disagree, this skillset is potentially one of the most valuable things we can all take with us from our time within the “hallowed halls of academia.”
And while we are in those halls, one of the most foundational things that we share in common with one another is that we are learners and we are writers.
This blog seeks to be a place to share stories, ideas, challenges, joys, strategies, and even life hacks that speak to all that we share in common as writers and learners, and also all of the ways that each of us is fundamentally unique in the face of those pursuits. So, please consider this your most cordially invitation to hit us up with your questions about learning, language, and writing; with your hopes and wishes for your online writing and learning community; with your suggestions for how we can improve. We are here for you.
- Julia Lane