Tag Archives: Innovation


Chrissine Cairns, MA, Writing Center Tutor

The Kaplan University Writing Center (now Purdue University Global Writing Center) is a dynamic and inclusive tutoring center staffed by experts in college writing, online writing instruction, and the delivery of personalized and multimodal tutoring services, webinars, and resources for adult students online.  Housed in the Academic Support Center on KU Campus, the Writing Center is accessible to every student taking courses at KU, undergraduate and graduate.  In 2014, the Writing Center celebrated its 10th anniversary, and today the Writing Center continues its mission as a free, academic support service for KU’s diverse online students writing across the curriculum and the globe.

When the Writing Center first opened, it established itself with a website, a Q&A chat, and a paper review service.  At that time, students and tutors communicated only in writing and with printable resources.  Then in 2008, equipped with its first full-time director and staff of professional writing tutors, the center had the potential to experiment with new educational technologies, audio and video tools, and reach more students with more personalized support.

I was one of those original tutors and the founder of the English Language Learner Tutoring and Outreach Program, one of two innovative Writing Center programs developed for students struggling with the basics of writing and standard English in the text-based online learning environment.  Together, the ELL Tutoring and Outreach Program and the Writing Fundamentals Program introduced the following specialized services and resources to the Writing Center’s traditional offerings:

  • Email outreach with a video welcome to the Writing Center,
  • One-on-one tutoring in an audio-enabled, Adobe Connect tutoring room,
  • Interactive writing workshops on college writing, grammar, and plagiarism prevention,
  • Video and written feedback on paper reviews with a 24-hour turnaround time,
  • Video tutorials on college writing and grammar topics, and
  • Faculty resources and referral initiatives.

Nine years later, these services and resources are the cornerstones of Writing Center support with improved access for ELL and Writing Fundamentals students and expanded access to all students.

In 2016, self-referral web forms were added to the Writing Center’s ELL and Writing Fundamentals webpages that connect students with a tutor and personalized video feedback within 24 hours if not immediately.  Time is one thing busy, adult students online do not have to spare, and the chance to help any one student may happen only once and in an instant, so ELL and Writing Fundamentals students no longer have to be referred by an instructor to receive video feedback.  ELL students had the additional obstacle of first having to self-identity as ELL to an instructor to be referred.  Today, every student who submits a paper for review receives personalized video feedback.

Today, not one or two but all 13 Writing Center tutors are trained and experienced to tutor ELL and Writing Fundamentals.  ELL and Writing Fundamentals students do not have to wait for an appointed time to work with one or two specialized tutors.  Over the past several years, all tutoring services, outreach, and resources in the Writing Center have been recreated to be inclusive and more accessible.  They are designed with the experience and expectation that students arrive to the center at various points in their degree or career path and bring with them unique educational backgrounds and diverse cultural and linguistic histories.

Today, with streamlined outreach that connects ELL and Fundamentals students with tutors more quickly and the innovative integration of the original specialty services with the center’s traditionally offerings, the Writing Center has bridged gaps on many students’ paths to learning success.  With all-student access to more tutors, more live tutoring hours, over 500 media-rich writing guides and archived webinars, and new study skills videos, the Writing Center is entering its next phase of growth as a far-reaching, versatile, and inclusive tutoring hub that provides substantive and personalized academic support to all students with the motto, “Every encounter matters.”  Visit the Writing Center by logging into KU Campus, or check out the Writing Center’s public-facing website at http://library.kaplan.edu/kuwc today.


Tutor Chrissine’s Top 3 Books from 2015: 63 Innovation Nuggets, Stella Rose, and Navigating Grace

Reviews by Chrissine Rios, MA, Writing Tutor

63 Innovation Nuggets63 Innovation Nuggets
for Aspiring Innovators

By George E. L. Barbee (2015)
149 pages

George Barbee generously imparts 45 years of worldly corporate experience and essential business wisdom in this inspiring guide to being more innovative. As reading, I felt privy to information and examples that only MBA students would have had access to as Barbee teaches innovation at the VA Darden School of Business. I did not expect the nuggets to be so palatable or applicable to me personally—a Spanish and English major who loves poetic language and tutors college writing. I was delightfully surprised. I read this book (a half dozen times) because I was one of the final reviewers on the editorial team (you’ll even find my name in the back), but I had to get extra copies to gift to friends and family, because I liked it so much.

Each of the nuggets has two parts: an explanation of a concept and a case study from Barbee’s successes and turning points, which he illustrates with specific examples from within the boardrooms of big corporations like GE, IBM, and PepsiCo; he even mentions executives by name, making for an interesting read. I most enjoyed learning about the differences between customers and clients and how to put the client in the middle—and what that looks like at all levels of an organization. In higher education, we also take a student-centeredness approach to achieving goals, but Barbee gave me a more critical understanding of how this not only benefits the client, or in my case, the student or instructor I’m working with, but also helps an organization grow and me within it.

From risk taking to relationship building, these nuggets have inspired me to be more innovative in my work, and since I tutor graduate students in business at KU, my content knowledge and really, my attitude got a real boost from the innovation insights and practices. I imagine Barbee’s also an excellent grad school professor. I appreciated his candid anecdotes and pithy writing style. I felt as though he were talking to me, even though he was talking about working with the executives of Fortune 100 companies. I recommend this book highly for everyone going into business and all who want to make a bigger impact at work or at least better understand how what they do matters or can matter with a more innovative mindset. The experience and wisdom contained in each nugget could help anyone within any organization, even higher education, even nursing…, be better and do more.


Stella RoseStella Rose
A novel by Tammy Flanders Hetrick (2015)
343 pages

Hetrick’s moving narrative defines the meaning of friendship as it explores love, promises, intimacy, loss, and the secrets our loved ones leave behind. Stella Rose, a 40-something-year-old, successful attorney, has already passed away from Leukemia when the story begins. She has left the guardianship of her only daughter, Olivia, to her best friend Abby (instead of Olivia’s father who lives in California with wife #3). Stella wants Olivia to stay living at home in Vermont to finish her senior year of high school.  Abby has known Stella since their school days together and has therefore also known Olivia all her life, but at 16 years old and grieving, Olivia is more of a challenge than Abby expects, making both Abby and Olivia question what Stella was thinking. But they find that out too: Stella has left them each a box and letter to open each month until Olivia turns 18. This monthly ceremony is a motif throughout the novel as lovely as Hetrick’s portrait of Vermont throughout the changing seasons. When someone so significant to you has died and written you a letter, you pay attention. You wrap yourself in their words.

I do not typically read fiction; I gravitate toward creative nonfiction. I like true stories, so if I had not been in a writers group with this author a few years ago, I’m not sure I would have been aware of Stella Rose to even read it, but I wholly identified with Abby and her loss as I did with Olivia and hers. Nothing was more truthful than what these women were going through. If you have ever lost a family member too soon or a friend to a deadly disease, you will identify with them too, for these characters are authentic and so likeable, Stella too – and all the thoughts and feelings that she had while knowing she was dying, and how she expresses them to her friend and daughter in writing – it’s heartbreaking. But also, heartwarming.

Hetrick has created a believable story with beautiful prose. Even the villain, one of Olivia’s bad choices in boyfriends that year, has depth and breadth, making every page and detail essential to the fabric of Stella Rose. I encourage everyone to read outside their favorite genre from time to time. This story took me to museums, theaters, and restaurants, to London, and to lakes, and most importantly, to Stella’s home and rose garden. If you’ve ever known or feared the loss of a friend or a parent, if you’ve ever known or been a teen struggling from such loss, you’ll get this book. It speaks to you on an honest, emotional level, just as a friend would.


Navigating GraceNavigating Grace:
A Solo Voyage of Survival and Redemption
By Jeff Jay (2015)
193 pages

Jeff Jay has written a masterful piece of literary nonfiction that reads like an adventure novel and resonates like an intimate memoir. Jay is an addiction counselor and experienced sailor of Michigan’s Great Lakes when he sets sail to the Virgin Islands with visions of living on his boat and running an on-board halfway house for recovering addicts. His plans and course are diverted, however, when he sails into an unavoidable and torrential storm that about sinks his sailboat and nearly kills him a good dozen times; it’s a gripping read as he knows he will not survive, believes he doesn’t deserve to survive, and yet he does everything he can in case by some miracle he does. He had been saved before, after all, and this was an important theme in the book: Years prior, alcoholism would have killed him had his parents not intervened and got him into a rehabilitation center where he only wanted to drink again and knew he would drink again until all at once, his intellectual mindfulness succumbed to extraordinary spiritual awakening.

Jay does not evade or qualify the role of Alcoholics Anonymous in his life. He’s still an addictions counselor and professional interventionist, and this wasn’t his first book published by Hazelden. In fact, as much as I love an artful memoir, if Jeff Jay weren’t also my second cousin and my mom and great aunt hadn’t been in a slight tizzy about what Jay wrote about my grandpa in the book, it’s less than likely that I would have wanted to read a “recovery” book simply due to my own cynicism – a personal story of recovery and redemption, yes, but one published by a world renowned alcohol and drug treatment organization? I had that eerie feeling going into it that I did before reading The In-Between (Goins, 2014) that had a Christian publisher, feeling I had to read on the defensive lest I be brainwashed into cult-like thinking by too much God worship in the prose, but it never happened. Jay’s prose appealed to my cynical side. He’s smart, and honest and brave, and I don’t mean in how he handled his sailboat in that ocean storm alone but with his wordsmithery.

He’s a wonderful writer, insightful, poetic. He cleverly juxtaposes the storm with his near death from alcoholism, his father’s passing from leukemia soon after, and more recently his brother’s tragic suicide and then Jay’s divorce, but suicide tends to overshadow everything that comes after it for the survivors, yes? I’ve known that kind of loss and have written about it too, and it’s not easy to express such depth of grief without becoming sentimental or trite. The storm was the perfect metaphor for Jay’s reflections. He wrote probably the best memoir I’ve ever read, and I already mentioned loving this genre, but my master’s degree is in Creative Nonfiction too; I take the craft seriously and have critical expectations. Yet I hung on some of Jay’s sentences for so long that when I did get to the last page, I wept. I both didn’t want it to end and was so grateful to have arrived that it was like his journey had become mine, and we had both survived. And more, he knew I would. That’s how I felt! I just want to thank him so much for sharing his story and making it all of ours. It’s a must read for everyone, and don’t skip the epilogue.


Happy reading!