“I knew right away I found my niche”: Celebrating the work of Linda McCloud-Bondoc

Interviewed by Brian Hotson, CWCR/RCCR co-editor
Vol. 1, No. 3 (Summer 2020)

Linda Bondoc-McCLoud retired from the University of Athabasca writing centre, Write Site, at the end of June 2020. This interview highlights just some of her work and contributions as a way to celebrate her contributions to the field of writing centres and to students and faculty. 


Linda Bondoc-McCLoud, Coordinator, Write Site, University of Athabasca
I started writing centre work as a tutor at the University of Calgary in 1993 when I was still doing my undergrad in communications and continued when I was doing my graduate work in adult education. I started with Athabasca University as Coordinator in 2005. Prior to my career in writing studies, I worked as an RN for 20 years. Over the years, I have been a member of STLHE and CWCA/ACCR and served one year as president of the CWCA/ACCR.


 Brian
Thanks for taking the time for this interview. I first met you in 2011, I think, when I first became involved in CWCA. You were CWCA president then. Can you tell me a bit about the early days for CWCA?

Linda
If I had to pinpoint the birth of CWCA, I’d say it happened at the 2008 STLHE conference in Windsor. At that time, those of us involved in writing centres attended STLHE conferences because there weren’t many venues to gather and exchange ideas, and STLHE included writing studies as a SIG. During that 2008 conference, Marion McKeown of RMC, JoAnne Andre of U of C [University of Calgary], and I were having lunch and the conversation turned to writing centre professionalism. Why, we wondered, didn’t writing centre work have its own organization to promote high standards and encourage research in our field? I had had a previous career in nursing where I saw  the value of an organization that promoted research and professionalism. We agreed to talk up the idea to others at the conference, and it was enthusiastically received.

For the next 2 to 3 years, Marion, Tyler [Evans-Tokaryk, University of Toronto Mississauga] and others worked to create a framework to make CWCA a reality. Marion, if I remember correctly, wrote the first draft of the organization’s constitution. By the time I was president in 2011, a lot of the heavy lifting had been done, and all that was left was for CWCA to become independent from the STLHE, which happened under your term as president, I think, Brian (although I’m not sure of the year). We saw CWCA as the perfect vehicle to promote writing studies within institutions, develop standards for writing centres, and promote communication among writing centre professionals

Brian
Yes, I recall. CWCA became independent from STLHE at the CWCA SIG meeting at the 2012 STLHE conference Montréal. If I recall Marion and Liv Marken (University of Saskatchewan) were there, and you and Grace Howell from Huron University College joined by video conference. 

You started working in writing centres in Calgary in 2008, I believe, and then moved to Athabasca. How did you get started in writing centre work?

Linda
I started working as a tutor at the University of Calgary in the early ‘90s when I was still completing my undergraduate degree in communications, and I knew right away I found my niche: I got to work with words and to help students develop their abilities to express their ideas in writing. I continued my writing centre work at U of C until I completed a master’s in adult education in 2004, and then, in 2005, I was fortunate enough to land the job at Athabasca University as the Coordinator for a brand-new, online writing center that AU was just starting.

Brian
We’ve known each other for many years, but we’ve never met in person. This is reflective of your work at Athabasca and its online writing centre. How have you seen this mode of support change from when you first began working at Athabasca?

Linda
When we first started the Write Site in 2005 we were pretty much the only fully online writing centre in Canada. A few university centres were interacting with students via email, but we were the only ones who systematically delivered asynchronous and synchronous tutoring services virtually. Since then, as more and more universities have adopted online or blended approaches to writing development, students have come to expect faster turnaround times and more individualized technical options. This meant we had to develop new processes and teaching approaches such as short, focused workshops on selected topics for students who wanted a more information-driven, didactic approach to learning. And for students who wanted a more traditional, one-to-one, face-to-face tutoring experience, we introduced real-time sessions in audio/video software. (This was in the years BZ: Before Zoom!).

Brian
Now Zoom is a gerund! How have the current COVID-19 disruptions changed or reinforced the view of your work in your online writing centre?

Linda
This lockdown really made me feel for educators at all levels who had to jump into online instruction because I remember the adjustments I had to make when I first started teaching online. One of my biggest realizations was that instruction had to be designed to be delivered online—it was not just a matter of picking up writing centre sessions and doing them virtually instead of in a physical space. At the Write Site, though, we’ve been working this way for years, so the pandemic really didn’t impact our work in any significant way.

Brian
In your view, what has changed most dramatically in the field of writing centres during your career? Where do you think we are going?

Linda
During my time in writing studies, one of the most dramatic changes I’ve seen is the move of all learning, including writing instruction, to a virtual environment. This has required thinking about teaching and learning writing in a different way; for instance, incorporating gaming approaches and rewards into a learning design. Oddly enough, this seems to have been accompanied by less emphasis on grammar among some faculties. I find this odd because grammar is the “skills” part of writing instruction that fits well with online learning designs.

In these last 20+ years, I’ve also seen the definition of what constitutes academic writing become broader. Students now present assignments and theses in the form of videos, podcasts, and multimedia presentations and this requires writing instructors to teach academic discourse for those media. There is value in this shift, given that our means of communications has so expanded dramatically in the last 20+ years. However, keeping in mind McLuhan’s principle that the “medium is the message,” I think the challenge is to maintain the rigour and seriousness of academic writing within those contexts. If an academic presents research methods and conclusions as a series of cartoon slides with minimal text, is the audience going to take those conclusions as seriously as they would if they were laid out in a carefully argued text? Should they? Is it possible to develop the same depth of thought and meaning in that medium? Maybe this shift just means that writing instructors have to put more emphasis on the importance of the writing occasion.

Brian
Thinking about your career, what moments are you most proud of?

Linda
One of the things I’m most proud of is taking part in building the Write Site from the ground up. I got to work with some pretty amazing people, both from writing studies and IT, and it was very gratifying to watch our department take shape and then go on to serve students across AU. More generally, I feel very privileged to have been a writing instructor, helping students to acquire skills that helped them in their university careers and beyond. I have always been proud to work in writing studies as I believe that teaching students to express their ideas clearly in writing is one of the most important skills they can have for university and life.

Brian
What are your plans now that you’re retired?

Linda
I tutor medical students who are having difficulty of some sort with communication, and I’ll continue with that to keep my hand in. I’ve also got a number of writing projects, including a memoir of my mother’s life that I’ll finally have more time for. And I’m looking forward to doing more cycling, kayaking, and snowshoeing.

Brian
I want to thank you for this, and for your care and support of students over the years. Your work has impacted many, many people. Thank you!