The Naugle CommLab founded the archive for Narratives of Reading, Writing, and Other Literacies (NARWOL) as a platform for publishing the literacy narratives of peer and professional consultants and center assistants who work in Georgia Tech’s Communication Center. The model for our archive is the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN).
During an afternoon workshop at the Southeastern Writing Center Association’s (SWCA) annual meeting, Dr. Jeff Howard, an administrator in the Naugle CommLab, and former CommLab director Dr. Brandy Blake conceived of the idea of collecting literacy narratives from CommLab employees. They were supposed to be drawing with markers and construction paper, but when inspiration strikes, you follow where it leads. You might end up with nothing, but then again you might end up with an archive.
The literacy narratives contained in this archive collectively recount the experiences that have informed the development of our consultants as multimodal communicators in today’s society and the ways in which those experiences contribute to each consultant’s communication skill set or consulting ability and persona. They further add a significant set of perspectives to the history of the Naugle CommLab and its dedication to meeting the communication needs of students on the Georgia Tech campus. The CommLab is a place (We have four walls, windows, roof, etc.), but more importantly it also comprises a dynamic group of people who dedicate pieces of their busy lives to the center’s work and mission.
During the spring semester of 2019, two CommLab employees, Jessica Pujols and Tho Van, began a spree of what they came to refer to as “shenanigans” in the center every Friday. Many of their shenanigans involved hiding pictures of cartoon narwhals around the CommLab and even writing a haiku about narwhals on one of the white boards.
Have you ever heard
The call of his majesty
The sea unicorn
One of their paper narwhals is still dangling from a disco ball suspended from the ceiling just outside the assistant directors’ office.
Eventually, Jessica and Tho delivered a formal presentation on their “shenanigans” at the International Writing Centers Association’s (IWCA) 2019 annual meeting. (You can check page 129 in the conference program, if you’d like, or even the CommLab’s Twitter feed.) They dressed in unicorn onesies and spoke on “anarchist pedagogies,” “fun art,” and, of course, narwhals. As a result of their work, the legendary narwhal exists as the Naugle CommLab’s unofficial mascot, the horn on its front making it an excellent foil to the official Georgia Tech mascot, the Yellow Jacket.
For employees at the CommLab, the practice of writing narratives is a useful skill that transfers well to other phases of their career, specifically as individuals seek to transition into graduate studies or the private sector. Learning how to talk meaningfully about one’s experience within different contexts and to different audiences can help students secure employment or additional training through effective documents, such as cover letters, personal statements, application essays, and other genres.
We foresee the composition of literacy narratives as a strategy employees can use to foster their own reflective practices and understand more completely the set of experiences and literacies they bring to bear on their work in the Naugle CommLab. Through reflecting on and writing about their own path toward multiliteracy, the consultants will ideally come to see these experiences as linguistic resources that continue to inform the way they behave in the situations they find themselves in every day. The Naugle CommLab sees NARWOL as an opportunity to invest in the professionalization of our consultants, an investment that will through fostering ongoing cognitive and communicative practice, also pay dividends in individual consultations with clients.
The NARWOL archive continues to grow, thanks to the contributions of staff members in the Naugle CommLab. At the Southeastern Writing Center Association’s annual meeting in February 2021, Dr. Howard and former and current CommLab staff members Hannah Lachmayr, Emily Nguyen, Rocio Soto, and Sophia Tone presented on their experiences composing literacy narratives as part of this project and the reflections and insights they had about literacy and writing center work as a result.