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New Directors Lead Oral and Written Communication Centers


Jennifer Ambrose and Amy Gaffney have stepped into the roles of director of the Writing Center and Oral Communication Center respectively, filling the vacancies left by two longtime center leaders. Writing Center Director Sharon Williams and Oral Communication Center Director Jim Helmer retired this summer after serving, collectively, more than 60 years at the College.

For the past seven years, Jennifer Ambrose has been the assistant director of the Hanson Center for Technical Communication at the University of Iowa. Ambrose began her writing center experience as an undergraduate at Hartwick College, tutoring students preparing for a composition course. She earned a doctorate in American studies from the University of Iowa, where she also earned her master’s degree.

At the Hanson Center – in addition to hiring, training and managing a staff of undergraduate peer tutors and a professional and graduate grading staff - Ambrose expanded English as a foreign language tutoring, developed and updated website materials, and enhanced ways to track and assess demographic statistics by semester. In addition to delivering conference papers related to weather emergencies and Writing Center administration, Ambrose has co-curated a museum exhibit (at the University of Iowa library) on severe weather in the Midwest and co-authored a catalogue for an exhibition of Renaissance to Impressionist paintings.

Amy Gaffney has held an assistant professor position at University of Kentucky in the Department of Instructional Communication and Research.  She has a Ph.D. in communication, rhetoric and digital media from North Carolina State University, and an M.A. in communication from Kent State University.  She earned her B.A. in communication, with a minor in English/writing and language, at Bethany College.  

Gaffney’s research focuses on how students learn communication as well as how communication in the classroom facilitates learning of other content.  In addition, she has had extensive experience in working with faculty from diverse disciplines to integrate multimodal communication into their courses. The author of several journal articles, Gaffney has taught instructional communication and technology, and communication theory at the graduate level. Undergraduate courses she has taught include public speaking and a range of communication courses, among other subjects.

Every Hamilton student is required to pass three writing-intensive courses. In 2015-16, the College offered 141 writing-intensive courses and 113 courses that stressed oral presentations. Last academic year the Writing Center held 2,423 individual writing conferences, and nearly 90 percent of seniors say they’ve had at least one conference at the center over the course of their four years. The Oral Communication Center held more than 600 conferences last academic year.

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