University of Minnesota
center for writing

Center for Writing alumni—Jake Grossman

read another alum's response

11 Questions for Center for Writing Alums

  • Your name: Jake Grossman
  • Your email:
  • When did you work with us? 2016-2018
  • What was your role? writing consultant, Dissertation Writing Retreat consultant
  • What education and/or occupation(s) have you pursued since working with us? Postdoc at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, where I study the vulnerability of maples to climate change.

Reflections on your center experience:

  • Did your work with us influence your educational or occupational choices? If so, how? I think and hope that my work at SWS principally influenced *how* I do my current job and how I will do future jobs. Basically, I am a scientist and a mentor-educator. As a scientist, I communicate all the time: in oral presentations, peer-reviewed journal articles, writing for the general public, trainings for teachers and naturalists, and even in the creation of data-driven images meant to communicate my research. Because of my time at SWS, I am more intentional and optimistic about the opportunities afforded by all these avenues of communication. Some scientists see the duty to communicate as a box to be checked on a CV; in part due to my work at SWS, I value the opportunity to tell stories and shape the discussion of important environmental matters. Working at SWS also affirmed my existing commitment to work as a mentor-educator. Again, these roles can, in our banking model of education, feel like rote responsibilities. My work as a Consultant awakened me to the idea of exploiting the many opportunities for liberation that occur in a mentoring or teaching relationship. This awakening has profoundly influenced the impact I wish to have in my career in higher education, whether in the classroom, lab, field, writing center, etc.
  • What are the most significant abilities, values, or skills that you developed in your work with us? The first value that comes to mind is connection. Two years and consultations with hundreds of clients at SWS had the effect of purging any fear or insecurity I had regarding my own capacity to connect with clients. As an SWS alumnus, I have a lot of confidence that, given good intentions and time/space, I can connect with others, even those who seem very different than I am, and do meaningful work with them. An important skill that I honed is to ask better open-ended questions and work more attentively to discriminate my own agenda from others' needs. This discrimination (and the capacity to act on it!) feels like it constitutes an important part of helping. Finally, a value that SWS affirmed was the belief in spaces which are radically safe and inclusive, while also functional. In past work in the social justice and service worlds, I have often felt frustrated to be part of groups that either feel like they have good values but don't get anything done or effective groups that don't live up to their expressed values. Having been part of an institution that does amazing work ethically, I know this is possible and feel affirmed in striving for such a balance.
  • In your personal and professional life today, how do you find yourself using what you learned from working with us? Ha - perhaps sometimes to the detriment of my own pleasure reading and writing, I am now an unofficial editor for many people in my personal and professional life. But I love doing this and having the credentials of "former writing consultant" give me the guts to volunteer my help. Beyond finding myself a more confident and generous editor of others' and my own work, I also deeply cherish the personal relationships engendered by work at SWS. The friendships I maintain with former colleagues are deeply meaningful and supportive to me, and, I also have enjoyed connecting with "Writing Center people" I encounter in the broader world. It always feels as though there is a special bond there.
  • Anything else you want to tell us and your fellow Center alums? When I was preparing to leave SWS, Katie Levin suggested that, in order to stay connected to those great SWS vibes, I volunteer at the tutoring non-profit 826 in my new city. I highly recommend this to other alumni living in cities that have 826. I only volunteer for an hour a week, but find this manageable commitment deeply gratifying and fun.
  • Provide a link to your personal or professional website (if you’d like to).