Good communication is critical: Center for Written, Oral and Visual Communication now open for students at Fondren Library

This week marked the opening of Rice University’s Center for Written, Oral and Visual Communication (CWOVC), a key part of the new Program in Writing and Communications that the Faculty Senate approved last November. The bright, glassed-in center is located on the second-floor mezzanine of Fondren Library, and its writing and communication skill-enhancing services are now available to all Rice students, from freshmen to Ph.D. candidates, as well as postdocs and visiting scholars.

The goal of the center is to help make students’ written, verbal and visual communications – from simple papers to PowerPoint presentations to doctoral dissertations and conference proposals – clear, well-structured and persuasive. All are critical skills in a world where the effective presentation of information and ideas matters. The plan approved by the Senate also revised the graduation requirements so that all first-year students must take a discipline-based writing-intensive seminar.

Jennifer Shade Wilson

The center’s opening also marks a homecoming for new director Jennifer Shade Wilson, who graduated from Rice in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in English.

Wilson is passionate about the center’s mission. “We think of our services as a coaching or feedback session,” she said. “We’re not a fix-it shop. We will talk about a particular text that a student brings in and about how he or she could better communicate ideas.”

Wilson served in Rice’s admissions office from 1995 to 2002 and rose to the position of associate director of admission. She earned her master’s degree in applied English linguistics at the University of Houston in 2004, after which she served as assistant director of the University of Houston Writing Center, where she supervised its English as a Second Language (ESL) writing and other programs. Recently, Wilson completed her doctorate in second language education at the University of Toronto, where she also worked as a teaching assistant and taught writing and speaking courses to international graduate students.

Wilson hasn’t had much time to process her feelings about her homecoming but said she is excited by the opportunity to lead the center. “It’s really fulfilling professionally because, as a former student and based on my work at other centers, I know how much Rice students will be able to benefit from a program and center like ours,” she said.

In addition to individual sessions, the center plans to offer workshops on oral presentation and visual and multimedia communication technologies for undergraduates, graduate students and faculty.

The center’s staff includes program coordinator Shar’-Lin Anderson and associate directors Elizabeth Festa and Kyung-Hee Bae, who have broad experience in working with ESL students, teaching with technology and analyzing visual rhetoric and design. They supervise nearly 60 undergraduate and graduate student communications consultants who are available to engage with students in one-on-one or group settings. Informal consultations can take place in the center’s main area or in one of the presentation technology-equipped “smart” rooms.

Students interested in the center’s services are welcome to schedule 40-minute appointments via the website, The center is open seven days a week and consultations may be scheduled between 8 a.m. and midnight.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.