Robert Hakan Patterson

Robert Hakan Patterson


  • BA in English, Washington University in St. Louis
  • MA in English and American Literature, Washington University in St. Louis
  • PhD in English and American Literature, Washington University in St. Louis

Dr. Patterson has been a part of the Washington University community for over 26 years. Prior to assuming his current role as director of The Writing Center, he led writing programs at Cornerstone: The Center for Advanced Learning and served as assistant director of Writing 1 in the Department of English. He has 21 years of teaching experience in literature, academic writing and the general humanities, and his teaching has been recognized with the Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence and the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. Dr. Patterson has also worked abroad in Istanbul, Turkey where he taught academic writing to international scholarship recipients accepted to social science graduate programs and law schools in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his role as director, Dr. Patterson teaches a variety of literature and writing courses, including Monsters in the Middle Ages, Argumentation, and Critical and Researched Writing. He has served as a four-year academic advisor and on the prehealth and pregrad advising teams in the College of Arts and Sciences.

What brought you to The Writing Center?
I first came to Washington University as a first-generation college student. Even then, I knew I wanted to stay here to serve those who would come after me. Over time, I discovered a passion for writing (probably because of my troubled relationship with it), and that passion led me to The Writing Center – a place where writers come together to serve other writers.

What do you like most about working with writers at The Writing Center?
Here I get to talk to writers about their work – about the subjects and issues that are important to them. I get to learn about something while getting to see how that something motivates and drives the writers sitting next to me.

What do you find most challenging about writing?
Following my own advice and getting started early even if it means getting a few sentences written. When faced with a writing task, it’s all too easy to fall back into the same habits I had when I was in college. I still seem to put things off as long as I can. The only difference now is that I can’t keep my eyes open past 10:00 p.m., so pulling all-nighters is a no-go.

What advice do you have for writers?
Show your writing to as many people as you can. Talk to them about it. A piece of writing is ultimately destined to be read by a real person, so use real people as part of your writing process. And if you haven’t written anything at all, talk to someone about the assignment, what you’re thinking about writing – anything at all. A good conversation can jumpstart the process.