University Writing Center Blog

Posted on October 28th, 2013 by Jennifer Mahoney

by Denise Beck, Faculty Consultant, University Writing Center

My first semester of working in the UWC was fall of 2012 so this is my third semester for employment here, and it has changed my life in such significant ways. The most amazing point has been the people here and the atmosphere they create. When I was a new member, well-seasoned tutors welcomed me, demonstrated the software program we use to schedule sessions, explained the reporting process after a session, and answered my myriad questions with patience and skill.

Tutors in the writing center range from undergraduate students to professors with the PhD after their name, but those distinctions completely fall away in the writing center. In fact, those who come to the writing center are also people from all of those categories. Each of us brings different knowledge and skills, but we all have the same goal—to make individuals better writers. This one purpose unites us. We ask questions of each other and learn from each other. I have been in very few groups that manage to create such a positive atmosphere. In a world that often focuses on negativity, this is a refreshing change. I believe that many of the first-time tutees in the center become repeat attenders not just because of the knowledge they gain here but also because they are drawn to the positive environment.

Another positive is the diversity we encounter in the center. We serve many international students because they are not only learning writing skills but also language skills. They know that the center is a nonthreatening place where they can go to absorb, learn, and practice those skills. My own world has grown so much larger because of the contact with others from all over the globe. Even though those students come to us for help, few probably realize how much they give us in return. Often they are yearning to talk about their home countries and families. In fact, a few minutes of that kind of chat seems to relax them and allows them to trust the tutor they are working with.

And what are we all at college for other than the pursuit of knowledge? Every instructor knows the joy it brings when the teacher sees the proverbial light bulb appear either in the eyes or above the head of the tutee. While this doesn’t happen in every single 45-minute session, it occurs often enough to keep those of us who work here hooked. Suddenly a student understands how to construct a better sentence, or the student remembers a particular point or lesson from one session or paper and carries that learning over to the next paper. That, my friends, brings fulfillment.

Another kind of fulfillment for me comes from the knowledge I have learned from my work here. I have read papers about everything from the summaries of the various books assigned in Elementary Composition to literature reviews about educational issues, from innovative techniques for curing bladder cancer to how to prepare a tooth for a crown. Never in my life has my reading material been so varied in subject matter and expertise of the writer. And while I may feel like I could actually prepare a tooth for a crown, I promise not to try it!

The last reason I love working at the writing center is their simple motto: Writers Need Readers! Fortunately, when writers enter, they find not only readers but people who care about them deeply as individuals. What a splendid place I have found to work and what a blessing it has become in my life.