Writing Center “Promotes Task of Writing”
Spring Arbor University’s Writing Center seeks to help students become better writers through individual consultations. According to Associate Professor of English Dr. Jeff Bilbro, “the Writing Center is an opportunity for learning.” Aside from copy editing, the Writing Center helps students with thesis, organization and clarity.
The Writing Center’s roots are from the former writing assistance program “Write Right. ” Bilbro said before he came to Spring Arbor, the writing program was just a few tutors. Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English, Dr. Kimberly Moore-Jumonville said “writing is part of life” and the English Department has been working hard in the past few years to improve writing skill and prepare students for life after college.
The English Department developed the required English writing classes as well as the department exams to ensure students are competent. They also created a faculty position where the professor would teach 18 credits and the remaining time would be spent building up a new writing assistance program, now called the Writing Center, instead of teaching the usual 24 credits.
In 2012, Dr. Jeffrey Bilbro was hired to fill this position. He had experience working in the writing center at Baylor University where he did his graduate work and developed a passion for improving students’ writing. The new Writing Center began in the basement of the student center and moved to their current location on the main floor of the library.
The current Writing Center tutors are different than the Write Right tutors. Bilbro handpicks them from students in his classes and recommendations from other professors. Interested students fill out an application and submit two essays to showcase their writing competency. Then Bilbro interviews the students. Bilbro said he looks for students with strong writing ability and good people skills because they need both to be successful tutors.
[Current Writing Center tutors, left to right, Bethany Hart, Hannah Dennings, Morgan Foster, Erin O’Connor, Carly Thompson, Kayla Chenault. From The SAU Writing Center Facebook page.]
Once hired, the tutors take a one credit class that teaches writing pedagogy and tutoring theory with Dr. Bilbro. Each new tutor is paired with a veteran tutor who acts as a mentor and observes tutoring sessions and gives feedback to the new tutor.
The Writing Center tutors handle approximately 600 appointments a year. Kayla Chenault, a senior writing tutor, said a tutor usually has two or three appointments in a day, but she remembers a time last semester when there were three tutors working and they had 41 appointments total that day. The Writing Center is normally open until 5 p.m. but on that day they stayed until 10 p.m.
Chenault organized both of the Annual Research Symposiums. To take part, students submit 5-10 page research papers. Chenault removes the names from the papers so submissions are anonymous in the grading process, and copies are made for the other Writing Center tutors to grade and discuss. The papers are graded on precision of language, originality of topic and the actual research.
The Writing Center also provides writing workshops every semester based on the most common problems students have during sessions. Chenault presented on Critical Reading because many students struggle with knowing what information is important in a text. The other presentations addressed the placement of commas, writing style and thesis composition.
Dr. Moore-Jumonville said Bilbro “promotes the task of writing.” She is excited to see his newest initiative take off. This year was the first Writing Intensive trip to Cedar Bend, where students and faculty were able to relax, write and offer feedback to each other. There were 18 participants this year and Moore-Jumonville said she hopes that the trip will have enough funding to become an annual event.
By Jenny Croizer