Students seek help on essays
The Farnham Writers' Center was established 26 years ago and continues to thrive as more and more students fully realize the benefits that can be reaped from the College's peer-tutoring system.
"We're here to help with any step of the writing process," Assistant Director of the Writers' Center Laura Webb says. Webb who works with Visiting Professor of English and Director of the Writers' Center Paula Harrington to manage 30 student tutors.
They also teach a special tutoring class that trains student tutors to help any student on a paper for any class at any step of the writing process.
The tutoring course, EN214, combines composition and rhetoric theory. As a part of the class, students define what is good writing and what is bad writing. After establishing hallmarks of good writing in every subject, the tutors-in-training observe a tutoring session, tutor a tutor and finally tutor a student.
Jackson Clark '12 is an English major and has been a tutor since his freshman year, when a professor recommended EN214 to him. When asked what kinds of students come to the Writers' Center and from what classes, Clark replied that there is "definitely a wide variety."
One example of the diversity among Writers' Center tutors is Adam Spierer '13 who is currently enrolled in EN214 and who is considering majoring in Biology. Spierer had never been to the Writer's Center before taking the class but decided to become a tutor because he wanted to expand his background and "it seemed like a good idea being a science major and having a strong writing background."
After being tutored as an assignment for the class, Spierer felt that his "paper was significantly better" and that his tutor helped "open [his] eyes to see what needed to be fixed in the broader scope of the essay."
Already this year there has been a 31.5 percent increase from last year in the number of students who come to be tutored at the Writers' Center. Almost 300 students met with tutors over the course of first semester and JanPlan, and Webb and Harrington say that they are expecting to have completed a total of 1,600 tutoring sessions by the end of the year.
This large increase in the number of students taking advantage of the Writers' Center can be attributed to several key changes that have been made this year. For starters, after talking to professors who said that they were looking for greater emphasis on grammar and punctuation, this year the Writers' Center has specialized Style Tutors at the ready who are specifically trained in grammar review.
Another new addition to the Center is the Writing Fellows Program, in which a writing fellow, or student tutor, is assigned to a class that has a writing-intensive project as a part of its curriculum. The writing fellow is then available to work with the students from the class on a particular assignment for which they may want or need additional personalized assistance.
This year also marks the debut of the popular Pizza and a Paragraph session on Wednesdays from 6-7 p.m., during which an example of poor writing is written up on the white board and students learn how to revise a sentence word by word in a comfortable environment--sitting with friends and snacking on hot pizza.
"It gives students the chance to engage in writing as a practice rather than a set of specific assignments or a skill that you might forget," Harrington says, who leads the Wednesday night sessions. "It's really just a blast."
It is quite clear that these recent changes to the system have had very far-reaching effects, and both the faculty and student body's response has been extremely positive.
Cindy Guan '10, a frequent visitor to the Writers' Center since her freshman year, claims that she has "definitely seen [her] writing skills improve" and that overall "everyone is very fun to work with, nice and easygoing." She adds that the Writers' Center is also great for "help with application essays," and the supply of good chocolate never runs out.
When asked what could be improved about the Center on the exit evaluations that students are asked to complete after their tutoring sessions, most say "nothing" and sometimes even add that they wish their session had been longer.
With its Pizza and a Paragraph on Wednesday nights, a perrenially full jar of chocolate and all the writing help you could want, the Writers' Center offers feedback and writing guidance that will last a lifetime. To sign up for a one-on-one tutoring session, go to http://www.colby.edu/academics_cs/acaddept/writerscenter/index.cfm.