Writing Fellows Program Takes Off

by Sami Thomason
arts & life editor

As of this semester, a major change has taken place in how students interact with the Writing Center. The Writing Fellows program, a facet of the Writing Center, is now in session, pairing volunteer Writing Center tutors to specific classes (also on a volunteer basis) in an attempt to reach and assist more students. This program, which Writing Center Coordinator Dr. Anita DeRouen designed, is flexible to what the instructor and tutor decide is appropriate.

DeRouen says the program is “designed to give focused help to students in classes where instructor would like to provide more directed targeted writing to their students.” To accomplish this, the tutor and the instructor make a plan based on how they want to engage the class. Some classes do this in the form of tutor-led workshops, in other cases tutors attend the class and give feedback on small-stakes writing assignments, and some courses have students attend normal tutoring sessions with a designated tutor. This system makes sure the tutor still has ample time for his or her own coursework.

According to DeRouen, the Writing Fellows program differs from the normal tutoring sessions by incorporating tutors from the beginning. “Normally, students come to us and any understanding we have about class comes through student or the prompt,” she says. “What this [new program] does is give tutors the opportunity to see how an assignment fits in context and flow of class.”

With the tutor in her own class, an introductory class for English majors, DeRouen can sequence her assignments to help them with writing specifically for the English major, and her tutor, who has already taken the class, can give “more disciplinary feedback centered on the English major.”

She hopes that the program, “helps tutors to further their own professional development,” and improves their normal tutoring sessions. The benefit to the students being tutored, particularly first-year students, is that the program can help with their writing portfolios and provide more focused assistance. DeRouen also hopes the Writing Fellows system will increase traffic at the Writing Center, as students realize it is more than just a required visit during the fall of their freshmen year. For the faculty, this is an opportunity to incorporate writing into classes in ways they haven’t been able to.

For now, DeRouen hopes to be able to supply a fellow for classes that want one and continue to offer regular tutoring. Her long-term goal, however, is to have fellows consistently working with most to all senior-level major courses and disciplinary courses.