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Focus on writing

The Writing Center offers peer-centered support and education

By Kory Riemensperger ('13), Intern Office of Communications and External Relations
Photo of The Writing Center at WFU
Graduate student Sarah Schaitkin helps sophomore Mallory Burgess with a writing assignment in the Writing Center on the last day of classes.

If you wander through the Z. Smith Reynolds Library long enough, you’re bound to come across an exhibit honoring the inaugural class of the Wake Forest Writers Hall of Fame. Names like Ammons, Angelou, McNeill, and Wilson stand out among the honorees, and each contributed to the culture of writing on campus.

Though this installation honors the past, today’s Wake Forest writers exercise their craft in a room just around the corner.

The Wake Forest University Writing Center, one of the more popular destinations for undergraduates, moved to the library in 2010, when it expanded beyond the Learning Assistance Center.

“To be located in ZSR is a big help,” says Writing Center director Ryan Shirey.  “Not only are we grateful to be located among students who are in the process of writing, but the opportunity to work closely with resources like the Reference Desk is invaluable.”

“The Writing Center is a great place to get help with academic writing … occasionally I have trouble organizing my thoughts on paper, and the way they help me lay them out makes the process of writing much easier,” says sophomore Lindsay Hudson.

The convenient location has increased traffic into the center. In a typical month about 250 students visit the writing center, either making an appointment or just stopping by to seek advice and feedback. You can imagine traffic is higher during mid-terms or finals. Though one visit is often enough to help a student get their paper on the right track, more than a quarter of these students return for a second visit. Surveys show 96 percent of students who used the center would recommend it to a friend. But don’t think the Writing Center is just a human-powered spell and grammar check, or that students just drop off papers to get them fixed.

“We’re entirely a peer review center,” says Shirey. “All the tutors who work here are students capable of providing an appropriate audience: a friendly ear that is able to respond critically to a peer’s writing and assist with challenges of thought and process.”

As a tutor at the center, Sara González works a few sessions every week, ranging from five minute check-ins to 50 minute discussions. Though students are encouraged to use the writing center as early in the writing process as possible, tutors are trained to assist their peers with a paper of any size or completion.

“We try to strengthen the writing process by avoiding proofreading the student’s papers for them,” says González. “By focusing on the process instead of a single assignment, the student can come away empowered and better able to communicate his or her ideas in an essay.”

Twenty-five Wake Forest students serve as the tutoring staff, and five of them are graduate assistants from the English MA Program. All undergo a rigorous application and training process to ensure they have the skills to tutor a wide range of students. A handful of student tutors even enroll in a unique “Tutoring Writing” class for additional practice and credit.

“Writing says a lot about the author, and if you’re not careful, it can say something that you may not want it to,” says Shirey, “our task here is to remind students that they’re already writers and help them to develop their skills in different genres of writing.”

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