A Late Night at the Writing Center

Writing center helpers

Fighting the end-of-the-year drag we students know oh-so-well, students and tutors alike gather each semester in the Rowan Writing Center for the long NAP (Night Against Procrastination) event. Students take advantage of a first year writing portfolio station, workshops, slime and stress ball crafts, a meditation station, English language support, research and citation help, and free snacks. The center has about everything a stressed out student could need during the rush of finals.

student works in student center
Kaitlyn Gaffney works on her paper after her tutoring session.

This past semester, one of those panicked students, Kaitlyn Gaffney, a sophomore double majoring in writing arts and English, visited the center for the first time for NAP. With a whole paper to write, Kaitlyn sat down with a tutor to set up a plan for her paper before she even started typing. She found her tutor an easy person to bounce ideas off of and who asked her many questions to help develop her essay. Kaitlyn says the tutoring session, “Truly improved my paper and definitely expedited the process. I probably would have sat in my room thinking about what to write about for like four hours before actually doing it.”

Tutoring is the main focus of the Writing Center. Monday through Friday, students can make appointments or walk in for one-on-one tutoring sessions for nearly any assignment that requires writing. Tutors can help with traditional English essays, but also lab reports, videos, websites, psychology papers, and graduate theses. The Writing Center’s tutors like to say they can help “Any assignment, any class, any writer.” Students can even bring their personal creative writing to the Writing Center. Tutors can also connect students with on hand style guides and the library’s digital media resources. For students away from campus during break or without transportation the center also offers online tutoring.

To make a tutoring appointment, students can visit rowan.mywconline.com or tutoring center signwww.rowanwritingcenter.com. Once they have created an account, students can schedule appointments from the list of available times and tutors. After picking their tutor and appointment time, students are asked to fill out a form about their course and assignment. It’s recommended students be as specific as possible when describing their assignment, as it will help the tutor know how to best help the student. Students will even receive an email reminder for their appointment. How does a student prepare for a tutoring session? Bring everything. All the materials they have for the assignment are helpful, including any drafts, professor feedback, class notes, or a rubric. The more information a tutor has, the better they tailor the session to the student’s needs.

student tutor helpers
Tutors Cassie, Samantha, and Mike ready to help students at NAP.

When tutors Mike Fotos and Cassie Wilson were asked how a typical session goes, they reply that there was no real typical session, “because every tutor has their own style.” Cassie, a sophomore communication studies major with a psychology minor, describes her style as “laid back.” She listens to the student and asks them “What they want to get to out of the assignment and how they want to get there?” Then she can help them get to where they want to be with their writing. That is just one tutoring method. Mike, a graduate student with a master’s in writing, describes that there are many “tutor hats” tutors put on. Sometimes they are more of an “instructor” where they offer direct advice and tell the student what techniques will work best. Other times tutors are more of a “coach” or “friend” by asking questions and being supportive. As Cassie says, sometimes when a student is stressed over an assignment, you have to be the one who says, “Take a breath. Let’s sit back, breathe, and then let’s tackle it.”

No matter who a student gets as a tutor or what kind of tutoring style they use, a student is guaranteed a tutor who loves their job.  Cassie, a first year tutor, was struck by how “welcoming and open” the staff was when she started. For herself, “seeing people seeing their own potential” during sessions is what she finds rewarding as a tutor. Mike has been tutoring for four years. He started only tutoring one hour a week, rarely seeing students, but over the past four years as he’s tutored more and developed as a writer, he says he loves “being a part of those ‘aha!’ moments.” Now, as he transitions to an administrative role, he has led workshops for the tutors. Mike remembers leading a workshop and realizing he can “shape the way a resource is reaching out to the community.” He finds passing on his tutoring philosophy, teaching others to care for the students that come to the Writing Center, is incredibly rewarding.

The Writing Center also provides many resources and opportunities for their student tutors. The center holds professional development sessions, provides research opportunities, offers training in newsletter and grant writing, and chances to present at tutoring conferences. Tutors can even advance to administrative roles like Mike and run workshops for other tutors. Perhaps the most worthwhile benefit tutors reap is the personal growth gained through working with tutors and students. Cassie says, “It’s so rewarding that since working here I’ve been exposed to so many different lifestyles, so many different backgrounds. I feel like I understand the world a lot better than I ever could have without working here.”

NAP only lasted until midnight, but any student can find the tutors of the Writing Center in room 131 of the Campbell Library throughout the week eager, and ready to help any Rowan student.

Story by: Laura Kincaid, Swedesboro, NJ (Gloucester County), sophomore writing arts major