By Feiyu Su
“I was kind of intimidated, honestly.” Graduate student Evelyn Stone recalled the first time she attended a tutoring session at the Writing Center. “Because I wasn’t used to having people seriously critique my work.”
She quickly found out how useful tutoring was, however, as the tutor identified run-on sentences and points she could clarify better in her paper.
“It’s really hard to read your own writing and see what’s wrong with it because you know what you’re trying to talk about,” Stone said.
More than a second set of eyes, Writing Center tutors are thoroughly trained to review students’ work.
“The undergraduate tutors are honors students that go through a course long training,” said Bailey Boyd, assistant director of the Writing Center. During the training, tutors learn about the principles of tutoring and writing basics.
The Writing Center also requires new graduate tutors to undergo a three-day version of the course at the beginning of each fall semester.
Tutors go through additional training over the course of each semester, reviewing papers and critiquing each other’s responses.
Bella Ledonne is a Writing Center tutor. A senior studying broadcast journalism and economics, she had used the Writing Center services several times before she took the job.
One thing she loved about the Writing Center was that she could talk through her ideas with the tutor at the preparatory stage. “Starting an essay can be really, really difficult,” Ledonne said. The tutoring session allowed her to have somebody to bounce those ideas off.
Such conversations help students clarify their thinking, especially when they explain their papers to someone who isn’t familiar with the topic. Students can have that conversation even before they start writing.
As a tutor, Ledonne always starts her tutoring sessions by letting students share details about their lives, majors and projects.
“Really building that rapport and just being super friendly, and letting the student know ‘Hey, I’m here to help,’” she said. “I want to let the tutee know that they control this session.”
In the 2020–21 academic year, the Writing Center served more than 3,500 individual students in more than 12,500 appointments through its face-to-face tutoring and the Online Writery, which accepts submissions 24-7.
“It’s 100% free,” Ledonne said. “It costs maybe an hour of your time. And you’ll get some really, really helpful feedback.”