Writing Center provides vital service to students

One of the defining features of St. Edward’s University is the academic emphasis on writing. Most universities require two semesters of rhetoric and composition classes to inoculate first year students on their undeveloped writing habits. Not only does St. Edward’s  require these course for freshmen, along with writing intensive Cultural Foundations classes and Capstone to lay down a base of strong writing, but we also have the Writing Center.

The strength of the Writing Center is its flexibility. According the Office of International Education, we have 375 students on campus from around the world. It is important to recognize that these students sometimes speak a language other than English as their first language. The tutors at the Writing Center must accommodate all kinds of students with a variety of writing problems.

According to the director of the Writing Center, Professor Drew Loewe, the tutors work in four hour shifts with each tutoring session lasting an hour. In four sessions, a “tutor could be scheduled to work with a student with a learning disability, a student from Bahrain, a strong writer, and a student working on Capstone.” Tutors have to be able to adjust to the demand of varying students.

What is great about going to the Writing Center is that the tutors are usually adjuncts who have been teaching at St. Edward’s for 10 years or longer.

They are experienced at working with writing assignments that are distinct to St. Edward’s. We have Capstone, CULF papers and a range of professors from philosophy to biology who are particular about the way they want their assignments completed. The tutors at the Writing Center are used to working with these assignments and know how to help students.

Often tutors simply begin sessions by reading the paper out loud with the student. “It was really nice to actually talk to someone about the organization of my paper. As they read it, we could both see where I made mistakes. We could see what did and what didn’t work, ” St. Edward’s graduate Lesli Simms said. SImms graduated with an English Literature degree in 2012. 

Loewe, and most likely other writing professors, feels that the Writing Center is structured in the most ideal way to teach writing— one-on-one coaching. In this setting, professors talk directly to students and identify minute problems that a professor would never be able to address in the classroom.

The Writing Center greatly benefited from the Munday Endowment. Once located in Sorin Hall, the center is now on the second floor of the Munday Library. While the building was under construction, Loewe worked directly with planners and architects to tailor the center to students needs.

Loewe’s next step for the writing center is to work on what he calls “the whole ecology of writing.”

The goal for students is to have them return to the Writing Center and for the tutors to build a working relationship with the students, so they do not only come in for help on one paper, but instead gradually learn how to be better writers. 

The Writing Center is also becoming dynamic. Since 2012, they have been using software to keep tabs on the notes tutors send back to professors. After a session, the tutor will send back a short report detailing what the student worked on for the professor’s assignment.

Through these notes, and through other information, the Writing Center can now analyze data and shape their program even more to the students’ needs. What they have already discovered is that from looking at session registration information, and then session reports, students are pretty good at assessing their own writing strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to remember just how mindful the students are. This is strong data. The writing center is an asset to our school.