College graduation is a very exciting time in the life of a young adult. This accomplishment is one to be proud of; yet the future for these recent graduates has become increasingly uncertain with the evaluations employers are giving to their most recent college graduate hires.
Forbes online magazine says that one of the most important skills that employers want, and that many students do not have, is the ability to communicate effectively, specifically: producing “clear and concise messages” and “tailoring messages to certain audiences.”
IUPUI has responded to this problem with the development of the University Writing Center (UWC), located in Cavanaugh Hall room 427 and the University Library room 2125. Sessions typically last 45 minutes and appointments can be made through the website—or by telephone.
According to the UWC website:
“The mission of the University Writing Center is to collaborate with both experienced and inexperienced writers, to serve as practice audiences, and to help students develop strategies for improving their writing process. Our consultants will help our fellow writers build confidence as they work to achieve their educational goals in a positive, intellectually-stimulating environment.”
Dr. Marilee Brooks-Gillies is an assistant professor of English in the School of Liberal Arts as well as the director of the University Writing Center. In her opinion, college students must be able to “have an understanding of their own writing strengths and limitations.” She believes that the UWC is helping students succeed in their “lifelong journey” to improve as a writer.
“Our mission is to make better writers, not just better writing, by talking with students and meeting them where they are in their writing abilities,” Brooks-Gillies said.
The UWC associate director, Jennifer Price Mahoney, made the distinction that the UWC is not there to simply act as an editor or proofreader. Rather, writing center consultants “act as a practice audience” to help students at any point in the process of their work with any type of written communication including: a piece for a class, a scholarship application, a résumé, or a creative piece.
The ability to work with any type of writing piece has opened the University Writing Center up to more departments and schools on the IUPUI campus.
“We’re seeing a bit of a shift. In the first ten years, we served 50% of our traffic from the English department. That has decreased dramatically in the last five years,” Mahoney said. “We are seeing a lot of students from nursing, social work, business, and engineering. We’ve done a lot of outreach, but those schools are realizing that their students need writing skills.”
Kristen Krockenberger, a junior in the Kelley School of Business, is studying accounting and finance. She has gone to the UWC for help in her classes over the last 3 years and has found it to be beneficial.
“I really like that the writing center is somewhere that students can go to have another pair of eyes read their work. It is really helpful to students, because it allows them to have someone who may not know the exact topic that well read their material and give honest feedback on whether it makes sense or not,” Krockenberger said.
As of now, funding for the writing center comes from a combination of sources and varies from year to year, according to Dr. Gillies-Brooks. This year, however, funding is coming from the School of Liberal Arts, the English department, and University College.
According to Jennifer Mahoney, these funds go primarily toward paying the writing center consultants; but they also go toward upkeep of the technology and database systems, supplies, and fees for attendance to writing center conferences where consultants improve their skills in order to better serve students.
Jennifer Rojas, a peer consultant for the UWC, has been helping students with their work since the fall of 2013. According to Rojas, the process to become a consultant is quite selective.
“Based on my experiences, students who are interested will need to fill out the application, provide two letters of reference, and write a 500-word essay on why they want to work in the writing center,” Rojas said. “Once they turn that in, they may be contacted to do an interview. After the student is approved for the class, they will take a writing center training seminar with a six-hour per week internship during the fall semester. If they pass the class with an A, they will be invited to become peer consultants.”
At the end of any session, students are asked to fill out an online confirmation form that allows the student’s professor, as well as the UWC staff, to understand what happened during the appointment and how students can be better served in the future.
“I became a writing tutor because I love reading and writing, and I enjoy helping people learn the skills that they need to make writing less stressful,” Rojas said. “Even a long writing assignment can be manageable if it gets broken down into smaller pieces.”