New center for writing is drawing students

Nearly one year ago, Bailey Beltramo sat in his barracks on the campus of Norwich University. The excitement of studying abroad in Ireland the following semester was starting to mount, and he was counting the days until he could leave snowy Vermont for the rolling hills of Ireland.

But before heading out, an opportunity to expand his resume and apply his knowledge of writing to help students presented itself.

The formation of the Norwich University writing center had begun and Beltramo was fortunate enough to be one of the few students asked to be one of the Center’s student-coaches.

“I was approached by Dr. Luedtke at the end of last spring,” said Beltramo, 22, a communications major, from Canterbury, N.H. “She was looking for students who she had developed a relationship with and I had her for class before. She knew my writing style pretty well so I accepted her offer and I started working this spring semester.”

Dalyn Luedtke, an assistant professor of English at Norwich University who is from Oceanside, Calif., founded the University’s writing center this past fall in 2016.

The main goal of this new program on campus is to provide a haven for students who are looking to improve their writing abilities.

“We make better writers,” said Luedtke. “If you are producing things for a writing project – whether it be a website, a cover letter for a job, or an essay for a class — we are the place to go.”

The writing center focuses on developing students as writers. It works on developing skills that can be applied to future assignments.

Rather than helping students by simply marking their mistakes and leaving them to make corrections on their own, the coaches at the writing work in collaboration with students.

This method allows students to form a relationship with their coach all while improving their skills as a writer.

“In the semester that I’ve been a coach at the writing center, I would say there has been a definite improvement in understanding,” said Beltramo. “One of the main goals of the writing center is to not make one assignment better, but to make students better writers on their own. We hope that the students can pick up skills that we teach and apply them to their writing.”

The writing center is operated by eight coaches who have seen over 300 student clients since the beginning of the fall semester.

According to http://www.norwich.mywconline.com, the writing center and its coaches have held over 250 appointments this spring and are busier than ever.

“I’d say my main goal as a coach is to further a culture of writing across the campus of Norwich University,” said Spencer Duhamel, 21, an English major, from Manchester N.H. “Whether the student is an English major or a criminal justice major, I would like to see students from every discipline develop their skills as a writer and use them in a way that not only gets them a good grade in class but also allows them to apply their knowledge in real-world situations.”

The coaches go through extensive training before being employed as tutors at the center.

“There is a base training in writing center theory and practice at the beginning of the year,” said Luedtke. “Our fall tutors had 12 hours of training and four additional sessions throughout the semester.”

The time and effort that the coaches put in just to be qualified to critique and teach writing is admirable but the commitment to working with students who may truly struggle with writing and writing concepts does not go overlooked.

“I pride myself on being able to help any student that walks in the door,” said Duhamel. “You never know who you are going to get. The student may have a firm grasp on writing mechanics or they could be a freshman who is still learning to write at a college level. It’s always a challenge but one that I look forward to.”

Proper writing mechanics and being aware of how writing is supposed to be done is something that the coaches encourage. But building and maintaining the skills it takes to become a proficient writer is something that comes through repetition and consistent practice.

“You see the improvement over time, not necessarily on one assignment,” said Beltramo. “There was one student I worked with on an ad analysis where he was able to develop these realizations about how he writes. It was great to see that he was able to pick up on some of the mistakes he was making and improve on them.”

Ad analysis is just one example of assignments that students bring to the center. Appointment topics run the gamut from introductory English classes to upper level seminars.

Seniors who are working on some of their most important assignments such as research proposals and senior seminar presentations have taken advantage of the opportunity the writing center has presented them. This has allowed students to fine-tune their work and be sure that it is as eloquent and well-written as it can be.

“It can be a daunting task when you are working with seniors who are writing a very important paper or even formulating their senior thesis presentation,” said Duhamel. “It is absolutely a task I am up for though. I believe that I have received adequate training and have enough knowledge to where I can sit down and help any student that’s in need.”

Distinguishing the writing center, which is still relatively new on campus, from the ever-present Academic Achievement Center (AAC) has been a challenge.

“The AAC is focused more on subject matter,” said Luedtke. “They are the place to go when students are looking for help on a chemistry assignment or any other subject. The writing center is where these students can come and learn the skills it takes to become a better writer.”

The form of assistance the students receive at the writing center in comparison to the AAC is completely different.

While students find the AAC is a phenomenal asset to have on campus and something every student should take advantage of, the writing center is working to develop its own reputation as a place to delve deep into writing theory and give student’s a  perspective on how they write.

“If I could distinguish the two, I’d say that at the writing center we are able to form a relationship with the student and gain a full grasp on what their writing style is,” said Duhamel. “We pride ourselves on working with any kind of writer and try and develop their skills to the best of our ability. It is a positive experience for both the student and the coach because we are both able to learn from each other and capitalize on the opportunity.”

Appointments at the writing center are very easy to come by. The Center’s doors are open Monday-Thursday for a combined 14 hours and an additional six hours on the weekend.

Students can schedule an appointment online at https://www.norwich.mywconline.com or simply walk in when the writing center is open, said Luedtke.

There was a total of 485 appointments in the fall of 2016 and 210 clients were seen.

Forty-five percent of these appointments were repeat visitors while 75 percent were freshman students.

In this spring semester, the center has seen an increase of upperclassmen using the help offered. Thirty-two percent of the students seen this spring have been upperclassmen — a seven percent increase from last semester.

The focus of the coaching strategy from the start has been very much process driven, a process where the student can present ideas and receive the help that they need to formulate these ideas correctly.

The student coaches’ ability to do this is something that only comes through practice.

I would say it comes through experience and repetition,” said Beltramo. “You have to go through the bad appointments and the appointments where not much is accomplished to be able to learn from your mistakes.”

Another big challenge the center faces is the fear students have of reaching out and asking for help. The student coaches note it’s not always easy for students to understand that their writing style isn’t at the level it should be.

“One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen is just getting kids to walk in the door and ask for the help they need,” said Duhamel. “I understand the hesitations. It takes a student who can look at their writing objectively and realize that it’s not where it needs to be.”

Growing the writing center’s popularity on campus is next in the process. While there has been a significant increase in usage this semester, there is still an untapped potential that can only be reached by Norwich university students committing themselves to developing their skills in writing.

“I have heard of the writing center but I haven’t been yet,” said Tommy Fitzgerald, 20, an accounting major, from Williston, Vt. “From what I’ve heard, they are very good at helping students learn what kind of writer they are and develop the skills to make them better.”

To receive more information about the writing center, Dr. Dalynn Luedtke’s office is located in Webb Hall, room 103.The center itself is located just above the mezzanine level on the second floor of the Kreitzberg library.

 

 

Speak Your Mind

*