USF Writing Studio

Archive for October, 2015


Encouraging Regulars by Remembering Little Things

Monday, October 26th, 2015 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Don’t you like being a “regular” somewhere?  As a creature of habit, I enjoy seeing friendly faces in familiar places.  I find something as simple as not having to explain my order to a barista or a friendly custodian asking about my research as some of life’s little pleasures; someone remembered and enjoyed an interaction with you enough that they were willing to follow-up about it.  Doesn’t this give you the same satisfying feeling as clean sheets on your bed, a full tube of toothpaste, or a good laugh with friends?
In my first semester working at the Writing Studio, I’ve found that a majority of the writers that come to see me are now “regulars.”  Sometimes we work for a few sessions on the same personal statement and other times we make edits to weekly online posts.  Regardless of the tasks, one of the benefits of having regulars is that we are slowly able to build professional acquaintanceships.  By this, I mean that I usually find the time to ask about some previous work we’ve done, a class they’ve mentioned as challenging, or even something slightly more personal as their off-campus job.  It’s also nice to recognize their faces and be able to call them by name.
None of these inquiries about little things are monumental investments of my time or mental effort.  As a matter of fact, I’m genuinely interested in hearing how their progress in class reflects the effectiveness of our work together. I hope to encourage the students in such a way that they’ll know they’re valued and remembered, and that their hard work is appreciated…especially as they progress towards their writing goals.
By Anonymous

Writing Centers and Minority Students

Saturday, October 24th, 2015 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

The reason I first became interested in writing centers was somewhat of a selfish one – I wanted an experience that was close to teaching so that I could add something nice to my resume before I graduated from Florida State University. Over the years, my relationship with writing centers, tutoring and students in general has become infinitely less surface and has altered my view on things a lot more than I initially anticipated.
Growing up, the extra work that educational workers put in with me was the only reason I was able to succeed. As a hispanic woman who came from a home that was not only unstable but also quite poor, free programs that were designed to help students with things like speech impediments, reading comprehension and writing were things that I constantly found myself attending before, during and after school. Eventually, I was able to overcome my speech impediment. I began to understand what I was reading and actually enjoy it. I also developed more self esteem, and felt comfortable being a total book nerd who also loved writing. In the year before I started these extra programs, my parents would never have believed that their daughter would enjoy reading, writing and speaking.
Despite all of these personal experiences, it was not until I began working with students from all walks of life (Florida State University’s writing center really only drew in traditional, young, caucasian students) that I started to understand the nuances of being a minority attending college for the first time. If these students come from a family of immigrants, much like myself, it is not uncommon for them to feel unsure how to navigate college life, and college writing, in their position as a first generation student. Typically, Although these students have a familial support system, they may be managing their own student affairs by themselves, seeking financial aid, advising and other needs without a great deal of parental support. It’s important to note that this is not because their family doesn’t care, but rather than they don’t know how to offer support to their child about a system they are unfamiliar with. Similarly, these students may be unsure about how to navigate their college writing if they are juggling a background of struggling with school and having to traverse multiple languages. This is where we come in.
I find that it’s extremely important to keep in mind that these students, whether they are “traditional”/young students or older individuals coming to school after starting life anew in the US, that every error or slip-up they make in their writing choices is a step forward. For minority students that are coming to college for the first time, regardless of their language status, I remind them that the shift in writing style is difficult for every student – not just them. High school writing differs greatly from college writing, and just because they were unsure about their writing back then doesn’t mean they will fail in college.
For the non-traditional student who moved to the United States, I find that it is extremely humbling to remind myself that these individuals likely held a comfortable position in their home countries, but were forced to make difficult decisions and leave for one reason or another. One student I had was a successful lawyer in Iran. Another was an emergency room doctor in Columbia. Both of these students were now attending community college and trying to work their way up to attend a school like the University of South Florida so that they can start again by receiving (another) bachelors degree and attend medical or law school all over again.
On top of going through the normal steps found in every writing session, considering the circumstances and backgrounds of the students can influence you to approach the session just a little bit differently. Taking the time to vocalize and address that, yes, the student is currently making mistakes, but there are countless students who come into writing centers that only speak English who make the same errors. The fact that they’re writing a paper completely in English, taking the time to work through it on their own then bring it in for feedback, creating another draft, and then dedicating more time to improve their writing and understanding (not just their paper) is an incredible step. Whenever I take the time, usually towards the end of sessions, to vocalize sentiments like these, the student seems to visibly relax and leave with a renewed sense of direction and hope, realizing that they are not in this alone despite the differing circumstances in their backgrounds.
By Nancy Roque, MA Library and Information Sciences

Consulting as a non-English major

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Having never visited the writing studio at USF before this semester, when I started working as a consultant here, I was not exactly sure what I was in for. After a three-day orientation at the start of the school year, I started to think that I might have gotten in a bit over my head. [For clarification, this is not to say that I felt intimidated by any of the people or the setting, because actually it was very refreshing to interact with non-engineers. Hint, hint- I’m an engineer.] What I began to consider was: What if my writing skills are not advanced enough to support some of the writers? What if I cannot recall some English language rule that I learned back in high school? I’m not an English major- far from it.
I knew that I would not fully understand what this new job would demand of me until my first consultation. I have spent a lot of time in the past tutoring students and working as a TA for a variety of engineering/science/math courses, but never for a subject so personal as writing. This is a significant shift for me that I am realizing I truly enjoy. A tutoring session in math, though student’s mathematical competence can vary dramatically, often follows the same structure: explanation of a concept, going over of example problems, and then practice practice, practice. (Seems a bit dull, I can see why it’s not for everyone.) Transitioning from this seemingly emotionless practice, to thoughtfully guiding people to be better writers, has evoked a new side of me that has been hidden behind the “science-y stuff” stored in my head for years.
Though some writing pieces brought to the writing studio are far more personal than others, I knew from the start that it would be important to gauge a writer’s personal connection to their piece, in order to give appropriate feedback. My first consultation ever was with a writer working on her personal statement for an application to pharmacy school. Her paper was written well, but lacked a good hook and any pizazz. She had significant experience working at a pharmacy, and I spent some time trying to getting to know her and getting her to divulge an outstanding experience that she could describe to start her essay. By the end of the consultation, not only had her personal statement dramatically improved, but I also felt a connection to the writer and her application to the program. (I wish we had a way to get updates on these applications!)

Any concerns I had before starting working at the writing studio have since dissipated. Even as a non-English major, I am able to showcase my experience as a writer and a reader to any writer who sits down at my consultation table. Not only am I encouraged by the potential improvements I can assist in delivering to incoming writers, but also by the restructured ways of thinking and teaching that I am gaining myself.
By Melanie Pickett, PhD Environmental Engineering

Helping Students Understand Annotated Bibliographies–Amy Bolick

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

In the studio this fall, I’ve been working primarily as an embedded tutor with an ENC 1101 class made up of 50% INTO students. The students in this class have been a pleasure to work with, and the experience has helped me grow as an instructor. It’s been great to spend such a large block of one-on-one time with writers who are working on the same projects that my own students are writing. This helps me to better identify the gaps in student understanding, and to refine ways of explaining important concepts. I am then able to apply this insight in my own classroom.
One of the most significant trends I noticed is students’ difficulty with the concept of an annotated bibliography. I had many embedded tutoring sessions where students would bring rough drafts of their annotated bibliography, and ask me when they were going to “Write the paper.” They could not understand that the annotated bibliography was the entire project. Additionally, I found that many students were intimidated and lacked confidence, simply because they were unfamiliar with the term annotated bibliography.
A large population of studio clients are freshman composition students, every last one of whom must produce an annotated bibliography. To help them navigate this assignment, I decided to make a worksheet for the writing studio that would briefly summarize its purpose and layout. The worksheet explains the purpose of an annotated bibliography, the format, the information that should be included, etc. This information will help students to better understand the significance of the assignment they are completing.
I am a firm believer that students perform better on assignments when they can see the value in them. The worksheet that I created for the annotated bibliography presents the assignment as a valuable research tool that can be helpful with any class for any paper. My goal is for students to not just produce an annotated bibliography, but to understand how this exercise can help them for the rest of their college careers. 
By Amy Bolick, MA Rhetoric and Composition

The Rewards of Working in a Writing Studio

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Having spent the last year working outside the Writing Studio, I’ve come to realize and appreciate more fully what it is exactly that makes this line of work so fulfilling. Some background info: I’ve been involved with private tutoring and writing center consulting for the past 5 years now and I’m going into my 4th year of teaching. I’ve been working with writers individually and in groups for much of my professional life, and I find the most rewarding capacity to work with writers is in the WS.
Before this semester started, I reconnected with an old writer of mine (from 2012-13). But some info on how we came to work together: She came to me a few weeks into the 2012 fall semester, an ESL PhD student in Engineering, looking to improve her communication skills in English. She’d worked with other consultants, but, as you’ve surely experienced, some consultants have a stronger connection with certain writers. We worked together twice a week for the duration of that academic year and developed a strong professional relationship that became a friendship. The opportunity to develop strong professional relationships with writers with such different interests and backgrounds is the first thing that makes this vocation so fulfilling.
During our pre-semester meeting this year, she told me that she had published the articles she was developing in our sessions in the top-tier journals in her field (ah, the reproducibility afforded to us by prepositional phrases [passive voice is the best]). The scholastic year we worked together (plus an additional year or so working with another consultant) provided her with the skills, confidence, and competency in English to produce the quality of work she set out to create.
Additionally, every week she spent hours upon hours outside of our sessions reading advanced English texts, harvesting unfamiliar words, and experimenting with more sophisticated idioms and syntaxes. Working with someone so brilliant and motivated 1) makes my job exceptionally fulfilling, and 2) brings the beauty of language and writing to the fore, even in the most desiccated of academic disciplines. And how refreshing it is to find art again here.
I mention this last point because it’s so easy for me to find myself lost in texts that obscure the very thing I love (sure, there can be pedagogical value in this…). Sometimes I find myself so far removed from writing-as-art, as a mode of expression or catharsis, that I question why I pursue this advanced degree. I don’t think I’m alone. But that’s why the Writing Studio is consistently rewarding. It’s so important to remember why it is I do the things I do. Probably the same for you, too.
So I left USF for a year and now she’s on her way out. She’ll do brilliant things with her career. But before she left, she referred equally brilliant and interesting/interested colleagues to work with me. Again I’ve got the opportunity to work with a student of language, someone that just last week spoke of the artistry in academic writing and how it bleeds into all other modes of communication. Once again I find myself in awe at my writers and how inspiring/inspired they can be.

By Ryan Blank, PhD Rhetoric and Composition

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