Writing Center is the right choice

Makoto Yamagishi

Justin Tyler, sophomore theatre major, has always had his writing assignments checked and revised at the Writing Center for better performance on his work. “For me, it is very important. I am not able to use proper punctuation or grammar and need help so that I can get a decent grade,” Tyler said. “It is of vital importance for WIU to provide the Writing Center. It is necessary because some workplaces look down on bad writing skills, and the school guides us to do better, so we may have a good place in the work force.”

Miyuki Hachisu, freshman family and consumer sciences major who speaks English as a second language, said she got more out of the center than just having her papers corrected.

“(Tutors) encouraged us to solve problems by ourselves, so that we can improve in the most effective way,” Hachisu said. “The grades on my papers started to improve dramatically since I started going to the Writing Center.”

Janna Haworth, English department instructor, said she appreciates the presence of the Writing Center.

“I encourage students to use the Writing Center,” Haworth said.

“I mention it on the syllabus, frequently in class and sometimes on student papers to encourage them to use the Writing Center on their next assignment,” Haworth said. “Students sometimes see it as a place to help them with mechanics and usage, but I also think that the grad students who work there are adept at helping students develop topics and organize material.”

Joan Livingston-Webber, Writing Center director, said it is critical for Western Illinois University to maintain the service of the Writing Center.

“Most universities have writing centers now,” Livingston-Webber said. “The Writing Center is important as a presence that supports the university in sending a message to all students about the value WIU places on writing. We train tutors on how to teach students rather than on how to correct texts.”

The Writing Center is a place for writers and tutors to work together. Rather than editing a paper clients drop off, the tutors will teach them how to proofread and edit for themselves. The tutors will also work with clients on every stage in the writing process, from finding a topic through invention, research, drafting, revising and editing. Tutors are also trained prior to the semester along with weekly meetings on strategies for working with writers and how to maintain a comfortable place for both the clients and the tutors.

All student visits are reported to the instructor on a form with a checklist to indicate what the session regarded. Some instructors require individuals to have the Writing Center visits and these forms are the documentation. Instructors who do not require visits like to know that a student is taking extra steps to help improve his/her writing.

Laurie Harris, Writing Center secretary, said students are given opportunities to be better writers at the center.

“It’s important to learn the skills necessary to make them better writers to help them no matter what area or degree they get. They come here to be better,” Harris said.

Jennifer McKee, English graduate assistant, has worked for the Writing Center since last year. She said she has learned lessons by working for the Writing Center.

“We have such a variety of students here,” McKee said. “Some may want help with a personal statement for a graduate application or an essay for class. The important thing is we don’t limit ourselves to just English classes because every field has a certain amount of writing you must do,” McKee said. “Being at the Writing Center has made me aware of how to write. When I demonstrate to someone how to proofread, that’s how I do it. I also learned the correct way to use a semi-colon. It was very exciting.”

Kelly Potter, Writing Center tutor and an English graduate assistant, emphasized the differences in the quality of the papers being revised by a third person at the Writing Center.

“A lot of students don’t realize how much they can get from just sitting down with someone going over their papers,” Potter said. “It’s especially important for the second language learners. It’s valuable for them to have more confidence before they turn a paper in. The idea is usually fine, but their papers need a little assistance. Some students have had a hard time transitioning into academic writing.”

The Writing Center is composed of nine graduate assistants and five undergraduate students this semester. Clients are encouraged to bring their assignments as well as to be attentive and ask questions. The Writing Center is located on the top floor of Simpkins Hall, in room 341. The center is a large, airy room with tables and six networked computers.

Appointments start at their scheduled time. Clients cannot be more than 10 minutes late as a policy for the waiting walk-in clients. They are not allowed more than one appointment per day.

The Writing Center is open from January 17 to May 5, 2006 from 9 am. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesdays the center is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. One can make an appointment by calling 309/298-2815.

There is also a Writing Center at the Quad Cities campus as well as FYE (First Year Experience) Drop In Centers on the Macomb Campus in Bayliss/Henninger, Thompson and Wetzel halls. FYE Drop In Centers have the same hours. Each center is open Monday through Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. and Sunday afternoons from 2 to 5 p.m. Those centers are staffed with one writing tutor and two math tutors at Bayliss/Henninger and Thompson and with two writing and one math tutor at Wetzel. No appointments are necessary.