The center is run by Professor Lorraine Higgins and Professor Ryan Madan, who is slated to take over sole directorship next year.
“Outsiders might think that at a technical university like WPI writing happens only at the fringes of the institution,” says Madan. “But in a setting where project-based learning is such a big focus, complex social and technical projects rely on good writing that interprets, justifies, and communicates that work to others.”
Last year, 15 percent of the undergraduate population visited the Writing Center, along with 26 percent of the graduate student population. It’s a decent amount with the potential to grow if more students are aware of the services offered.
“Our services aren’t limited to course essays,” says head writing tutor Nicole Smolko. “We can also assist with oral presentations, IQPs/MQPs, PowerPoints, lab reports, resume critiques, application essays, and anything else you can think of.”
The Writing Center offers three types of tutoring services: individual tutoring appointments, small-group writing workshops, and designated tutoring for specific courses. Individual tutoring appointments are 1-on-1 and last an hour. During this time, a student is able to confer with a writing consultant on all stages of the writing process – brainstorming, drafting, revising, and editing. Madan elects to call staff members “consultants” in place of “tutors” because they “sit side-by-side with writers, helping them clarify their own ideas and goals rather than dictating quick fixes.” In addition to English writing, the Center offers specialty sessions in Spanish and Mandarin, during which the entire session is conducted in the specified language or the consultant aides a student with their Spanish or Mandarin course work.
Group workshops cover topics related to writing and oral presentation. Past topics include Paraphrasing and Quoting Source Materials, Eliminating Wordiness, MQP Presentation Critique, and Writing Literature Reviews. A newer program called English Conversation is also being offered. Non-native speakers can sit down in a group and practice their oral English skills with two consultants. All groups are limited to six, and often meet on Monday evenings.
The final program offered to students is Designated Tutoring. Experienced writing consultants are assigned to work with students in a specific course. They become familiar with course goals, assignments, and certain needs of the students with whom they work. Some consultants may also be assigned to a specific group for an entire term; for instance, a consultant might work exclusively with an IQP team.
If students are interested in helping others with their writing, they can become writing consultants by enrolling in Teaching Writing, a credit-bearing class offered through the Professional Writing program.
“The class teaches students about the writing process, the nuances of giving feedback to writers, and the social dynamics of the teaching/learning transaction,” says Madan.
The Writing Center is open Monday through Friday, with Sunday hours available later in the term. Walk-in tutoring is available but limited, as appointments take precedence. Students may register for a session online at www.wpi.edu/+writing. Sessions fill up quickly, so it’s best to register early. Email Nicole firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.