Twice as many students using writing center

Thanks to funding from the UW College of Arts & Sciences, the center’s staff has grown from 12 tutors to 64 in the past four years, and the bulk of that growth happened within the past two.

“Our goal is to remove barriers to access, to offer a range of convenient hours and sites to make it as easy as possible for people to visit us,” OWRC Director Jenny Halpin said. “We really believe that all of us at UW both deserve and benefit from the chance to talk about our writing with someone who will really listen, who knows how to listen, and knows how to talk about writing, too.”

With more than 450 one-to-one writing tutoring appointments available per week, the OWRC is aiming to offer around 13,500 appointments this academic year, a major increase from only 4,000 a couple of years ago. In particular, the center’s Targeted Tutoring program, offered to small groups of English language learner (ELL) students enrolled in reading- and writing-intensive courses, has seen a significant expansion.

“The program has gotten really positive feedback from the ELL students we’ve worked with so far,” Halpin said. “We’re thrilled to now be able to offer it in conjunction with more courses than ever before.”

Halpin said ELL students have talked about the difference it makes in their experience of the course, how much less isolated they feel, and how much they would recommend Targeted Tutoring to friends.

Yunfei Zhao, Targeted Tutoring coordinator, said the program helps students gain the ability to troubleshoot their way through problems.

“We do not focus on individual writing essays nor specifically what a certain paragraph talks about in the assigned readings in Targeted Tutoring,” Zhao said. “Instead, we encourage ELL students gain their own troubleshooting knowledge by doing brainstorming on essay prompts and discussing reading strategies.”

Zhao said in such sessions, tutors encourage students to ask each other questions and answer each other’s questions to expand conversation.

“Tutors would never be the persons who provide the ‘correct’ answers at the first time,” Zhao said.

While Targeted Tutoring and one-to-one tutoring are the center’s two biggest programs, the OWRC also offers an extensive series of workshops for both undergraduate and graduate students in conjunction with UW Libraries.

For the OWRC staff, the benefits of helping students make the work worthwhile.

“The most rewarding part for me is helping students reduce anxiety and see that they indeed have strengths as a writer,” said Mandy Hobmeier, a tutor for graduate students. “So many students just lack confidence, and our conversations frequently help build confidence, even if only by a little. I like giving students tools they can use in other writing contexts than just the one we are discussing. Also, because we work with students from so many disciplines, I end up learning a lot myself.”

Reach reporter Joe Veyera at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @JosephVeyera

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