Angelo State University’s Writing Center, founded in 1985, recently expanded its mission by sending its graduate assistant tutors into the developmental English course’s supplemental labs to work one-on-one with those students.
Going into the classroom has brought the Writing Center to the students.
“We exist to work with all students at Angelo State in all disciplines,” said Katie Jones, Writing Center coordinator. “This program was really created to support these developmental students who might not come in on their own. We try to make sure these students are successful through graduation.”
Some students coming to the Writing Center for the first time would hover with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Now, those students are much more comfortable because they know me from their lab. They will ask for me by name.
“Last spring, ASU totally redesigned the developmental English course,” she added. “It now consists of regular, traditional class meetings with supplemental lab time.”
The Writing Center’s graduate assistants (G.A.s) were assigned to the labs as facilitators to help students as they had questions.
“What we found is students responded really well to the tutors,” Jones said. “They felt more comfortable asking a peer a question because they are students, too.”
The G.A.s, too, enjoyed the experience.
“The students were comfortable that we knew what the teacher wanted but we weren’t holding the red pen,” said Kiah Rhea of Midland. “It became a mentor-type of position.”
The change also helped “demystify” the Writing Center.
“Some students coming to the Writing Center for the first time would hover with a deer-in-the-headlights look,” said G.A. Justin Hall of San Angelo. “Now, those students are much more comfortable because they know me from their lab. They will ask for me by name.”
The Writing Center, housed on the third floor of the Porter Henderson Library, has long been a resource to help students struggling to make the leap between high school and a college-level writing assignments. The center employs G.A.s working on master’s degrees in English or who have mastery in the subject as tutors to offer undergraduates help with understanding assignments, developing a thesis, using library resources for research and with formatting issues such as citing source materials.
In February, the Writing Center’s coordinators and graduate assistants presented their expanded program at the South Central Writing Center Association conference in Austin.
“A lot of people think the onus is on the students to seek help from the Writing Center,” said Marcie Puckitt, assistant coordinator. “This was innovative.”
Writing center administrators from 30 higher education institutions across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana attended the conference, as well as some from Maryland, Tennessee and New Jersey.
“It’s a really good opportunity for writing centers in our region to share ideas,” Jones said. “We thought that what we are doing here is innovative and effective. We wanted to share what we were doing. A lot of institutions reacted positively and quite a few followed up with us.”
G.A. Blanca Ruiz of Dumas said the experience added to her confidence as a future English teacher.
“I enjoyed that I could spend one-on-one time with them,” she said. “When I did student teaching, I didn’t get that because you are in charge of the whole class. I really liked the tutoring because you got a chance to bond with them and I liked seeing their confidence grow.”
For Dr. Nancy Allen, ASU vice provost and the Writing Center’s founder, the G.A.s are the life blood of the program.
“The Writing Center’s success is due to the graduate assistants and the peer tutors,” she said. “They always take such pride in their work and embrace the importance of it. A good many of them go on to pursue their doctoral degrees. I think this work bolsters their love of the discipline.”