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The Writing Center: offers more than paper editing

If you are one of those people who prefer talking to writing, a visit to the campus Writing Center may be more than just an academic resource. It might also be a good chance to chat it up. Any student who has struggled with finding the right wording in a paper knows that the underlying struggle can often be clarifying a main idea.

For those attending our Vancouver campus, the Writing Center offers you a chance to do just that, through peer-oriented, open discussion with Writing Center consultants.

Kandy Robertson, the head of WSU Vancouver’s Writing Center, attests to this phenomenon. “Grammar is the go-to problem people come in saying they have. Often, it’s thesis. That’s where we start. Is there a point…that’s identifiable?”

When asked if people often have misconceptions about what a writing center does, she responded, “Absolutely. People don’t understand the purpose of a writing center.” Elaborating, Dr. Robert- son added, “Writing centers are not remedial; writing centers are learning spaces.” Surprisingly, students aren’t the only ones con- fused about this. “When I talk to faculty members,” said Dr. Robertson, “I try to explain we’re not an easy fix.”  By that, she explained that they do not offer editing services, which are usually very ex- pensive in the professional world, and more of a hindrance than a help in the academic setting. “If we edit the paper, the student doesn’t learn anything,” she said.

More than anything, Robertson emphasized conversation, saying the Writing Center “re- quires two participants.” She also mentioned facilitative feedback. In other words, a paper is dis- cussed, rather than picked apart and edited.

Robertson maintains that the writing process is the focus. “You can spend a whole [meeting] focused on correcting one sentence and making it perfect, only to eliminate that sentence in the final draft.”

There are many ways in which writing center staff (called consultants) help fellow students find their academic voice through writing. Kristopher Molina, a new consultant, explained that process. To prepare, Molina said, “Come with something to work on, come with questions about it, and be open to suggestions we make.”

Molina backed up the philosophy of conversation creating better ideas, and therefore better writing. “The biggest trend [I’ve noticed] so far is that people really think we’re a polishing room and what goes along with that is that people quickly realize that’s not how it works,” he explained. He went on to say that many people come in not anticipating dialogue and participation, but then smiled, and added, “Once they [find out], they prefer the way we do it.”

Robertson also had advice for a first time visitor to the Writing Center. “Bring some questions and point out where you see weak spots,” she said. “Be prepared to have a discussion.” Grammar, she insisted, is not the number one problem in most papers.”

Another lesser known service that the Writing Center offers is online consulting. “This process takes longer,” Robertson said, “as written feedback lacks the immediacy of face-to-face conversation, and two consultants must review the paper, give feedback and discuss it with each other before emailing the student.”

Robertson clarified that online consultation could take anywhere from 24-48 hours, is not available on weekends and papers should be no longer than ten pages. She instructed any interested students to send their paper to writing center@vancouver.wsu.edu, and include “a brief note on the assignment and what to focus on.”

Along with consultations, students should also know that the Writing Center brings occasional workshops to willing and eager classrooms. These oft en cover specialized topics like personal statements and resumes, but more general themes are not discouraged.

While some students come exclusively to write a paper, Robertson also pointed out that the space itself is meant to be used by students as a resource. “We’re not a quiet space, like the library” she explained, “but a place to sit and talk about writing.”

For student writers, the Writing Center has it all: computers open for student use, a lounge area, coffee, comfortable seating, and—most importantly—good conversation.

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