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Chase Charaba, Online and Social Media Manager
This year the Pierce College writing centers have undergone changes in their operation and in scheduling appointments, which are aimed at improving student experience and adding cohesiveness between the two campuses.
In previous years, the writing centers at Pierce College Puyallup and Pierce College Fort Steilacoom operated with different concepts and traditions of what the writing center was supposed to be.
“Now we’re bringing both writing center’s under a common roof, so to speak – a common practice, common policies (and) common approaches,” District Writing Center Program Manager Keith Kirkwood said.
Kirkwood was hired during winter quarter to help the college meet its goals of improving student writing. Before coming to Pierce, Kirkwood helped start the first writing centers in Australia and worked at the Writing Center at University of Puget Sound. In the past, Pierce College hasn’t had a district writing center program manager.
“The reason we made (the position) is the college is starting to focus more on writing and improving student writing,” Kirkwood said.
Perhaps the biggest difference is the way appointments are made. Previously, students would show up at the writing centers and wait until a writing tutor became available. Now, students can make appointments all day Monday through Saturday.
“(Now) they know they’ve got that particular time that they can come in,” Kirkwood said. “They don’t have to hang around for half an hour and get frustrated because that’s what used to happen.”
Kirkwood also said that they’re hoping to get an online booking system set up in the future, available through the Pierce website. This program is only in the planning stages, however, and there’s no timeframe as to when it’ll be completed.
The changes are part of the college’s goal to provide more opportunities through the Achieving the Dream Initiative, a national organization that Pierce partakes in. One of these opportunities is making Pierce students better writers.
“We’re not just here to help good writers, or people who aren’t confident with their writing,” Kirkwood said. “We’re here to help everybody at any stage of the writing process or writing ability. Even good writers can benefit from a critical reader, a perceptive reader and have a discussion about their writing.”
The Writing Center is also trying to increase its visibility by scheduling class visits and holding events.
One planned event is an international write-in day on April 23 where students can come to the Writing Center and write with other people. In addition to the write-in, Kirkwood wants to have poetry readings.
“We’re also hoping to start doing some poetry readings, or just readings in general, maybe on a monthly basis,” Kirkwood said. “We’re just building up that opportunity for people to know more about what we do and what we can offer.”
Kirkwood is also providing opportunities for students to become writing tutors at both Writing Centers. There are currently eight tutors at each center. Some of these tutors are professionals, but Kirkwood is focusing on hiring more students.
To become a writing tutor, students must first apply pick up an application at the Writing Center. They also need a reference from a faculty member, a writing sample and an expression of interest.
“I’m looking for a person who’s a good writer, who understands the writing process, but (also) somebody who wants to or likes to help other people,” Kirkwood said. “It’s so important to have that kind of outgoing and caring attitude towards others.”
“Many students come in asking to get their writing edited or proofread, expecting that we’re there to simply fix any errors in their papers before they hand them in,” Kirkwood said. “What a handy service that would be, but that’s not what we do, and it would be wrong of us to do that because the writing has to remain the work of the writer.”
Instead, the Writing Center offers a reader’s perspective on a paper’s structure, argument and critical thinking and to teach students how to identify and self-correct errors.
The Writing Center can also help students understand their assignments and how to get started with brainstorming and outlining ideas.
“We’re more suggesting what to do and helping them with the (writing) process,” Peer Tutor Jonah Dieguez said. “We don’t edit.”
The Puyallup Writing Center is located in the library and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Updated 7:00 p.m. on March 9, 2016. A previous version of this article stated that the write-in would take place April 30. The date was recently changed to April 23 and has been corrected in this article.
It was also stated that applications were found in the Tutoring Center, but the Writing Center now has its own applications available.
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