Writing inauguration: STLCC one of the few community colleges to host event for student aid during finals weeks
By: CHRISTIAN HARGAS
The college is part of the International Write-In Association that spearheaded the first International Write-In, College Writing Center Supervisor Fran Hooker said.
“We are one of only a handful of community colleges since most of them are universities,” Hooker said. “So, we are happy to be one of the community colleges represented.”
The Writing Center strived to give students a central place to come together as writers and offer a range of available services, Hooker said.
“We wanted to offer students resources including reading tutors, reference librarians, and writing specialists to help students with their final projects,” Hooker said. “We also wanted to create a vibe and sense of community around writing. That was our main significance.”
There were different parts of the event that students found helpful, writing specialist Patty Kocot said.
“I think if nothing else, they found the extended hours to be helpful,” Kocot said. “Also,I noticed people got excited whenever Fran was doing the drawings. It was really exciting because one of the students I was working with won one of the gift cards.”
Writing specialist Harriet Clark said she thought the event went really well.
“I felt that there was a bond in the air of people working, talking and being productive,” Clark said. “I think it helped to work in an environment where other people were working and focused on getting things done. It is nice to know that you are part of a community of scholars, students and writers.”
One of the major challenges to writing is that it leads to procrastination, Hooker said.
“Writing is hard work and we tend to put it off,” Hooker said. “I think that having a group of other people who are doing the same thing can be inspiring for others to get the work done, so that was a goal.”
Part of the goal is that the writing center always wants to evolve, grow and reach out to students in different ways, writing specialist Catherine Essner said.
“We know that Meramec students have jobs and lives and all of these other different things,” Essner said. “We just thought adding this event would be a nice way to help take the pressure off of the students and to offer something that is a little bit different than our usual services.”
The writing center finds that they develop close relationships with students, Hooker said.
“They trust that they can share some of their personal topics,” Hooker said. “I think it is actually quite wonderful because writing is a process of discovery and when that moment happens — when you see that connection between ideas — you discover new things about yourself, the world and the topic you are writing about.”
The outcome exceeded the expectations, writing specialist Andrew Pryor said.
“I think it went well,” Pryor said. “It was the first time we have done a write-in, so I do not think any of us really knew what to expect or exactly how it was going to go. I think that what we ended up with was very successful.”
One of the nicest things about this little event is that it introduces students to the people who are the resources, here, Kocot said.
Writing can be very personal, Hooker said.
“What students are working on is self expression,” Hooker said. “They are trying to convey ideas and formulate their own ideas in a way that will convey meaning to someone else. So, there is a very personal element to it.”
Writing centers are unique in the tutoring world, Hooker said.
“We find that many students, the first time they come to the writing center, have vulnerability because many times they have been told ‘you are a bad writer’ or they think they cannot do this,” Hooker said. “They develop this sort of fear to share something personal with somebody else.”
Writing can sometimes be painful, Essner said.
“We are writers, teachers of writing and this is our field,” Essner said. “I feel like that is a big strength of the writing center — that we can relate to the fact that this is hard, this is painful, but we are here to make it less painful and easier to get through. I hope we can achieve the right balance.”
The specialists in the writing center have a lot of training to help students, Hooker said.
“We act as a leader, a sympathetic, educated leader who can read your document for you and help you see whether you are connecting with your audience or not,” Hooker said.
It is also the perfect opportunity to celebrate the students, Essner said.
“We celebrate them with what they are doing, hunker down with them and just have a little solidarity to help them get through,” Essner said. “I think that worked out well.”
It is amazing to work with students and see what we are talking about actually click, and then to see them get excited about the writing, Kocot said.
The main goals of the event were geared toward the students, Hooker said.
“Our goals are to help students understand and know about the services that are available in the writing center and the library,” Hooker said. “Also, to help them prevent procrastination on their papers and bring that sense of community around writing on campus.”
I think the nicest thing was that students came and made it into what they needed it to be, Essner said.
“It was a really comfortable, welcoming environment where everybody collaborated and got the help they needed,” Essner said. “Based on the success, we would like to make this an annual event.”
“We have been taking notes all evening about how we are going to be able to make changes if we do this again, but it is definitely a goal,” Clark said.
The International Writing Center Association has the Write-In event every semester, Hooker said.
“I do not know if we will do it every semester, but I definitely think we will do it again,” Hooker said. “We will have to talk about it, but I would like to make it at least an annual event.”
The prospect of hosting the Write-In event annually is a good idea, Kocot said.
Obviously, this being the first, we are probably going to tweak and adjust some of the things we would be doing. But I think the benefits of this event far outweigh the costs, Kocot said.
“We will debrief and see what everybody thinks, but I definitely see us doing it at least once a year, maybe even every fall,” Hooker said. “We may have it end a little earlier or start a little earlier. We will talk to some students and see what they thought about it. Now that we have one under our belt, the next one will not be so challenging to plan.”