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Changing Lives One Writer at a Time

Senior chemistry major and lead tutor, Tracy-Lynn Cleary, in red shirt, works with first year biology major Breanna McDermott.

Senior chemistry major and lead tutor, Tracy-Lynn Cleary, in red shirt, works with first year biology major Breanna McDermott.

When the poetry submission written by a Stetson business student won the Ann Morris Essay and Creative Writing Contest last spring, the winner committed her prize money anonymously to the Writing Center with an ESL (English as a Second Language) designation.

Today, the Writing Center’s inaugural donor hopes to blaze a trail and open new doors to support the Center’s worthy endeavors.

“Right now, we are living in the midst of a cultural crossroads,” the donor said. “The international student population (currently six percent on the total 2015 enrollment demographic) is a valuable asset to the university on many levels. It’s a segment that additional resource allocation would serve handsomely,” she said.

“We are working on developing more training and educational tools specifically geared at working with multilingual and ESL students,” said Leigh Ann Dunning, the Writing Center director and assistant director of Stetson’s Writing Program, whose doctoral coursework is in Composition and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). The money will be used to support upcoming tutor/staff training.

“I always enjoy working with international students because they have such a hunger to learn and a quest to better understand the English language,” said Alex Shimalla, Writing Center Tutor, Class of 2016. “I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to have all of these wonderful thoughts and not be able to communicate them.”

“Seeing the excitement when students understand concepts they struggled to understand previously makes the job worth it,” said Cameron Black, Class of 2016, another of the Writing Center’s 19 tutors (pictured as a group on Stetson Today‘s front page).

Tutors are hired from all disciplines: business, music, the sciences, history, to name a few. Tutors are poised to help students campus-wide. “That’s what makes the Writing Center so awesome,” explained Dunning. “We work with the entire Stetson community.”

Tutors work with students at any step of their writing process—from brainstorming to final revisions. One goal of every tutoring session is to make the student more comfortable and confident in their writing. “Tutors help many students overcome their fear of grammar—especially commas!” Shimalla said.

The Writing Center is one of the “most valuable assets” of Stetson University’s Writing Programs, said Megan O’Neill, Ph.D., associate professor of English and director of the Writing Program. “The Writing Center is a critical element that coordinates with and complements the hard work of the faculty who think of writing as part of the learning process,” she said. “When faculty and students work together on writing with excellence, no matter what the assignment or project, it becomes all about student learning. The truth is that it takes student support, faculty and staff work and thoughtful curriculum planning to produce students who are excellent, independent thinkers and communicators. That is what we do here – it’s what Stetson is for!”

By Caroline Skinner