Writing Center 101: A Survey Course

Alex Bohen, Consultant

During my brief time working in the writing center, I have had the pleasure of working with many students from many different academic backgrounds. In my first few weeks of tutoring I saw a number of English 101 papers, all of which asking for an analysis of the rhetoric employed by visual ads. With this task I was given the opportunity to discuss the rhetorical building blocks of ethos, pathos, logos and kairos with students who were eager to learn and apply the topics. I was also given insight into potential uses of these rhetorical tools from the perspective of people who had not been influenced by in depth training, and this was eye opening. I have had the chance to read papers based on subject matter such as total mesenteric excision, functional groups in organic chemistry and learning based on cognitive psychological theory. Though I can’t say I am qualified to discuss these topics with due diligence, I am pleased by the fact that phrases that were once only jargon to me now made conversational sense. I have read papers arguing the merits of each of the stances held by candidates in the upcoming presidential election and because of that have in fact thought hard about political positions I held that I never before thought were up for debate. I have learned about societal ills like child and domestic abuse, as well as protocol for rectifying these ills, from papers written by students in the Kent School of social work. I have even gained insight into policing practices in Turkey.

While it is true that the writing center staff helps those people who attend sessions with various concerns, ultimately aiding in facilitating within them a more complete writing process, I find that I learn quite a bit every time I read through a paper. It is one of my favorite aspects of tutoring. Within the constraints of graduate school work, I find myself without much free time for independent intellectual exploration, and it has been incredibly interesting to read through papers on a spectrum of topics ranging from DNA coding and sequencing to The Secret Life of the American Teenager. To me, it has been as gratifying to tutor students as it has been to learn from them, and I look forward to expanding my knowledge as my work in the writing center continues. I have a group of physics students coming in for a session tomorrow; maybe they can explain string theory to me.

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