Writing Workshop prepares for new year

In 1985, when Peter Grudin, an associate dean, became director of the Writing Workshop, he inherited a small, focused program of only six peer tutors. Now, 15 years later, Grudin oversees a dynamic, multi-faceted Workshop 61 tutors strong. Over the years, the Workshop has grown to be one of the most valuable resources on campus. Now, with several burgeoning departments, it hopes even more students will take advantage of its resources.

The biggest change to the Workshop this year is the addition of a new student drop-in center. Besides going to the traditional tutoring sites at Sawyer and Jesup, students can now go to Schow Science Library, Room 010. Grudin expects this new drop-in location to become popular, as Schow is already a studying hotspot.

The Workshop is also currently developing a new speech workshop. Similar to the drop-in writing centers, these workshops will be open several nights a week to students who want help with oral presentations. As with the other walk-in workshops, no appointment is necessary.

The writing tutors also encourage students to utilize some of the Workshop’s many lesser-known programs. For example, the Murphy Wing is devoted to students who want long-term help with their writing, since, as Grudin says, “certain problems cannot be cured in only one sitting.” Students in this program meet regularly with a private tutor for several semesters. Those who take advantage of the Murphy Wing can develop very close relationships with their tutors and benefit from instruction geared entirely to their particular level and writing style.

“I think that one of the most valuable things the Workshop does—and one of the most rewarding for me—is working with individual students one-on-one for an extended period of time,” said Todd Rogers ’01, a tutor.

Other Workshop programs on-campus include a budding science program (for lab reports and scientific writing), a tutorial for English as a second language and a special workshop for members of the Center for Development Economics.

The Writing Workshop is also extremely active off-campus, offering assistance at the local ABC house, elementary school and middle school. Finally, tutors are always available for help outside the designated hours and can be contacted to make an individual appointment any time.

With such a diverse array of services, the Workshop is extremely excited about the current academic year and is trying to increase its accessibility on campus.“We have a really strong, personable and enthusiastic group of tutors this year,” said Brian Connors ’01, student coordinator of the Workshop. “We understand that it’s sometimes difficult to work the Workshop into the busy paper-writing process, but we really urge everyone to come.”

The Workshop is founded on the philosophy that the best writing develops only after ideas are shared and discussed with others.“Just sitting down with someone else—one short moment of interface—stimulates new ideas and helps people articulate their thoughts in a new medium,” said Connors.

Aware that the Workshop is often viewed as an underclass phenomenon providing “remedial help,” the tutors especially urge upperclassmen to utilize the Workshop.

“When you have more formed ideas and complex arguments, as you often do in upper-level courses or for a thesis, tutoring becomes even more useful and truly exciting for us,” said Connors.

One interesting aspect of the Writing Workshop is that the tutors view themselves less as “tutors” and more as experienced peer readers. They want to be considered simply as fellow students who devote their time to comment on their peers’ work.

“We see such a vast array of brilliant work in the program,” said Connors. “Sometimes the nicest feeling is the challenge of feeling insufficient as a tutor, which serves as a constant reminder to improve our own writing.”