The Writing Center was founded in March 2014, and has steadily grown in the years since. (Courtesy of UMass Lowell)
In a corner on the third floor of O’Leary Library lies the check-in desk to a tutoring center that many students on campus do not know exists.
“It started out with a paper notebook and a pen to sign in, and now we have student tutors in all areas of study including [English as a Second Language (ESL)], graduate school specific and online services,” says Sheila Torigian, administrative assistant for both the Writing Center and Advising Center. “We just need to get kids in the door because when they come once, they usually come back.”
The Writing Center has come a long way since its first year, but even now it may not be a well-known place on campus.
“I have heard about it from my professors and they always encourage our class to attend if we need extra help,” says senior Julianne Russo. She says that she has never used the Writing Center, but has had many professors tell her about their services.
“Since my freshman year, more and more of my professors have made it part of their syllabus or part of their paper assignments,” Russo said.
What students may not know is how the center works, which may make them hesitant to stop by. “Student tutors are not there to simply ‘edit’ their peers’ work. They are actually there to help them become better writers,” said senior tutor Alex Silva.
“Our goal is to work with students on improving their writing skills, whether it’s introductions, organization or properly citing sources,” says Silva.
Silva has been a tutor since 2014 and says she loves what she is doing for her peers.
“It’s very gratifying to be able to help my fellow students with their work, and I think they respond better to peers with criticism, and also feel less pressured than going to a professor’s office hours,” says Silva.
Tutors are trained to work with students of all majors, type of writing assignments and writing levels. In the past couple of years, they have expanded to using their resources to accommodate ESL specific sessions, as well as graduate specific and online sessions, according to Silva.
“Students can sign up for their desired time online using a scheduler on the Writing Center’s homepage. Here they can also pick with whom they wish to conduct their session with and at the time of day that works best for them; hours are 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Fridays. They may visit up to three times a week, with either a 30 minute session or a 45 minute session,” said Silva.
With classroom visits every semester, Write Night and the participation of other professors spreading word on campus, the Writing Center is opening its doors to more students that are eager for writing help.
Professor Mary Gormley, an English professor at the university as well as the director of the Writing Center, has been there since the center’s beginning stages of development.
“Since we opened in March 2014, our numbers have continually grown. In 2014-15, we did a total of 822 tutoring sessions. In 2015-16, we did 1,639 sessions and we increased to a total of 1,806 sessions for 2016-17,” said Gormley.
“All writers benefit from tutoring. There is no shame in working with a peer on your writing. The Writing Center is not here because students can’t write; we are here because students do write,” said Gormley.