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Student services highlight: Center for Writing Excellence

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Prior to working with students, Carley Thiel and all CWE interns complete an English department course that outlines the best ways to support all writers with their work at any stage of the creative process.

The Center for Writing Excellence (CWE) is one of the many academic support programs that help Blugold students reach their goals. Staffed by a team of peer interns, the CWE offers support through one-to-one tutoring sessions as well as assistance on group projects.

Jonathan Rylander directs the CWE and says above all he wants Blugolds to know that CWE is for any student, not just those who might self-identify a writing struggle.

“When any student visits us in the CWE, our goal is that they will walk away with a better understanding of how to articulate their needs as writers,” says Rylander, who adds that “even strong writers need revisions; it’s part of the process for writing at all levels.”

Rylander has directed the center since 2017 and describes the CWE as an "inclusive space where all students and learning styles are welcome, a place where conversation and dialogue are at the center of building writing skills.”

The CWE sees an average of 2,000 students each academic year, a combination ranging from new first-year students to those who make use of this valuable support throughout their time as students.

How it all works from CWE intern Carley Thiel

We sat down with CWE peer intern and tutor Carley Thiel, a senior elementary education major from Green Bay, to learn more about the process for students interested in getting assistance with their writing and projects.

What is the basic setup for tutoring sessions?

We work on an hourly schedule, with 45-minute sessions starting on the hour. We start by setting up the intention for the session — what exactly the student wants help working on. It’s up to the student what the session focus is. One thing we don’t do, however, is simply edit work reviewing something they might bring in. It’s about dialogue and building skills.

Do you work with new and different students all the time or more of a repeating cohort?

Most students I work with come in for a few sessions and then feel like they have a better handle on college writing in general, but some come back over the years. There are a few I still see from when I started tutoring as a sophomore.

I love it when I start working with new students and can introduce them to all that the CWE has to offer. It can be eye-opening to find out all the ways the CWE can help; we’re not just here for basic editing and help on one project.

What types of work or projects can students receive writing assistance for?

Honestly, we work on everything, from papers, written PowerPoints, speeches or even a video script. It’s a super wide range of projects. They can even come in for more general help surrounding writing as it applies to their overall academic load.  

How do students find or choose their writing mentor?

We have 30-35 interns, in a wide range of majors. That’s important because a lot of students want to find an intern in their major, if possible, or something similar. Having a strong connection makes the sessions more successful, and having similar academic experiences helps a lot with that.

I also have known students to prefer working with different interns each time they come back — it’s up to personal work style and goals for various projects.

How do the interns and staff in the CWE work to help students overcome any reluctance to seek help for their writing struggles?

The intern team goes out on classroom visits each semester, talking about what we do and how to get connected with tutoring. Since I’ve been working here, we’ve also made an effort to reach out to students in those classes who are maybe shyer or, as you said, seem reluctant for various reasons to seek this kind of help. We focus on the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of CWE peer tutoring.

From our own outreach to faculty members who suggest our services to their students, the emphasis is on the CWE as an open, judgment-free and welcoming space — that is our most important message. We want all students to know that we are here to help, to support their growth through writing. Writing can be scary. We’ve all experienced that, and our goal is to make students more comfortable with the process and help however we can. 

Visit the CWE website to learn more about the intern team and how they can help fellow students not only tackle writing assignments and projects but also develop the longer-term skills to see writing as a vital tool in self-expression.