November 19, 2003

The Writing Center: Gem of the fifth floor

Karissa Kilgore (EL 227)

GREENSBURG, Penn. -- Drag your library books, your assignment, your ideas, and your brain to the fifth floor of the Administration building of Seton Hill University to find a world of resources, and comfortable chairs. Chairs in the Writing Center are comfortable, but so is the atmosphere.

Believe it or not, you’re going to find friendly, knowledgeable people that will guide you in your writing. Since the 1970s, the Writing Center, which is part of the CAPS (Collegiate Academic and Personal Success) program at SHU, has helped students learn that writing is a process.

Writing is so much more than merely grammar and sentence structure—it’s prewriting, brainstorming, revising, punctuation, citation, and thesis statements; yet, even that is an abbreviated list of the areas the Writing Center helps students with on a day-to-day basis.

Kim Pennesi, Coordinator of the Writing Center and English as a Second Language (ESL), has been employed at the Writing Center since 1992. Pennesi said, "we see about five students per day [for individual conferences], but sometimes more.

"Around mid-term and at the end of the semester we get busier because lots of papers are due," Pennesi continued. Glancing at the schedule, eight students had signed up for appointments. The Writing Center also has what they call "standing appointments," or students that come in on a regular weekly basis for help with their writing.

"We do a lot of [work with] format and citation methods," Pennesi said. "Students that come in with papers already written sometimes have to take steps backward, [and] almost start over in some cases." Pennesi said that it’s probably better for students to come in with an assignment and ideas to work on organization and schedule for an appointment for later on to work on style and structure. Students can meet with Pennesi or one of the several work-study students employed at the Writing Center.

Angie Kemp, a freshman at Seton Hill, has taken advantage of the services offered by the Writing Center. Even though it may be difficult for students to learn from their peers at times, she said that it doesn’t bother her that there are other students (work-studies) helping her with her writing. In fact, Kemp said, "I was on the cross-country team, and many of the hours [of the Writing Center] were during practice, so I had to schedule around that, and after-hours a student helped me." Kemp said that she was happy to have a work-study help her because if hours were strict and only taught by employees like Pennesi, Kemp may not have had the chance to get the help she needed.

Work-study students hired at the Writing Center are selected through recommendation, and are then interviewed to see how they could benefit the staff. One work-study student, Junior Kate Cielinski, said that teachers recommend people with good writing and social skills, but those are the barest of bones when it comes to characteristics of a good Writing Center work-study.

The students employed at the Writing Center have individual projects in addition to their scheduled appointments to help other students. Cielinski says, "We pick projects that interest us…so they’re tailored to our interests. Kim [Pennesi] is pretty lenient about [that]." But the work-study students have to work on these projects in their "spare" time.

Working at the Writing Center, Cielinski sees the same sorts of assignments over and over, but she says that sometimes the topics make it interesting. She said there have been times when the assignments don’t "jive" with what the school believes, and that makes it awkward to not focus on the content. "There are some touchy issues in the freshman seminar classes, and some personal papers coming from the religion and social science classes." But Cielinski insists that it’s worthwhile at the Writing Center: "I’ve had great sessions where I learn something that I had no knowledge of before."

"Our mission is to help students become better writers… and learn that writing is a skill to be developed and worked at," said Pennesi. "We stress the positive things about [their writing]."

Essentially, anyone at Seton Hill can use the Writing Center. They service all students, but mostly undergraduates. Graduate students and even faculty can receive aid, but when things get busy the focus is more so with the undergraduates.

Karissa Kilgore is a first-year English major, pursuing teacher certification in both English and French at Seton Hill University.

Posted by Reporter at November 19, 2003 11:33 AM

Love the article, girl. Keep up the writing. You have a definite talent in writing ARTICLES. I know you like the academic writing, but you can report.

Posted by: Amanda at November 20, 2003 11:04 PM
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