Writing Consultant of the Year, Emily Churchill

Emily with Joe EssidThis year, as we have done annually for a long time, the faculty recognize a graduating Senior who has impressed us with the assistance provide to student writers. Emily Churchill has an additional honor: she received three simultaneous nominations from the faculty she’s assisted, a record in our program’s history.

Emily is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with majors in LALIS & Global Studies, and a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies. She was first recommended to be a writing consultant by Dr. Aurora Hermida-Ruiz when she was a student in her FYS section, “Time & the City of Seville.” That summer, she had the opportunity to travel with Dr. Herimda-Ruiz to Seville for five weeks on a summer study abroad program. 

Dr. Stephen Long in Political Science and Dr. Olivier Delers in The Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures also nominated Emily for work in their classes.

Throughout her time at Richmond, Emily studied abroad a total of six times, including two summers in Seville, a summer in Morocco, an academic year in Granada, Spain, a civic fellowship in Ecuador, and a one-week trip to Santiago, Chile with Dr. Pribble’s Latin American Politics class. 

On campus, she served as the Study Abroad Peer Advisor in addition to serving as a Writing Consultant. As she told me, “Both positions have allowed me to mentor underclassmen and form lasting connections with the Richmond community.  My long-term plan is to take a few years to travel, do research, and work in NGOs before pursuing a PhD in Hispanic Studies. I hope to write fiction in addition to producing academic research throughout my career.”

This summer she will be working in San Isidro, Costa Rica with the organization, Amigos de las Americas, which provides service-learning trips for high school students. 

I want to congratulate Emily for her hard work and thank all the Consultants and Faculty who were nominated and who will return to campus to work with student writing again in the Fall.

Common Misconceptions of the Writing Center

By Griffin Myers, Writing Consultant

This week I asked Griffin, who is overseeing a proofreading project for our Writers’ Web online handbook, to discuss what she’s seen among peers.

Only bad writers use the Writing Center:

Students of all experience levels can benefit from visiting the Writing Center. Sometimes even just a second set of eyes can pick up errors that the author’s mind may not notice. Writing consultants also have training and experience with a wide variety of paper types, so can help out with unfamiliar formats or with particular professor pet peeves. Even consultants go into the center, because we understand how helpful an educated peer editor can be!

English isn’t my first language and the consultants might judge me:

Actually, English-language learners make up a significant portion of the students who come through our center.  Writing consultants are trained in how to break down errors in to patterns and can therefore address foundational confusions instead of simply fixing problems on a case to case basis. This can be helpful for any writer but especially for those still grasping the syntax and contradicting rules of the English language. We can also help you get in touch with teachers with ESL specific training, as well as those writing Consultants who have more experience with teaching English to speakers of other languages.

The Consultants will proofread my paper:

The Writing Center does not do grammar checks. Rather, we will look at your paper holistically to suggest areas of improvement from everything from format to content to yes, grammar. Our goal is to help writers recognize and correct potential weaknesses in their own writing, rather than to simply have a Consultant check off spelling and send the writer on their way.     This isn’t to say that we will not help writers with grammar: Consultants will just work with the writer to develop a better understanding of grammar, instead of just fixing case by case mistakes.

I have to have a completed draft:

Writing Consultants can help with every step of the writing process, from developing and organizing an outline, to analyzing an old graded paper to shore up weak spots together. One caveat is that the more prepared the writer is when they come into the appointment, the more the Consultant can help the student.

The Consultants are only for FYS classes:

We have in class Consultants in classes at all levels! Additionally, our Writing Center is open to everyone, regardless of current class.

The Consultants are only for English classes:

Our Consultants have a wide knowledge base that can be applied to almost any subject to improve writing quality. Additionally, if you have a specific subject that you would like help on, check out our list of Consultant majors online: one of us is likely taking the same major!

I can only go to the Writing Center for class assignments:

While sometimes a specific teacher will send you to the Writing Center with an assignment, we exist to help you, the student! This means from theses to job applications, we are happy to lend a helping hand for all of your writing needs.

The Writing Center is only for undergrads:

Any Richmond student, including SPCS students, are welcome at the Writing Center. Can’t come by at all? Try reaching out to one of our Consultants and see if they can meet on campus at a later hour, or if they’re willing to provide assistance via email.

Consultant News: Tech Writing at Jefferson Lab

By Julia Siewert, Writing Consultant

Editor’s Note: From time to time we run “dispatches from the field” by current or former Consultants. Here Julia shows us the utility of what we do even in the most technical of settings.

Last summer I worked as a technical writing intern at Jefferson Lab. This job involved working with subject matter experts to edit, create, and format highly technical cryogenic resource and operations manuals. These were operations modeled after JLab’s CHL2 (Central Helium Liquefier), and were being modified (and, in some cases, created from scratch) for use at SLAC for their upcoming LCLS-II project.

I learned a LOT more than I thought I would as a writer, and went by the motto “if I can understand it, so can the engineer” while I was editing. I also got to work a bit with basic graphics and got to make keys for the process and instrumentation designs for LCLS-II. Both of these combined made a comprehensive guide to the machinery and operations of the cryogenics for this awesome project at temperatures around 2-4 Kelvin (which is about -271 to -269 degrees Celsius).

This was an awesome experience, and I’m proud to say I successfully created around 9-10 complete procedural documents that will be implemented in the commissioning process. I especially enjoyed combining my love for writing with my science background and working with some of the nation’s brightest in engineering and physics.

Image (The two sections of linear accelerator in the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility at Jefferson Lab) courtesy of Jefferson Lab at Flickr.

Consultant News: Legal Writing

I enjoy hearing about Writing Consultants who have helped to bring a piece of work to publication. So we all should tip our hats to Rosemarie Ferraro, who assisted Gerald Lebovits, as a judicial intern, with four articles in the New York State Bar Association Journal about legal writing:

Legal writing is one of the hardest transitions of all for first-year law students. Professor Lebovits gives a good deal of valuable advice here, my favorite being “use the passive voice only when you have good reason to use it.”

One exception I know personally involves police reporting. I long ago taught Criminal Justice writing to police officers at Indiana University. As I told them “the passive voice incriminates no one. ‘The car was stolen and, according to two witnesses, John Smith was reported nearby’ works far better than ‘John Smith stole that car!’ ”

If you know Rose, congratulate her. She has returned from study abroad and is working in our program now. If she plans to attend law school, I have no doubt that her careful eye for sentence-level details, as well as this publishing experience, would make her first year a success.

Other Writing Consultants, tell me about your work in professional writing and I will share it here with faculty.

Writing Consultant of the Year, 2018: George Katsiotis

Each year, I ask faculty to nominate a Writing Consultant who has gone the extra mile helping writers do their best work.  We then give an award to a graduating senior. I want to thank Dr. Erik Craft in Economics for nominating our winner; he also nominated George last year!

In this year’s nomination, Professor Craft noted of George:

He has been consistently proactive, making numerous good suggestions, pushing me toward using new technologies to edit papers. My students report the value of meeting with him. He is flexible enough to accept my timelines for turning around papers. He volunteers to come to class to be introduced to the students. Last year, he met more often with one student who particularly required assistance, in part because English was not her mother tongue.

George, a native of Greece, has a double major in Leadership Studies and Political Science. He’s minoring in Economics, which made him a perfect partner for the students in Dr. Craft’s First-Year Seminar, “Inequality and Ethics.” The course description notes that FYS students study “income inequality, but we will investigate inequality in lifespan and education as well.”

After graduation, George will be the Supervisor of a YMCA camp in Thessaloniki, Greece, with many employees and over 400 youngsters to manage!

George met Richmond students to review drafts of essays he received in advance, and as with all Consultants, he followed a somewhat nondirective pedagogy of not proofreading. Instead, he helped writers find their central arguments if those were not clear, identify systematic errors at the local and global scale; he made a representative correction of a repeated mistake in order to teach each writer to self-correct other instances.

In addition to his work for our program, George worked as a Peer Advisor and Mentor since his first year at Richmond. He also helped in the Office of Admissions with the International Admissions team.

We want to thank all our graduating Consultants for their hard work and we wish them the best in the big world beyond our campus gates.