University News

Writing Fellows program narrows scope

Contributing Writer
Thursday, October 11, 2012

The structure of the Writing Fellows program has changed this semester so that only students in writing fellows-designated courses are paired with fellows. Students not enrolled in these courses can still access writing help through the Writing Center. In previous semesters, any student seeking help with their writing could be paired with a fellow through the Writing Center. 

This adjustment addresses the needs presented by “unexpectedly high course enrollment,” said Douglas Brown, director of Writing Support Programs. 

While this modification has been employed in the past by the Writing Fellows program, it is not common, Brown said. 

“It’s the first time since I’ve been working here that we’ve done this, so it’s a bit of an anomaly,” he said. “But it’s not a huge change in how we run the program.”

Brown expects the overall impact of the class-based fellowships to be comparable with traditional pairings. “We have the same number of fellows working at capacity, and they’re still working with the same number of students, so the numbers shake out evenly,” he said. “I don’t think students are suffering or losing out in any way.”

Even with this change in strategy, the general approach to writing assistance remains the same, said Anna Tifft ’13, who co-directs the program. “Just like with pairings, the first conference establishes a context (of) who we each are and how we’ll communicate. During the second conference, we more closely address what we noticed, but we’re not here to criticize or judge you for your writing.”

Rather than criticism, the goal of the writing fellowship is to help students improve the “quality of their presentation,” Tifft said. “We gauge the clarity of the concepts they discuss and look for ways they could be better conveyed.” 

Connor Flexman ’16 is currently enrolled in PHIL 0080: “Existentialism,” a course assigned to writing fellow Everett Epstein ’13. 

“I met with Everett just last week to talk about a paper, and he was really helpful,” Flexman said. “Talking to a peer was not only less intimidating than approaching a professor, but it also gave me a lot of useful and personalized insight into how to better formulate my arguments.”

Though the specific approach of the program has changed this semester, Tifft said it will not detract from the quality of the program. “It’s not so much about the individual pairings as it is about the face-to-face interactions,” she said, adding that “interpersonal connection is something that makes the Brown Writing Fellows program very unique.”

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