Writer, Teacher, Development Professional. Lover of all things caffeinated.

Writing Central

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SOJC Writing Central

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My colleague Lori Shontz and I launched and now co-direct a peer writing coaching program at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication called Writing Central. Writing Central is a peer writing coaching program specifically tailored to students interested in careers in journalism and communication. The program pairs more experienced writers with those who are looking to improve their writing abilities.

 

Writing Central is a student success initiative that ties directly to the University of Oregon’s strategic goals of promoting and enhancing student access, retention and success.

Writing Central Coach Grace Hashiguchi works with student Caitlin Eckvahl.
Writing Central Coach Grace Hashiguchi works with student Caitlin Eckvahl.
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How Writing Central Helps Students

  •  Offers additional support beyond the confines of the classroom and the student/professor relationship.
  • Lowers the barrier to entry for international students seeking one-on-one writing support.
  • Engages students with the concept that writing is a lifelong journey.
  • Creates a community that encourages collaboration and peer review.
  • Empowers students hired as coaches to mentor their peers and grow as writers themselves.

In the News

MediaShift.com, March 16, 2017: How Oregon’s Writing Center Uses Peer Tutors to Engage Reluctant Writers


 

Written by Courtney Munther and Lori Shontz

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Everyone takes writing for granted. Well, not really. It doesn’t take long for faculty to complain about the quality of student writing. Many lament that students would rather learn fun technologies – the Snapchats and the InDesigns – than perfect their grammar and sentence structure.

And faculty aren’t the only ones who care. Employers consistently tell us and our colleagues at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication that they need stronger writers.

Even in this multimedia world, writing is a core skill; our photojournalism instructors, for instance, constantly stress the need for photographers to write strong cutlines and clean email pitches.

But it does feel, sometimes, that writing is an afterthought, something we expect students to know when they get to J-school. As journalism and communications curricula expand – social media, entrepreneurship, data, design – it’s hard to find the time to focus on writing in the classroom, even in core courses.

Two years ago, we co-taught a large introduction to media class that brought this issue to a head. And we came up with a program that has made a difference for students – and for us, as educators.

What it is: Writing Central, a peer writing support program that is specific to journalism and communications classes.

What we do: With a staff of seven trained, paid coaches – all undergraduates, juniors or seniors.

We offer daily drop-in hours and one-on-one appointments for writers of all abilities within the school to get the additional attention they need to improve. We also offer cookies. (More on that later.)

If this idea doesn’t sound novel, it’s because it’s not. Many universities have peer writing centers that help with everything from chemistry lab reports to essays on 20th century French existentialism. The University of Oregon, in fact, offers a great student support resource called the Teaching and Learning Center where students can get, among other things, one-on-one peer writing tutoring.

But we need to educate our students to write in ways that are notably different. We have many, oftentimes highly specific, audiences. We write in AP style, not APA or MLA. And our writing needs a professional level of polish that isn’t always addressed at university-wide writing centers, where the focus is often more on higher-order skills and clarity of thought.

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