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Writing Center works through changes
Erik Dodge
Antelope Staff
Photo by Erik Dodge
Academic success coordinator Keri Pearson sits in her new office, which used to be part of the writing center. Pearson has added the responsiblities of the writing director to her workload until a new director is selected.
Photo by Erik DodgeSenior political science major and writing tutor Collin Grimes waits for his next appointment on the second floor of the library. Grimes has been a UNK writing tutor for three years.

The Writing Center is experiencing growing pains on its way to integrating with peer tutoring to form a one-stop-shop for tutoring called the Learning Commons.

“As far as tutoring goes, we’re still doing as good of a job as we’ve ever done,” said writing tutor Colten Venteicher. But the junior criminal justice major from Omaha added, “The numbers from the Writing Center seem to be down a little bit so far.”

The data for the Writing Center will begin to be analyzed next week, according to Keri Pearson, tutoring and assessment coordinator.

The Writing Center helped 990 writers in 3,065 tutoring sessions during the 2009-2010 school year, and was named Department of the Month by the Faculty Senate in August of 2008. Amanda Granrud, its previous director, resigned on June 2 to run a writing center at a foundations school in China.

During the interim period, the Writing Center implemented a new program, AccuTrack, to schedule appointments. The center has also moved to the top of the stairs on the second floor of the library with the peer tutors as it continues the search for a new director.

AccuTrack allows students to view tutors’ schedules on the day of their choosing, compared to the old system which displayed the whole weekly schedule. Confusion with the new system has led to more student walk-ins instead of them making appointments, according to Venteicher.

“Only time will tell if that will end up hurting or helping us,” he said.

Pearson, who is overseeing the Writing Center until a director is chosen, explained that the shift to AccuTrack allows Peer Tutoring, and Writing Center data to be compiled in the same place. AccuTrack was already in use by Peer Tutoring, according to Pearson, who acknowledged the challenges but said these were only in the online version.

“It’s getting better,” Pearson said. “Slowly but surely we’re nixing all the bugs.”

Venteicher also noticed that some students are less comfortable reading their papers in an open area. “It takes a lot for students to share their writing,” he said.

Jacqueline McCormick, who has been a writing tutor for two years, has noticed a few students with these concerns.

“I had some people who came in with papers about prostitution,” the elementary education major said. “At first they were a little wary, but I told them I could read the paper aloud, and they really were happy about that.”

Now she has even more responsibility. “Since Amanda left, I’ve also been working on doing as much coordinating as I can for the Writing Center,” she said.

Pearson serves on the search committee for the next writing center director. The new director will be the director of the Learning Commons and Pearson’s boss. The committee has narrowed down the candidates to a short list of five or six according to Pearson and is ready to begin conducting phone interviews.

While the writing tutors can govern themselves and continue to tutor the way they need to, Venteicher said a director gives a voice to the Writing Center and allows a push for advancements like the Learning Commons. He said the past director was important to the center’s success.

“Amanda was a visionary. In some sense for any tutoring program you need someone like that, who is full of ideas and goals in order to help the program thrive,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Venteicher said the Learning Commons was a positive step for tutoring on campus.

“The library should be the central focus on campus for studying. That’s where a lot of students come to study so if they need to get help it is right here for them,” he said.

Three-year writing tutor Collin Grimes said the move follows trends of larger universities.

“The ultimate objective is to integrate all sorts of student services in one place and provide a full-service program,” the senior political science major said. “That’s the new modern take on learning outside the classroom.”


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