This blog post was written by Aisha Mechery ’20 and Christina Butcher ’19, summarizing their spring project, which was devoted to building connections with alumni tutors.
Working at the writing center is an incredibly rich experience, in part because of the wonderful community of writing tutors that we have. This community is singular in a few ways, because it changes in composition every year and completely renews on a three-year cycle when seniors graduate. Thus, although current writing center tutors are very interconnected, there is little to bridge us to those who inhabited this space before us. In an effort to expand conversations being had at the writing center, Christina Butcher ’19 and I worked together on reaching out to past writing center tutors for our spring project.
While getting in touch with alums involved some low-level sleuthing using LinkedIn and Athena’s Web, designing the questionnaire to send out required reflection. Christina and I first brainstormed together. We then solicited input from our fellow tutors during our spring project presentation. We ultimately whittled the list down to the following four questions:
- What’s your most memorable experience in the WC?
- How did working at the WC impact your life after graduating from Bryn Mawr? How do you use the skills you learned while working here?
- Did you see the WC change during your time here? What changes would you have liked to see in the WC?
- What was the hardest part about working at the WC?
The number of responses we received far surpassed our expectations. We chose a few quotes that spoke to us to share here.
“I remember realizing that everyone has something to say and that my nights in the Writing Center were really my first look at educational disparities and questions around language and power. Many students that came in lacked confidence about their writing and just needed someone to talk to about an idea. Sometimes the trouble was moving past imposter syndrome”
-Katie Nagrotsky ‘08
“The experience of seeking out tutoring is humbling, and for some students, involves a lot of risk and vulnerability.”
-Dinu Ahmed ‘08
“I think one of my most memorable moments was working with one of my writing partners . . . by the end of our partnership I could really see the student remembering how to fix these mistakes and correcting them on their own without my having to mention them. It marked a moment in which I was really able to see my work with a student impact them so significantly.”
-Ariana Rodriguez ‘17
“I loved seeing classmates and underclassmen who had previously made appointments then show up to tutor training the next year. That’s how I ended up at the Writing Center, so it feels like coming full circle!”
-Amy Xu ‘17
(Note from Aisha: Working with Amy at the writing center as a freshman is what gave me the confidence to apply to be a writing tutor myself!)
“I used to explain our job to my friends and I said it was like the tutee was running and we started 10 minutes after the tutee started and so we not only had to catch up but also get ahead of the tutee and guide them. This took a lot of mental facilities, it’s like mental gymnastics, it was exhausting!”
-Christa Schmidt ‘18
“There aren’t too many places where we can see collaborative writing modeled, so there was a steep learning curve. But once I figured out my role as a listener and reader, it was a deeply rewarding experience.”
-Meredith Carlson ‘17
“I learned to claim an identity as a ‘writer’ as a WC tutor. Writing is so personal. Working at the writing center empowered me and helped me feel comfortable sharing my writing with others.”
-Tiffany Shumate ‘08
“I learned how to have a meaningful conversation with someone about their work, listen to what they’re really saying, and contribute to their work with my own thoughts.”
-Amy Xu ‘17
“Reading their [students’] writing helped me develop my ability to understand the logic of people from different cultures and different backgrounds. I learned to put my own experiences in perspective. I saw some of my own strengths, but also my weaknesses.”
As writing tutors, we have the privilege to support Bryn Mawr writers in a space that is unique to our school. The writing center as we know and love it would not be the same without the many generations of tutors who have passed through it. In looking back at the past, I feel a renewed energy going into a new year at the writing center.