All posts by Laney Myers

Tutors Forever: Alums Reflect on the Job

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.

Building a Brand: T-Shirt and Logo Design Spring Project

This post was written by Delaney King ’20, reflecting on her spring project to create a visual brand identity for the Bryn Mawr Writing Center.

I arrived to the first staff meeting following my fall semester abroad and realized I needed a Spring Project. While scrambling for ideas, I remembered from my first year that there were some t-shirts available for purchase for the staff. They were cute and sporty but not exactly my style.

I see t-shirts serving a few different purposes for the Writing Center. First of all, I love getting a new piece of clothing no matter what it is but particularly when it represents or speaks to something I am involved in. I really enjoy working as a tutor and having a piece of clothing that represents the Writing Center allows me to visibly show my pride in working there.

Second, like when I was younger and unwittingly acted as a walking billboard for brands like Hollister that had its name plastered across the front of my chest and down my arm, clothing can be very effective advertising. It enables active brand circulation since humans are not stationary –except maybe when finals hit.

Compared to the fall semester when the Writing Center is busy with first-year Emily Balch Seminar students in addition to other students, the spring can be a slower time for appointments. Particularly during this time, it is important to advertise among the student population to take advantage of the amazing resources that we offer.

When we needed to decide on Spring Projects, I chose to focus on marketing, but since I am nosy, I overheard Elena Asofsky ’21 and Mia Dimeo ’20 mention that they also were interested in rebranding and marketing the Writing Center. I didn’t know them yet but what better way to get to know someone than to collaborate on a project together!

Elena decided to use her excellent artistic skills to design a new logo, and Mia and I worked together on additional marketing materials like bookmarks and stickers for student use. Mia was great sending out surveys so that we could try and incorporate the views from the rest of the staff.

I made excel spreadsheets that listed price comparisons on different goods like pencils, pens, notebooks, stickers, t-shirts, etc. that my type-A personality absolutely loved. I felt like I was breaking some unspoken rule that I was using my open shifts to shop… but it was for work. I love loopholes.

After Elena finished the new owl logo, we chose which marketing materials for students to order, and designed them and the t-shirts. I had no idea how much time and attention to detail was going to be required for designing the t-shirts. I am not exactly an artsy person so creative designs or catchy slogans are not my thing. I also had the extra pressure of not wanting the rest of the staff to be disappointed in the product. However, in the end I am happy with how the product turned out but I could not have done it without Elena, Mia, Jen, and the rest of the staff. I am very excited that my 2019 Spring Project will benefit the Writing Center and tutors will be able to enjoy it for years to come.

Spring Story Slam at the Writing Center

This post was written by Amanda Wessel ’20, reflecting on her team’s spring project, the strategies they used, and the potentially powerful implications of this work on Writing Center pedagogy.

A few weeks ago we hosted the Writing Center’s first ever The Moth–style Story Slam. With this event, we hoped to bring new people into our Writing Center, provide a activity through which to practice public speaking skills, and open up the space to new types of discourse that celebrate identity and personal experience toward a more social model of academia.

Dorian Alexis ’21 and I decided not to narrow the focus of the storytelling to a specific theme and instead opened up the possibilities by generating a pretty long list of prompts to help people get thinking about times in their lives that they could tell as stories. Five people shared stories ranging widely in theme. I broke the ice by sharing a story about an unexpected and spooky adventure I encountered while leading a canoeing trip with 14 year olds. The following story tellers described overcoming a challenge in a moment of chaos, a surprising moment of hope and coincidence while studying abroad, and the intersection of different forms of spirituality as they related to remembering a late family member.

In between each story teller, other slam attendees were able to participate by drawing a slip of paper with a prompt from a box and responding to it with 2-4 sentence long written anecdotes about that theme or situation. We borrowed this idea from Eric Thomas’s storytelling event that happened earlier in the semester and I think it was a big success. As the emcee, I couldn’t help but laugh as I read out each anonymous story. These mini stories made for fun transitions and allowed people to participate even if they weren’t ready to stand up and tell a story themselves.

Dorian and I prepared for this event by attending a workshop on storytelling at Haverford hosted by storytellers Nimisha Ladva of Haverford’s Shapiro Speaking Initiative and Eric Thomas of The Moth. Dorian then attended a Story Slam hosted by Thomas at Bryn Mawr. We designed our own storytelling workshop based on what we learned from these events. Turn out was minimal but we used the time to listen to some short stories from The Moth, discuss their storytelling strategies, and begin developing our own stories.

The week after this event we (the WC staff) we read and discussed Laura Greenfield and Karen Rowan’s book Writing Centers and the New Racism: A Call for Sustainable Dialogue and Change. I think the format of a Story Slam in the Writing Center could be a critical way of working to deconstruct racism in the writing center through the methods the authors recommend. The story slam can foster new channels for dialogue and diversify our individualistic one-on-one tutoring programing with social and communal learning opportunities. I hope events like this one can become a WC tradition! Maybe we could do one every semester!

Reading in the Writing Center

This post was written by Angela Zhang ’19, reflecting on her 2019 spring project at the BMC Writing Center.

For my spring project, I made a handout about reading in the writing center. The contents of this handout can be found here. On one side of the handout, I explained how reading works as an interaction between the text and the reader’s prior knowledge. On the back, I created a list of reading strategies that can be used to improve comprehension of a text, which ultimately helps with the writing process as well.

This project came out of a final research paper I did for a class called Changing Pedagogies in Math and Science Education. As a result of my field experiences in a high school science classroom, I became interested in the role of reading and writing skills in STEM classrooms. Many of the roadblocks that students ran into involved the scientific texts they worked with. I ended up writing my final research on this subject, where I explored reading and writing strategies that could be useful in science classrooms. Interestingly, having a base knowledge of reading and writing literacy allows one to recognize the scientific process as constructed and human, rather than absolute truth.

While I was working on this paper, I realized that many of the same concepts are applicable in the writing center. While our purpose is not to support student reading skills, reading and writing are inextricable from each other. Tutees often come in with papers that use class readings in some way. I used many of the same ideas from my paper in my spring project, such as paraphrasing or setting reading goals to improve reading comprehension. I also did further research, which introduced me to concepts such as “reading like a writer,” where one considers using (or not using) the choices of other writers as they read their work. When I presented my project during a staff meeting, fellow tutors added strategies to the list such as annotating and reading subheadings and figures first before diving in. We also discussed how students at Bryn Mawr learn how to read scholarly articles. Some had professors who explicitly addressed the issue, sometimes in discipline-specific ways, which tutors found helpful. As someone who struggled with readings when I first got to college, I think the writing center can also provide supports for academic reading in a way that supports writing as well.

Some Very Pink Post-Its

The Writing Center is currently undergoing a thorough self-evaluation process. We are tabling in dining halls and common spaces to survey students who have never used us. We want to know how writing gets done, who gets consulted, and how we can be of better use to our student body. To poll our users (anyone in our database), we will be sending out surveys to investigate if we’re really truly meeting the needs of the writers who DO use us.

These are steps in our process of generating a mission statement,  a cumulative couple of sentences that capture the work we do, why we do it, and who we do it for. As I mentioned in our last post, Graduate Student Assistant Sarah Miller has been guiding us through this process, drawing upon Peter Drucker’s 5 questions for non-profit self-evaluation. This looks like facilitated conversations among tutors that get at things like: Who is our customer? Who are our stakeholders? What are our results?

I have gotten to be a participant in these conversations, and one of the things that comes up again and again is that the “customer” of the Writing Center is not just the writer who comes in, anxious or stumped with a paper topic. It’s also us, the tutors, who are often getting just as much from each session.

As a part of this greater process of self-evaluation and self-reflection, Sarah had the staff respond to some prompts: “Something challenging about working in the Writing Center is…” and “In my time as tutor I hope to…”

Below, the responses to the prompt: “Something I like about working in the Writing Center is…” You’ll see from these little pink post-its that our job is an affective one, and many of the responses have something to do with confidence and helping writers feel a little bit better. The idea behind sharing these here is to make visible the work that goes into tutoring, and also to highlight how much our tutors value each other, the community and the space we’re working to build to make things just a little bit easier on each other.

On Writing It Down

Laney here! I’ve been wanting to start a blog for our Writing Center for about a year now, and the idea re-emerges any time anyone on our staff says something particularly magically illuminating–so basically, every day.

Tutoring in the Writing Center is interesting, because there’s no one way to do it well, no one set of characteristics that add up to a good tutor. We get a few hours of training each semester, but after that, getting better at our job is largely an individual pursuit, coordinating with yourself across appointments to try and nail down what went well or what didn’t work at all. We’re also undergraduate students, still figuring out for ourselves what it means to write well, and what we need to improve our own writing. Few, if any of us, will go onto Writing Center work after graduation, and yet this job is still really important to us–we’re constantly trying to get better and make the Center better, contributing also to the broader Writing Center community through MAWCA and IWCA conferences.

This spring, our Graduate Fellow Sarah Miller has been guiding us on the journey of generating a mission statement—a process of dialogue within our organization to meta-analyze the things we usually take for granted: why we do what we do, who we do it for, what our role on campus is. My vision for this blog is a space tutors have to break down their own work (what works and what doesn’t), as well as its meaning in larger contexts: the social space of the campus, the political space of a liberal arts college in America, the intellectual space of a writing and ideas salon. We talk a lot about our role and the “authority” that comes with it, even as we know that the best conferences often happen when we collectively work to break down that power differential. We talk a lot about why we like the Writing Center, but also what we don’t like about it, what it reveals to us about academia and the world. We also talk a lot about the great projects we have going on in our Center, which deserve their time in the spotlight.

As tutors at the Writing Center, we know the transformative power of writing. It takes something that exists in our heads, or in the ephemeral space of a conversation between two co-workers, and makes it real in a way it wasn’t before, more permanent. Tutors work in the W.C. for three years maximum, often for only one or two years at a time. The knowledge we produce among ourselves is, as a result, so much more transient, but being constantly reproduced and transmitted. This blog is a place to fossilize those processes, freeze them in time so it isn’t lost while we go forward—in the Writing Center and beyond.