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Walk into the WaLC

By Laura Odom
On November 23, 2013

Western Carolina University offers many services to its students. One of the most well-known is the Writing and Learning Commons.

Chesney Reich, director, explained that all students from every major can find the assistance they need to succeed in their classes.

"We offer a number of different services, and we are run primarily by student employees. We are close to 100 student employees," said Reich.

 With those student employees, the Writing and Learning Commons, also known as the WaLC, has a wide influence on WCU's campus.

Reich said the WaLC relies mainly on appointments, but they do accept walk-ins occasionally. She stated that the close to 15,000 visits made to the WaLC and the Math Tutoring Center were made by over 2,200 students last year. But, what does the WaLc do for students?

Reich outlined each of the services they offer, beginning with the writing tutor program.

 "Our writing tutors this semester are mainly graduate students from the English and history masters programs. They provide one-on-one feedback on any kind of writing assignment from chemistry lab reports to English papers. We are working to bring in undergraduate writing tutors because we will be losing some of our graduate students in the spring. We are also hoping to get many of the tutors out into the classroom to do mini-workshops."

Reich added, "Course tutoring services are undergraduate students who are assigned to specific classes. It really runs the gambit from accounting to engineering to Spanish. We really work to have tutors from all classes, and that is really dependent on faculty identifying classes that need tutors and students who would qualify as good tutors."

Student Summer Brathwaite tutors for a variety of classes.

"I started in fall of 2012 where I was tutoring a psychology class," said Brathwaite. "I've picked up tutoring a statistics class in addition to the psychology classes. Tutoring is a way for me to get paid to do something that I love doing. In my classes, I found myself taking the lead in groups and trying to help my classmates find the answers instead of just giving them."

Sometimes, students do not arrive to the university prepared for the differences between high school and college. To confront this issue, Reich described the role of students academic consultants, who act as guides for the students who need to bridge this gap.

Reich said,"Undergraduate students meet individually with students to work on what I call the essential skills of being a college student: time management, note taking, test preparation, reading comprehension and test taking skills. They do one-on-one consultations with students, and they also take requests to work with groups and organizations around campus."

Merab Mushfiq works as both an academic advisor and tutor. She began in the spring of 2013 and works mainly with international students.

She said, "I began as an academic skills consultant who helps students who struggle with reading, test taking and note taking skills. I really loved it. I just loved it. So, I started as a chemistry tutor over the summer, and I loved that, too. It feels good when you get to help other students."

Graduates are not the only ones who get to assist in the writing process. Reich described the Writing Fellows program, which is home to undergraduate students who do many of the same things as the writing tutors.

"The undergraduate writing tutors are paired with specific classes," said Reich. "Faculty apply to be in the writing fellows program based on what class and whether or not the class is writing intensive, usually two extensive papers. These faculty members can recommend students as tutors, or we can find fellows to pair with them. We try to get fellows in every type of program that we can from environmental health classes to history to political science, and of course English. We try to get a nice mix of disciplines to be paired with our fellows."

Reich also mentioned the great resource their website provides.

"We find that a lot of our students use the style guidebooks for MLA, APA, Turabian, etc. We are in the process of revising our guidebooks so they are all on the same format," said Reich.

Many students have great things to say about the program because of its usefulness and efficiency. Many like Patrick Turner said that the WaLC inspired confidence.

He stated, "The WaLc helped me correct my paper. I thought I was going to do really badly on my paper, and then it essentially made me feel a lot better about the paper."

As Reich described the WaLC is about students, both graduate and undergraduate, assisting other students with their work at the university. It does not just help the students who come in for help, but also the students who are teaching the material.

Brathwaite stated, "Going in and teaching it to students really reinforces what I know about the subject, and it is helping me in my own classes."

Mushfiq agreed when he said, "It's so good. You learn when you teach the students."

For more information about the Writing and Learning Commons, call 828-227-2274 or email them at walc@wcu.edu. You can also visit their webpage at wcu.edu/academics/campus-academic-resources/writing-and-learning-commons-walc/.


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