Volume 97 Issue 4 News

Writing Center lengthens hours and increases staff

by Klaus-Peter Profus

Juniata’s Writing Center has lengthened its hours and increased its staff to reduce waiting times and to offer individualized assistance for students. Appointment-based tutoring outside official hours will also be offered in the spring.

“We did a comparative analysis with our peer and aspirant schools and found that most of the other schools had more hours available. So I talked to the provost about that and she said that we should definitely be open more, which meant that we needed more money to do that because we need to pay our student workers. So right now we are open an additional five hours a week from six to ten,” said Carol Peters, director of Juniata’s Writing Center and College Writing Seminar.  

Junior Ryan Mull, tutor at Juniata’s Writing Center, said, “Elizabethtown College is about the same size and they track the same students as we do, but before our hours got lengthened we were only open for 15 hours a week and at Elizabethtown, they were open for 69.5 hours a week. And it is not just Elizabethtown; for example Dickinson, they are open 60 hours, Susquehanna, they are open 30 hours and we are falling away in last place.”

“Something else that led to the development of this semester was that we ran three focus groups last semester, where we pulled in eight to ten students for a group. We were touching base with them and asking them for some feedback, and one of the suggestions that we received was that students were looking for extended hours. They were looking for some hours outside of the evenings and some hours on the weekends,” said junior Victoria Wolf, Juniata Associate for the Writing Center.

Referring to potential positive outcomes of lengthened hours, Deborah Roney, assistant professor of English and director of Language in Motion, said, “I think it gives greater flexibility to students who have different kinds of evening commitments to be able to get down there with enough time to actually make it a useful session. Plus, it will eliminate potential wait times. If you get down right before some large assignment is due for a lot of people, there could be a need to wait and lengthened hours could alleviate that problem.”

“I think that by lengthening the hours it is going to make it easier for students to fit it into their schedule. Especially opening hours from six to ten make it a little bit easier with sport schedules and also earlier in the evening makes it a little bit easier for some students,” Wolf said.

With reference to visible outcomes, Phoebe Harnish, a sophomore peer tutor, said, “We have just started with the new hours last week. I think once the word gets out a little bit more there will be changes. Often from six to seven, which is the new hour that we are open, nobody comes in. However, we would like to be helping people.”

In addition to extending hours, Juniata’s Writing Center has increased staff and is will offer individual appointments for students in the spring. “Right now we have 17 tutors, which is the largest staff we have ever had. That is a big commitment in time and money but it is also shows that we have doubled the staff compared to last year,” said Peters.

“By opening up the appointments, which we haven’t fully jumped in on yet, it is going to give the ability for students to develop relationships with individual tutors. We’ve informally had that already and students could come down and tell tutors, ‘Okay you work Monday nights, I will come in Monday nights and see you,’ but now students are really going to have the chance of formally develop appointments with their favorite tutors even outside of Writing Center hours,” Wolf said.

Roney said, “One-on-one tutoring is going to be very valuable for students who have longer term issues they need to work with. It will probably become a more fruitful situation than if you see different tutors that might not know what tutors in the past have already done with you and what they should be following up on.”

“We are starting to take more appointments and we are going to do more appointment based hours in the spring. When we put it together in the spring we want it to be a complete package that is organized and launch that in a correct and sustainable way,” said Peters.

Addressing the question whether further immediate changes are planned, Peters said, “On Dec. 6, the Sunday before the last day of classes, we are going to have a big long six to midnight finale on the last day we are open. We participate in the International Write-In, where writing centers across the country offer extended hours. This year we are coming out of the basement, taking over the fourth floor of Founders and going to have a room for tutoring, a room for quiet writing, a room for talking about writing and a room for refreshments.”

“Because we are not open during finals week, that is the big shebang for everyone to come in for the last time, prep ahead of time and on the record,” Wolf said.

Regarding long-term planning, Mull said, “First, it is a small change. We will want to keep expanding so that we are more competitive with other universities. Looking forward to the future there will be even more windows of opportunity to come and get help.”

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