As exams and essays threaten to overwhelm Mercyhurst students during these weeks before fall break, the Writing Center and Tutoring Center, both located in Hammermill Library, are ready to offer academic support in a variety of forms.
The Writing Center, staffed by trained writing consultants, provides assistance to students with writing projects of any kind, from academic papers to personal statements for graduate school applications.
Justin Ross, Ph. D., Director of the Writing Center and University Honors Program, explained that the main goal of the Writing Center is not to proofread or edit papers, but to empower students to learn those skills for themselves.
“We hope that you will improve as a writer,” Ross said. “Our goal in the Writing Center is to help the student be a better writer so that their written products are better.”
Ross encourages students to utilize the Writing Center multiple times throughout the semester in order to significantly improve writing skills.
Roughly 450 students visited the Writing Center last year, with the busiest times being before midterms and before finals.
This year, the Writing Center will begin offering evening writing workshops to develop students’ writing skills in a variety of areas, including grammar, punctuation and more.
The Tutoring Center is also currently overseen by Ross while Lori Krause, Director of Academic Engagement and Director of the Tutoring Center, is on maternity leave. Ross states that this is also a great resource for students who need guidance in specific classes.
Trained peer tutors, recommended by their professors on the basis of high performance in a certain course, staff the Tutoring Center. The benefit of a peer-tutor model, according to Ross, is in the name.
“The power behind tutoring, the peer model, is that you’re peers,” Ross said, “you both speak the same language.”
The lack of pressure between students makes peer tutoring effective and even enjoyable according to Ross.
Most classes, especially in notoriously tricky subjects such as economics and the sciences, have at least one tutor available.
However, if there is no tutor for a certain class, students can fill out a Tutor Request Form through the Hub. The request will then be communicated to the professor of the class, who can recommend high-achieving students to the Tutoring Center.
Like the Writing Center, the Tutoring Center sees its busiest times before midterms and finals, although some students recognize from the start of the semester which classes they may need extra guidance in and begin visiting the Tutoring Center early in the semester.
Many students utilize the Tutoring Center just once or twice a semester to prepare for an exam or understand a specific concept, but as Ross explains, students attain long-term mastery of a subject by attending a tutoring session once a week for several weeks. Ross states that this is the ideal scenario.
“What we’ve found is that the most effective tutoring happens when students go seven or more times throughout the semester,” Ross said. “So that kind of consistency is what we try to promote.”
The Tutoring Center typically sees between 700 and 900 students each year, with the capacity to assist up to 800 students each semester.
Ross emphasized that tutoring and writing assistance is not remedial.
“I think that’s one of the big misconceptions,” he said. “If I’m not good at math, getting assistance is not trying to catch me up with anything. It’s helping me as I’m taking the class.”
For students who wish to become either a writing consultant or peer tutor, the process is fairly straightforward.
The Writing Center typically hires students at the beginning of each semester. The application is available on the Writing Center page on the Hub. If selected, students will attend training as a consultant.
The Tutoring Center hires throughout the year. Students can either be recommended by a professor after a request for a tutor is placed, or they can contact the Tutoring Center via email or in person to declare their interest in becoming a tutor. Tutors also attend training and have the opportunity to become certified as a basic tutor by the College Reading and Learning Association.
To make an appointment at either the Writing or Tutoring Center, students can use TutorTrac, found under the Academic Resources page on the Hub, or drop by the Tutoring Center desk in Hammermill Library on the first floor.