Large Percentage of Students Using Writing Center are STEM Majors, English Learners
English | March 04, 2016
By Seth Bodine, as appearing in The Rocky Mountain Collegian,
A large percentage of the Colorado State University students who use the Writing Center, the free writing consulting center, are English learners and STEM majors.
Lisa Langstraat, the director of the Writing Center, said that 49 percent of all consultations are English learners (ELL or ESL) students.
“That is a huge growth that is perfectly understandable given CSU’s new emphasis on recruiting internationally,” Langstraat said. “So it’s been a significant change in the student population here at CSU as a whole, and then that’s reflected in the Writing Center.”
The Center has responded to the growth by hiring an ELL specialist, who provides training to meet the special demands of the English-learning writers.
In the 2014-15 academic year, the center had a total of 4,728 consultants. 40 percent of the consultants had non-declared majors. Out of the 60 percent of consultants who had declared majors, 35.8 percent had STEM majors.
“One of the challenges with working with multiple disciplines, regardless of whether or not it’s STEM or liberal arts, that you’re going to be working in a variety of genres, and the more familiar you are with those conventions attached to those genres, the better you’ll be able to serve students’ needs,” said Bruce Shields, the associate director of the Writing Center.
The Center has a course collaboration program, which identifies students coming from specific courses regularly and works with instructors regularly to gather material to help inform how to better serve students. Some of these classes include introductory psychology, biology and genetics.
The staff also get extensive weekend-long training in order to meet the diverse needs of students.
“It’s a weekend-long boot camp, essentially, where we introduce a lot of our approaches and a lot of our philosophies about how to talk about writing with students, and we have a practical approach as well, where they can practice some of these different consultation experiences before they have actual consultations with students coming into the Writing Center,” Shields said.
Kaitlyn Mainhart, a second-year English education master’s student who has been working with the writing center for two years, said most writing problems are foundational.
“Like with ELL students, it’s clearly a language barrier. If it’s students who are in the sciences and write scientific papers and they’re in like an English class, the problem is transitioning from one form to another,” Maihnhart said. “Like (with) ELL students, explaining why you would use ‘would’ over ‘will,’ or with STEM students, explaining how maybe a literature paper is similar to a scientific paper.”
The Writing Center is located in Eddy Hall or Morgan Library and is offered to all students. There are also online consultations available Fridays. Langstraat said that while the consultation spaces go fast, there is a wait list available.
While the Writing Center takes academic papers, it can also advise on other genres of writing, Langstraat said. She added that one of the Center’s goals is to “help create better writers, not only better writing.”
“We have people who are writers. We have people who are poets. We have people who are working on their dissertations and writing has been a significant part of their education, and then we have many ELL students who are first-year students,” Langstraat said.
Collegian Reporter Seth Bodine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sbodine120.