For Faculty

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Writing Center?

The SJU Writing Center was created in 1996, and we are devoted to helping you become a stronger and more confident writer. We hold one-to-one writing sessions with you, the writers at St. John’s University. Our goals are to help you express your ideas and knowledge effectively in written form while also helping you to develop the ability to independently evaluate and revise your own writing. We are writing-driven, not content-based, so our sessions are focused on discussions of writing and the writing process. We leave you to be the expert on the content. We help at any stage of the writing process – planning, drafting, revising, editing – and work with all forms of writing, including non-traditional ones like creative pieces and professional writing. We encourage you to practice and give yourself plenty of time to discover the power of your voice.

Who are the Consultants?

Our consultants can mentor and guide you; they are not ‘tutors’ who will dispense a specific formula, template, or answer (writing doesn’t work that way). The consultants at the University Writing Center are students from the St. John’s community. Our consultants come from a variety of cultural and academic backgrounds, as we believe that diversity fosters enriched experiences and ideologies around writing. Our consultants are both undergraduate and graduate students from various majors and programs. Regardless of background or academic level, all of our consultants are trained in the same way – through the completion of academic modules on writing center theory and practice as well as through hands-on experience working with senior consultants. Consultants apply to work in the WC by submitting multiple writing samples, requesting reference letters from two faculty members, and completing a multi-tiered interview process.

What are you looking for in a reference letter?

If a current/former student asks you for a reference letter, here are some tips that we hope will help. First, we hope they give you enough time. We accept applications on a rolling basis, so there’s no rush on our end. Second, we prefer a basic email. We know you’re busy, so we don’t require letterhead, hard copies, or even attachments. Please just include your title/department so we know your affiliation with SJU. Finally, a letter is useful to us if you have a basic understanding of our practices/philosophy. Luckily this very site can give you a quick overview of how we operate. We’re of course also looking for your experience with the student as a writer, peer, and member of (y)our academic community. Please email us these letters directly (your student should provide you with our email addresses). Feel free to reach out with any questions.

What types of applicants are you looking for?

We are always looking for students who are passionate about writing and working with/helping others. The Writing Center welcomes applicants from all academic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds (so that means students from ALL majors, non-native English speakers, etc.). We prefer to hire first/second-year students since our training process takes about a full year, and that means juniors and seniors may not have enough time to train and develop as consultants. Please let your strongest students know about us (they don’t have to be perfect ‘A’ students, though that usually doesn’t hurt).

What does a typical appointment look like?

No appointment at the writing center is “typical.” Each session varies and depends on the stage of writing, the type of writing you bring, and the nature of your concerns, as well as the style of your consultant, though you can expect there to be a lot of discussion about your assignment and your writing. Every session has to be scheduled for 1 hour, as we believe that anything less does not give us enough time to adequately address your writing concerns. Up to 50 minutes of that hour is devoted to working on the writing. You do not have to use the whole 50 minutes, but you would be surprised by how fast the time goes when you are in a session. The last ten minutes are used by the consultant to write a Client Report Form, which is an email summary of the work that was done.

Who can come to the writing center?

The Writing Center is open to St. John’s students, staff, and faculty.

What else is the space used for?

In addition to Writing Center appointments, the space also houses the offices for First Year Writing Faculty as well as the Writing Across the Curriculum program. Additionally, our conference room has been used for club meetings, staff meetings, and lab meetings by members of various departments. We can also hold in-house events, such as author readings/discussions and open-mic nights. If you want to use the space, please contact the directors to discuss your ideas!

Why aren’t all the consultants English majors?

All disciplines require good writing; therefore, good writers come from all disciplines. In keeping with this philosophy, we find that we can best serve our clients by incorporating the knowledge and expertise of our consultants across disciplines. Further, we are writing-driven, not content-based, so we are here to help you effectively communicate your ideas in written form. The content comes from you.

What’s the Client Report Form?

The Client Report Form is an email that a consultant writes during the last ten minutes of the session. It is a summary of the work that was done and often contains a few tips for a client to keep in mind for future writing/revision. If you, as faculty, want to know if your students have come to the Writing Center, you can ask them to forward the Client Report Forms to you.

Can I require my students to visit the Writing Center?

Required sessions are a bad idea. We’ve found that required or mandated sessions do not work well for clients or the Writing Center. If students feel forced to come in, then they usually just try to quickly fulfill that requirement and don’t give us an honest chance to work with them. We encourage you to contact a director so we can discuss ways we can weave the WC into your course organically–we suggest you start by setting up a tour for your class so they can see the large/welcoming space and learn about how we can help.

Do you have handouts to help students write papers?

We (along with many scholars) have found that writing is best developed through personalized, one-to-one consultations. We offer dozens of opportunities each day for students to develop their writing with one of our consultants. We don’t offer handouts since our practice and research has shown that these simply aren’t effective. Writing doesn’t work with templates and formulas; it works when you think about what you want to express and bounce those ideas off of someone trained to help and work with you (and only you) for about an hour.

A workshop, handout, or lecture may offer good tips, but we’d rather spend our time connecting with your students and the specialized task they have in front of them. In that setting, we can also account for individual style/approach/thoughts instead of us trying to prepare a blanket presentation for a generic audience. On this website, you’ll see us link to several resources where you can get additional information; we urge you to combine one-to-one efforts with seeking out information to become the strongest writer you/your students can be.

We hope you’ll appreciate all of our efforts to help students empower themselves and develop their voice…from us asking students to make their own appointment online (so they can personalize each aspect) to us focusing on meeting students where they are as  writers and thinkers in a session.

So if students want to talk about organizing a term paper, plagiarism, grammar, citations or anything else you’re concerned with, please ask them to make an appointment with us so we can plan a one-person workshop–just for that student.

(Thanks to Kristan M. for drafting our FAQs page)