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UB opens Center for Excellence in Writing

Arabella Lyons with students seated in the Center for Writing Excellence

Center for Excellence in Writing Director Arabella Lyon, left, talks with students at the center in Baldy Hall. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

By RACHEL RAIMONDI

Published October 24, 2013

“A robust writing center is characteristic of a research university.”
Arabella Lyon, associate professor of English and director
Center for Excellence in Writing

UB opened the Center for Excellence in Writing (CEW) this semester to support faculty and student writers across all disciplines.

In addition to assisting individual writers, the CEW serves as a resource for writing research or grant proposals, and teaching, practice and assessment in writing. Additionally, the CEW will host workshops and tutorials, including a weeklong “Dissertation Bootcamp” writing retreat in which graduate students spend four hours a day mastering dissertation writing.  

Located in 209 Baldy Hall, North Campus, CEW’s services are free and open to faculty, staff and students. It is funded through the E Fund in the Office of the Provost, which supports innovative university initiatives that expand UB’s impact and enhance the student educational experience.

Arabella Lyon, associate professor of English and director of the CEW, says the center “might be the glue that holds an innovative general education program together” in that it will help faculty infuse rhetorical thinking and writing activity into various programs. Moreover, the CEW will help students hone the skills needed to meet these standards by providing such services as one-on-one counseling with consultants, workshops and online tutoring. CEW staff also can help faculty with writing research proposals and other academic work.

Lyon believes writing is a lifelong process that does not end with completion of the English 101 general education course.

“Writing serves many purposes, varying from communication and community-building to identity formation and knowledge creation,” she says. “A research university is particularly committed to the creation of knowledge and epistemic, or knowledge-creating writing, requires a complex type of literacy that takes years to learn.

“A robust writing center is characteristic of a research university,” Lyon notes. “But UB’s Center for Excellence in Writing is set apart from many other writing centers by its commitment to research, both research on writing and writing about research.”

Lyon aims to make writing a more prominent part of coursework at the university. She is in the process of developing a workshop called “Thirty Years of Writing Pedagogy in Less than Thirty Minutes,” which she hopes will inspire faculty to include more writing exercises in their syllabi.

The CEW is managed by teaching assistants, graduate and undergraduate student consultants, and a professional staff, all of whom have teaching and leadership experience. Many have taken the pedagogical course, “Consulting and Composing,” taught by CEW Associate Director Rhonda Reid.

The consultants are taught how to assist students of different academic levels and those for whom English is their second language. They also are trained by a librarian to help students use research tools and multimedia compositions.

The consultants do not act as copy editors, but rather as guides so that writers reflect on their own work and understand strategies for revision. Specifically, they help writers focus on their strengths, priorities, purposes and plans.

Elizabeth Teebagy, a senior English major and CEW consultant, finds a lesson every day in teaching.

She says consultants have a wide range of expertise and are able to help students with more than just writing papers. One day she might help a freshman in English 101 get acclimated to college-level work; another day she could help a senior preparing for a job interview in New York.

One-on-one appointments with consultants generally range from 30 minutes to one hour, and are influenced by the student’s goals. Consultants are matched to writers based on skill level and the nature of the writer’s project. Graduate consultants generally work with advanced undergraduates and fellow graduate students, whereas undergraduate consultants work with their peers on course essays and relatable material.

The CEW is open weekdays and accepts walk-in appointments. For more information, specific hours of operation or to make an appointment, visit the Center for Excellence in Writing’s website.