We learn so much from writers coming in from all different disciplines and majors with fascinating passions and goals. Don't be surprised if a CEW consultant nominates you to be a CEW Featured Writer! Through this series, we highlight the stories of UB writers and the productive and unique ways they use CEW services.
Zhi has been using the Center for Excellence in Writing at UB for about a year, working with a variety of consultants and striving to improve his writing abilities beyond just a particular assignment. Although he describes writing as his weakest subject, through hard work and a little help from the CEW he has become quite strong in his “weakest subject” and continues to hone his writing skills.
Zhi has been kind enough to share with the UB community his experiences with the CEW and writing, and offers great insights and advice for anyone working to improve their writing skills!
What did you find helpful about the CEW?
Through CEW, I get to learn new vocab, sentence structure, and different ways of strengthening my writing. Writing is like cooking a meal. The professor gave me a dish he wanted and I had to come up with a way to cook it perfectly. CEW is like the receipt that guides me to what the professor wants. CEW acts as a guide toward improving my writing for the better. Every Time I have a major assignment, I come to CEW. It is like peer-review but from people who are experts at writing different categories.
What about writing do you find challenging, and how do you overcome these things?
Oftentimes, I tend to repeat words, wander in my own thoughts, grammar fragments, and am unfocused on my ideas. I often used favorite words to fill the gaps in my paper. Sometimes I was able to overcome this problem by having friends and a tutor to peer-review my work.
What did you learn from different consultants?
Every consultant has different ways of writing. They are unique in their voice, sentence structure, and format. Every consultant provides different values and it is important to have different opinions. One taught me to use my voice more, while the other taught me to smooth the structure. Overall every consultant provides different values to my writing.
What are your personal tricks and tips for writing?
My best trick is to free write. Then edit and change things on the paper. Take a break. Then continue editing. Taking a break is important because it allows me to get new perspective.
How do you manage stress, writer's block, or any other obstacles?
To manage stress I hang out with friends, ride a bicycle, and do other things to distract myself. When I am freshened up again, I go back to the stressful task. Same for writer’s block.
What do you like to do when you do not write?
Oh boy. I do many things. When I am not writing, I study for my classes, cook, hangout with friends, run, bike, drive, ride my motorcycle, listen to music, do internships, etc. Writing is just one part of my life.
Any advice for those who are new to the CEW?
Since the appointment moves quickly, you should prepare for the major concern you had before sitting down with them. That way by the time the appointment is over, the majority of your concern is taken care of!
A major predictor of student success is being a resource user. Anthony Liotta is a great example of this strategy in action. In just the first semester of his freshman year, Anthony has become a frequent visitor to the CEW and his enthusiasm and work ethic have made him a favorite around here.
A Political Science major planning to go to law school, Anthony is interested in everything to do with politics, history and the law. Anthony has found that talking with a consultant helps him to formulate his ideas in preparation for the writing process. Anthony comes to consultations prepared, having done lots of reading, thinking, note-taking and outlining.
Anthony relates, “In the beginning, I actually had a lot of anxiety about writing. I didn’t think I was up to par with other students, especially students that went to private schools. Working with CEW consultants, particularly Sarah Sgro, helped Anthony to gain confidence. Anthony said of Sarah, “She was very good at explaining everything to me. She really took the time to help me out, and I really appreciate it.” Anthony’s approach seems to work – he raised his first essay grade from a 70% to a 95% through the revision process.
Hailing from Smithtown Long Island, Anthony grew up playing baseball and is a big fan of the Yankees. Since he has gotten to college, he has become an avid reader, particularly as a strategy for improving his writing. That is a really good strategy, Anthony! We look forward to working with you throughout your academic career.
The Center for Excellence in Writing is pleased to announce that our newest featured writer is Yukako Otsuki. Yukako is a 4th year PhD student of Foreign and Second Language Education in the Department of Learning and Instruction. She studies effective methods for English Education in Japanese elementary schools.
Yukako describes herself as a heavy user of the writing center, bringing in a variety of types of writing such as her dissertation and related articles. Yukako attributes her success with scholarship and conference applications, in part, to her habit of working with writing center consultants. She also has brought in a presentation script, working on her English speaking skills as well. Yukako says,
I enjoy talking with consultants about my papers. It’s dialogical work, so when they ask me, “Yukako, what do you mean?,” that enables me to think deeply about what I mean. Through talking with consultants, I can more easily finish my work!
As a regular participant in dissertation retreats, Yukako inspires everyone with her positive attitude about her work. In addition to her scholarly endeavors, Yukako enjoys group fitness courses and running. In the future, she hopes to continue working as a scholar in her field in the U.S.!
Monica came to our attention as writing consultants remarked on how much fun she is to work with and how she takes charge of her consultations, coming in with a clear agenda and sharp questions. Monica is a Junior at UB, a double major in Psychology and Health and Human Services. She plans to go on to graduate school to pursue a career in Social Work, possibly in the field of Education. A Buffalo native, she is currently doing an internship at her former high school, assisting students with their college application process. When she’s not working or studying, Monica enjoys going out to eat, hanging out with friends and watching fantasy movies such as Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings. Monica comes into the CEW for a range of papers. “I love that we have a place on campus where we can have our papers reviewed” she noted. Monica also relates that she likes that she has the opportunity to work with other students in the CEW, and was pleased to even work with a consultant who was in her class. She expects to be a frequent visitor in the CEW this Spring. “I think it’s a great resource,” she added. Thanks Monica! We are looking forward to working with you this semester and we hope more students will follow your lead making the most of the resources available at UB!
Francisco is a CEW favorite for his friendly demeanor and productive attitude about writing. When asked why he is a regular at the CEW, Francisco replied, “I want to become a better writer, and as a non-native English speaker, I think it is very important to have the skills to write in a proper and professional manner. I have a couple of weaknesses that I want to work on, and the CEW is a free resource that I can use every week.” Recently, Francisco has been working with writing consultant Jack Friscaro. Francisco says of Jack, “He’s a big help. I can follow what he say and he explains everything very well. I don’t just want a fix, I want an explanation.”
A senior in his last semester, Francisco is a Chemistry major who plans to go to graduate school to study Chemistry and Medicine. While he is from El Salvador, he has family in Long Island. In addition to his studies, Francisco loves playing guitar and playing basketball in the summer. Francisco, we are so glad to have you as part of the CEW community and wish you all the best in your graduate studies!
Meejas is a Master’s of Science in Economics. Meejas intends to pursue a PhD in development economics and is interested in the impact of man-made and natural disasters on economic growth. When he’s not studying, Meejas enjoys being outside. “Exercising helps you be productive,” says Meejas, “so when I’m feeling a little bit stressed, I exercise.” He especially enjoys playing soccer and basketball.
Meejas has come to the CEW to work on many different kinds of projects, from papers and theses to personal statements and applications. He feels the CEW consultants have helped him “build up understanding” in his writing in addition to helping on grammar and improving his English skills overall. Meejas believes that the help he received from Patricia and Matt and their advice to frame his personal statement as a story contributed to his acceptance to graduate school.
Shermin is a junior, majoring in Health and Human Services and Social Sciences here at UB and plans to pursue her Master’s. She wants to go on to be a social worker or counselor. Shermin enjoys spending time with her family and watching investigative crime TV shows. She likes UB, even though it is huge, since there’s a lot to learn here and it’s very diverse.
Shermin visits the CEW often to work on flow, formatting, and many other topics and has found the CEW consultants to be very helpful. “They’re friendly and nice,” she said, “and they help me just write better.” She has especially appreciated working with Shanleigh and Jillian and their help in completing the sometimes overwhelming work she has. Each piece of advice and helpful note on one paper has been guidance for the next.
Katrina is a freshman here at UB, majoring in Chemical Engineering. She thinks she may want to go on to work for a food production company, but she will explore her options through internships and further experiences in her coursework.
Katrina Ma is our newest featured writer! Katrina is a freshman here at UB, hailing from Queens, New York. She is majoring in Chemical Engineering and thinks she may want to go on to work for a food production company, but she will explore her options through internships and further experiences in her coursework. She competed on a highly successful robotics team in high school, and she likes playing volleyball with her friends. She is enjoying Buffalo, especially the trees and natural landscape in this area.
Katrina was wise to come in to the CEW near the start of her freshman year. As a STEM student, she thought she could use some extra support in writing. She comes to the CEW an average of twice a week to work on her assignments in English 105 and in her Engineering seminar. She soon discovered that she enjoyed working with CEW consultant James Ponzo. "He gives wonderful explanations," she said, noting that James leads her to understand why certain revisions are recommended. Katrina said that since working with James, she finds herself applying what she's learned, and her writing is definitely improving in the areas of grammar, structure, clarity and flow.
Katrina is a great example of how smart and motivated students use the resources offered at the CEW, and we are glad that she is part of our community.
Saeede Eftekhari is a PhD candidate in UB’s Management Science and Systems program. She has particular interests in health care analytics and the economics of health information technologies. Saeede won the People's Choice award at UB's first annual Three Minute Thesis competition this year.
Q: How do you go about writing projects? How would you describe your writing process in general?
It’s important for me to have “a story-line of my work” before jumping into writing an actual piece. By this I mean that I should have a clear sense of purpose and have an overview of which elements and sections I will need for my paper. Once my main objective and arguments are set, I seek help from my adviser as to how I should structure my paper. My adviser is also very helpful in coming up with catchy titles for each heading/subheading.
Q: What have you learned from working with consultants at the CEW?
Over the years, I have visited the CEW to work on different writing projects ranging from conference papers and journal articles to dissertation chapters. Working with the consultants really helped me to write more concisely and coherently. I also find it beneficial to talk to a consultant who is outside my field. This compels me to explain my ideas more clearly. And I gain more confidence in my final piece if I succeed in convincing a non-expert of the importance of my research.
Q. Do you have any suggestions and tips for using the CEW more effectively?
From my experience, I would want to make two suggestions for a student writer who intends to use the CEW. My first suggestion is to have a main purpose in mind and bring an outline. This helps to start a productive conversation between the writer and the consultant. Another key to success is just to start writing! And write many drafts. Writing helps you to find out what you are thinking, where there are lacks in your thinking, and helps you to fill up these gaps.