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Center provides Mason students with individualized help with writing assignments

September 16, 2020   /   by Elizabeth Gillooly

Scheduling more than 7,500 free sessions each year, the George Mason University Writing Center helps Mason students with all facets of their writing assignments from research papers and essays to emails and resumes. Highly skilled tutors are available to work one-on-one with students through each segment of the writing process—prompts, drafts, revisions, final product—to create better writers in the Mason Nation.

When educational psychology graduate student Amber Zhang received her first writing assignment for a philosophy class, she found it difficult to get ideas presented and onto paper.

“It always felt hard to write for that class, and the writing tutors helped a lot,” said Zhang. “I remember entering the sessions with a messy mind and leaving with a clear structure for the paper. I basically just shared the assignment prompt, my ideas, and my assumptions with the tutor and we went from there.”

To meet with a tutor, students can visit the Writing Center website and schedule a real-time appointment held on Zoom, or they can submit their draft for a tutor’s written feedback. The center’s 35 to 40 tutors, who are themselves Mason students, may work with writers once or multiple times to see them through to the final product. 

The Writing Center also offers programs for multilingual writers, including one that matches a writer with a tutor for regular weekly meetings throughout the semester. 

Such was the case for early childhood education major Kamila Mukushova. She began coming to the Writing Center to build her confidence with her English writing skills.

“The tutors are very well trained on how to work with multilingual writers and are really supportive,” Mukushova said. “After each session with a tutor, I would feel very good about myself and have more energy to keep up on writing my assignments. I started to write with more structure and purpose.”

Mukushova subsequently returned to the Writing Center when she started job hunting, seeking help with her resume and cover letters.

Susan Lawrence, director of the Writing Center, points out that the relationship built between Mukushova and her tutors is not uncommon. The rapport among writers and tutors comes through in the surveys students complete after their sessions.

“In their responses, students often write directly to their tutors, thanking them and wishing them well,” said Lawrence. “The human connection is nice to see, especially in a time when students may be feeling disconnected.”

Students availing themselves of Writing Center services come from disciplines across all 10 of Mason’s colleges and schools, from all campuses, and from all levels of education, including graduate students. Lawrence noted that the Writing Center is often brought into a student’s schedule via an introduction from faculty.

“Faculty who teach writing-intensive courses invite our tutors in to deliver a presentation about our services or a workshop on a topic like strategies for conquering writer’s block or for revising a draft,” said Lawrence.  

Additionally, the Writing Center offers workshops on specific topics that are also free for students.  Currently, the schedule for upcoming Fall 2020 workshops includes:

  • Strategies for Getting Started on a Draft
  • Online Resources for Improving Word Choice and Grammar in Academic Writing
  • From Casual to Scholarly: Strategies for Elevating Your Prose 
  • Strategies for Revising a Draft
  • Personal Statements for Graduate School Applications

Lawrence reflects on the changes and growth of the Writing Center since its humble beginnings 46 years ago in a small office with one tutor. As Mason grew, the Writing Center expanded. Lawrence explains that in the move to online tutoring, they have worked hard to retain the most meaningful aspects of tutoring for both writers and tutors.

“We had already developed a strong sense of community, and we bring our new tutors into a very supportive atmosphere while offering a valuable leadership experience,” Lawrence said.

The Writing Center is poised to continue to provide Mason’s growing student population with solid writing skills and support to build on far into the future.

Faculty can promote the Writing Center to their students by using a syllabus blurb, embedding or showing our video in their online course, or inviting a tutor to join their synchronous class meeting on Zoom, Webex or Collaborate Ultra. Find out more. Contact wcenter@gmu.edu with questions.