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The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Passionate Pens: Inside the World of Writing and Speaking Center Consultants

Top to bottom: Mehek Singh, Colgate University, Instagram / @colgatewsc

Colgate University offers many opportunities and resources to its students, each of which is unique in character. The Writing and Speaking Center is an important feature of the University that provides students with the opportunity to improve both their writing and speaking skills. The center employs over thirty students as writing and speaking consultants, giving them an eventful job with numerous learning experiences.

The idea behind the consulting job is simple: Why not have university students who are experienced with writing and speaking assist other students to help develop those skills? Consultants are expected to be able to assist students with any sort of academic or professional writing or speaking objective. The student consultants offer suggestions for revision and help writers and speakers experience their work from a reader or listener’s perspective.

Junior Helen Lieberman, who serves as a writing consultant, emphasized that the center provides support across all aspects of the writing and speaking processes. Lieberman specifically sought to clarify that the center is intended to be of use at any stage of preparation.

“The Writing Center provides valuable resources no matter where you are in the [process] of working on something,” Lieberman said. “We truly are happy to help.”

The consultant position may have a clear objective, but that does not necessarily make the job straightforward. Sophomore William Klaasmeyer, another writing consultant, finds his work as a writing consultant to be highly complex and situational. While the objective of the job and many of the mechanics of writing are clear, each student’s work presents a unique circumstance, and each student has unique capabilities and goals. While some might view this unpredictability as detrimental, Klaasmeyer sees it as an asset that adds to his interest in the job and his ability to learn and grow from it.

“There’s so many different variables in a session that could change how a session goes,” Klaasmeyer said. “I’ve learned a lot about how to adapt to different situations.”

Lieberman likewise believes that the breadth of possible experiences as a consultant has enhanced her time at the center. In particular, Lieberman appreciates the opportunity to work with fellow students on subjects from many different academic focuses.

“It’s really enjoyable because of that variation,” Lieberman said. “You get to learn a lot about different disciplines that you might not be exposed to [otherwise].”

Rather than simply editing, peer consultants are expected to engage with their clients to clearly define their objectives and hone their skills in pursuing them. Klaasmeyer finds this aspect of consulting to be highly collaborative.

“I’m not editing someone’s paper,” Klaasmeyer said. “I’m helping their process, so it’s more of a conversation.”

Lieberman shares Klaasmeyer’s goal of helping students figure out their next steps in the writing process and finds this to be one of the most fulfilling parts of her job.

“Being able to give students an action plan when they leave is really gratifying,” Lieberman said. “I particularly like the gratification of feeling as if [I’ve] helped someone.”

Klaasmeyer, for his part, has found it especially rewarding when he’s able to work with a student a second or third time, rather than just once, again emphasizing the positive aspects of the interpersonal nature of his job.

“It’s even more rewarding when I meet with someone, and then that person comes back to me in the future, and I [can] build a relationship,” Klaasmeyer said.

Junior Despina Anastasiou works as a consultant in the Speaking Center and explained how working there has been one of the highlights of her college experience.

“I have the opportunity to meet with students from all grades and assist in a range of topics from speech writing to delivery,” Anastasiou said. “Not only am I helping to improve their rhetoric skills, but I have also become a better writer and presenter, as well.”

Beyond the actual work with students, Lieberman and Klaasmeyer discussed what it was like to be a student employee at Colgate. Both found the workload to be entirely manageable, though Lieberman described the transition into an employee to be somewhat challenging.

“I think it is definitely an adjustment. The most important thing is making use of your gaps in time between various commitments,” Lieberman said. “It’s definitely something that you can get used to.”

Anastasiou spoke about how the Writing and Speaking Center has fostered a caring community for both the clients and the consultants who work there.

“The center is not only a place where students on campus go to share their work and receive peer review, but it’s also a home for those of us working there,” Anastasiou said. “It’s the place I feel the most comfortable being myself and learning from the most intelligent and caring cohort of people I’ve ever met.”

The position of writing and speaking consultant offers Colgate students an enriching experience in many ways. Consultants gain skills not only in the domain of writing, but also in terms of interpersonal communication and time management. Perhaps most importantly, the position offers students a chance to make a direct and meaningful impact on their college community — which, after all, is one of the things that we all hope to do in our time here at Colgate.

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