By Staff Writer Kylie Cooper.
The Writing and Reading Center (WRC) offers a variety of resources for students seeking tutoring, help on papers, and exam preparation.
However, the Center also offers lesser-known programs, such as the conversation partner program.
“We pair an American English speaker to volunteer with an international student,” said Michael Helou ‘19, illustration, who has been tutoring at the WRC since his sophomore year.
“The goal is so the international student can really learn conversational English.”
The conversations are relaxed and casual; there is no lesson plan.
Topics can range from pop culture, sports, and anything in between. Partners can even play games.
“It’s really different than a tutoring session,” Helou said.
Partners must meet once a week and the hours are flexible.
The conversation partner program’s benefits reach far beyond volunteer hours, too.
While the international student is able to refine their conversational English skills, the English-speaking volunteer is also immersed into a different culture and a friendship is formed.
Another program that students may utilize is online tutoring.
Students who don’t have time to go to the Center or would rather get help online simply submit their paper through the WRC’s website and receive tutor feedback within 48 hours.
“It doesn’t matter when they submit it,” Helou said.
“They can submit it at 2 a.m. and no matter what, they’re always going to get a response [within 48 hours].”
Online tutoring is targeted toward TRIO grant students at the moment. However, students are encouraged to attend a face-to-face tutoring session at any time.
The WRC has a number of student tutors from a variety of majors, including art, nursing, sociology, history, and, of course, English. Sessions are about fifty minutes long and students may bring in any type of paper; class assignments, cover letters, and nursing letters are welcome, to name just a few.
The sessions do not attempt to change the writer’s style, nor do tutors edit the paper themselves; rather, they seek to make the paper the most effective and share those strategies.
Helou tells students hesitant about visiting the Center that the session is much less pressured than meeting with a professor. It’s common for tutors to have taken the same class or been instructed by the same professor, too.
“We’re just peers helping peers,” he said.
The tutors may specialize in certain aspects of writing depending on their major, but all are trained with general English skills.
Workshops are held each semester to make sure the tutors have updated information on writing techniques, and one of the Center’s faculty members is also a part of the English department.
Students who are interested in becoming a conversation partner or receiving tutoring may either visit the Writing and Reading Center on the ground floor of LARTS, Room 010, or go to http://www.umassd.edu/wrc. Additional tutoring services are given at the Elmwood Residence Hall Sundays through Thursdays from 7-10 PM and the Frederick Douglass Unity House at select times.
They may also be found on Facebook at UMass Dartmouth Writing & Reading Center, Instagram @umassdwrc, and Twitter @UMassD_WRC.