Coaching isn’t just for athletes: Writing Center coaches evolve student writing
March 31, 2023
A cascade of chatter waxes and wanes as students peruse writings, offer suggestions, and bestow words of encouragement. A row of desks hugs a curved wall, each laden with paper, laptops, and notes. It may sound like a description of a classroom — but this is the Virginia Tech Writing Center.
The center is located on the second floor of Newman Library and offers tutoring or coaching to anyone who needs writing support.
“We work with students at any stage of the writing process,” said Jennifer Lawrence, senior instructor and director of the Writing Center. “We focus on the positives in a student’s writing and help them build on their successes.”
Undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty, benefit from the center and use it as a resource.
This space helps students improve their writing skills, whether they are working on a poem, an essay about ancient Rome, or environmental research about North American wetlands. Tutoring sessions last 30 or 60 minutes and are meant to encourage students, revise their work, and brainstorm topic ideas. As clients, students can expect their writing coach to review the piece and discuss options for its next steps.
Coaches, also known as tutors, range from undergraduate students of all disciplines to graduate students in various programs. This means the center is capable of providing diverse perspectives, and assisting students with a wide variety of writing topics.
The center's environment is enriching for students and tutors alike, coach Jack Leimann said.
“Working here is a rewarding experience,” he said. “It’s intimidating to be vulnerable with your writing, but since the coaches are students who face the exact same struggles themselves, they’re very understanding.”
Leimann, a senior double majoring in history and political science, began working at the center as a junior. One of his most fulfilling experiences as a coach was working weekly with a multilingual student who was writing a lengthy paper in English for the first time.
“Our first appointment hadn’t gone as well because it was difficult to overcome the language barrier,” Leimann said. “By the time he left, I felt like I hadn’t gotten through to him.”
However, there was significant improvement during the second session, Leimann said, because he and his client felt more comfortable communicating and working together.
“Our appointment went much better the second time, and I felt like I was able to help him with his writing despite the obstacles,” Leimann said.
The Writing Center opened in the early 1970s. Lawrence, as its director, has enjoyed watching the program grow since its move to the library in 2012. Lawrence tries to promote a sense of community in the program, noting that the Writing Center is a safe place for students to bring their writing for advice — not judgment.
“There’s no red pens here, no mark-ups of the papers,” Lawrence said. “There is a two-way conversation between the coach and the client.”
The Writing Center is open until the first day of final exams and offers walk-in appointments during business hours, as well as virtual appointments with extended availability during weeknights and weekends. During busy times in the semester, it is best to schedule an in-person or virtual appointment ahead of time.
Visit the Writing Center's website for more information about its hours of operation, services, and more.
Written by Lola Campbell, an English major with a concentration in pre-law