There's a language of belonging when entering an academic environment, and finding the key to unlocking that language is more difficult for some than others. Thankfully, there's a gatekeeper on hand to assist in the search.
Eric Low (BA '75) mans the University's Writing Centre, a haven for those searching for guidance when trying to write in a language that, at times, can seem foreign.
"There's a misunderstanding that writing takes place alone. I don't know very many practicing writers who don't collaborate in some fashion," Low says. "Writing, by its nature, works well in a collaborative situation."
The Writing Centre is not a remedial centre and Low, along with Manager of Language Services, International Centre for Students, Jenine Hawryluk, is not there to simply edit papers. Instead, they offer an opportunity for students to vet their ideas and gain feedback on whether they are hitting the mark with their papers.
"A great deal of what we do here is listen and respond, at any stage of the process," Low says.
"We're here to encourage, to suggest, to diagnose problems or patterns and to make suggestions. It then all goes back to the student. After talking to us, it's the student's job to say, 'This is what I'm going to do.' "
Low's jack-of-all-trades background is extremely beneficial in the work he does with students. An English graduate, he also studied drama and eventually earned a master's degree in journalism from University of Western Ontario. At the U of L he has taught drama, English, English as a second language and academic writing, as well as some management and communications courses.
"That's one of the reasons I'm here, I have a varied background and very little astonishes me," he says.
An Ottawa, Ont. native, Low says the Writing Centre welcomes students at all stages of the writing process. Whether it's helping them with the first stage of unpacking an assignment and making sure they begin on the right path, to clarifying the organization of their ideas and then finally recognizing grammatical pitfalls, it's all a process to help students understand the forum within which they are now writing.
"Anytime a student begins feeling anxious to the point of being concerned about an assignment is the time to come in," Low says.
Students and faculty both profit from this collaboration. To that end, Low and Hawryluk encourage faculty to promote the Writing Centre to their students. Some even make it a requirement to visit the centre at least once during the writing process.
To better understand the needs of faculty, the Writing Centre is sending out an electronic survey that will ask faculty questions on style and formatting and just how they'd prefer their students to write.
GET THE FACTS
• The Writing Centre's survey for faculty should be sent out during the first week of classes.
• The Writing Centre is located in L1012 in the University Library. It's an ideal location and allows for collaboration between the centre and the librarians.
• Students can book 30-minute or 50-minute Writing Centre appointments online. The Writing Centre is also open for drop-in appointments Monday to Friday,
9 a.m. to noon, and Monday to Thursday, 1 to 4 p.m.
• For more information on the Writing Centre, visit the website at www.uleth.ca/ics/writingcentre