University’s Writing Center Develops Confident Writers and Leaders
For more than a dozen peer tutors in the University’s Writing Center, helping their fellow Chargers develop their skills is remarkably fulfilling – and it has enabled them to develop their own abilities, as well as their confidence.
October 2, 2023
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
When Stephanie Munda ’24 was taking an English course a few years ago, her professor told her that she was a good writer. She applied to be a peer tutor in the University’s Writing Center, and she’s been serving as a tutor since she was a sophomore.
Munda says she has since realized this is what she is “meant to do.” As a peer tutor, she is a source of support for her classmates. She enjoys helping them develop their writing skills and seeing them learn and excel.
“I’m passionate about what I do as a peer tutor,” said Munda, a psychology major. “Seeing someone’s confidence with a paper they’ve written is a great feeling.”
‘You learn so much from working with students’
Munda is among more than a dozen peer tutors who work with students in all stages of the writing process. Tutors don’t consider themselves to be teachers – rather, they emphasize that they offer student-to-student support. They endeavor to make sure the writers who come into the Center feel like they are on a level playing field with their tutors.
Working with a peer enables students seeking support with their writing to feel comfortable asking questions. Tutors understand the responsibilities and challenges that their peers are managing as students, and that enables them to feel like they are on the same page. Tutors work with writers of all programs of study at the University, including both undergraduates and graduate students.
Megan Kostraba ’24 says the Writing Center is an area of the Peterson Library that she and her fellow tutors call their “home away from home.” She endeavors to make every writer she works with the expert in every session. She adjusts her techniques to help them as much as possible.
“As a tutor, you learn so much from working with students and sharing ideas,” said Kostraba, an English major. “You also learn from the other tutors, such as different styles to include in writing. Seeing someone walk away having learned something makes us feel confident.”
‘Their voices matter’
That confidence, says Lauren Boasso, Ph.D., director of the Writing Center, is what she hopes both writers and tutors gain from working together. She enjoys seeing students develop their confidence and she hopes becoming more confident – both as writers and as individuals – will guide them as they face challenges in life.
“So many students think they are ‘bad writers’ or that they don't have anything interesting to say, but this isn't the case at all,” said Dr. Boasso, a senior lecturer of English.
“Our tutors help students see that their voices matter,” she continued. “I enjoy being able to work with tutors for multiple years and seeing them grow as writers and mentors.”
‘An amazing career launching point’
Those tutors include current students as well as many alumni. Miriam Cohen ’21 served as a tutor for three years, an experience they call “fulfilling.” For Cohen, being a tutor meant being a friendly face who was always willing to help without judgment. They also served as a writing fellow, working closely with a faculty member for a semester to provide individual tutoring and speaking to the class about important topics such as writing styles and citations.
Cohen says the Writing Center offered a fun atmosphere and a wonderful place to work. Now an academic adviser in the Office of Academic Advising at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Cohen says they continue to draw on their experiences as a peer tutor at the University of New Haven.
“Being a tutor helped me with a lot of skills, the two most important being my own writing and how to work with English as a Second Language (ESL) students,” said Cohen, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University and earned a master’s degree from the University of Maine. “I definitely became a better writer the longer I was in the position, and the writing skills that I learned throughout my time as a tutor I still use today.
“Not only did I gain great experience working with students, but I was also able to work on my own skills as a writer and excel in ways I had not thought were possible before,” continued Cohen. “It helped me become incredibly detail-oriented, so much so that I have often served as the designated proofreader on staff. I have also found some success in helping critique and edit blog posts as a side gig! The Writing Center is not only an amazing resource for students, but an amazing career launching point for tutors who work there.”
‘Each student was different’
One of Cohen’s fellow tutors, Lily Manzo ’21 joined the Writing Center as a tutor during her sophomore year. She loved meeting new people and supporting her peers on a variety of assignments, from lab reports to first-year student essays. Manzo considers her three years as a tutor to be among her favorite memories of her time as a Charger.
Now a student affairs fellow in Yale University’s Office of Gender and Campus Culture, Manzo also says her time as a tutor helped prepare her for success. Manzo, who earned a degree in forensic science with a double minor in English and race and ethnic studies, says she developed her critical thinking skills as well as the ability to think quickly and effectively.
“Each student was different, and everyone constantly reimagined new ways of engaging with class materials that were refreshing and inspiring,” said Manzo, who earned a master’s degree from Rutgers University. “Each day that I tutored, it reminded me why I loved to read and write so much, and how incredible it can be to take the entanglement of thoughts in our head and put them on paper in a way that can reach other people.”
‘It’s about meeting a writer where they are’
Much like the writers they support, tutors represent a wide variety of majors and programs of study. Tutors ask questions to assess a writer’s needs, but, ultimately, it is the writer who guides each appointment. Tutors don’t edit a writer’s paper for them – rather, they help them become proficient at editing their own papers. They offer support and enable writers to develop their own skills.
That’s important for Myles Allan ’24, a peer tutor who has always been passionate about writing. Whether a student comes into an appointment with a blank screen or a completed paper, Allan is dedicated to seeing his classmates excel and become more proficient and confident writers. Serving as a tutor has also developed his own confidence, and it has impacted his career goals.
“As a tutor, I learned that it’s not about me – it’s about meeting a writer where they are,” said Allan, an English major. “It’s about being a guiding hand. I grew out of my imposter syndrome and discovered a passion for writing and education. Now I want to get my Ph.D. and teach writing and literature at the university level.”