Trying to Say Goodbye

Well it has been awhile. I have struggled with something worthwhile to say when none of my fellow classmates are here to help or draft ideas with the new blog headmaster. I mean it is the summertime and while no one is writing much unless keeping an avid account of their Pokemon Go escapades on Facebook, it makes sustaining the life of the blog difficult. Nonetheless, this blog is a special one.

I have decided to come out of recluse and turn the spotlight on not just writing and creating something beautiful but to shine a light on someone that does that everyday. Someone that made all of this possible. For if not for she, I would not be writing this new installment to our Summer 2016 blog.

Dr. Sunny Hawkins.

This is officially the first week without our beloved director. Soon we will be closing for the summer and will not reopen until September where we will be director-less.

She was the director at Texas A&M University-Kingsville Undergraduate Writing Center, having brought this wonderful establishment from a couple of tables and chairs to a room full of bright hopeful students working towards not just a great paper but a greater skill set. She breathed life into what is now today’s most dedicated group of individuals coming into work everyday loving what they do. When I was first hired for the job I didn’t realize there was more to this job than just revising papers. You actually were still the student as well; not just a tutor. Sure I was helping students out with grammatical mishaps but it was the lesson of invoking cooperation that really made me open my eyes. You don’t just sit there and let someone look over your paper without being involved, you, yourself must be an active noggin present in the reconstruction of your paper. I didn’t get that at first, but if it wasn’t for Dr. Sunny’s informative training sessions it would not have helped a lot of the tutors at the writing center sit up and take control of the work they should be doing. In a sense it made me have more respect for myself in regards to my duty as a tutor. We as tutors are not mere Stop-and-Drops but expressive souls that need something to feel proud of, and I feel proud of the work I do for the clients that seek our help. When I know I did my absolute best to help them I know I go home feeling like I did my part for the UWC.

This establishment is not just a writing center but a place where so many things are learned and created. Bonds, friendships, memories, parties, fun and most importantly knowledge are always in bloom. It probably won’t always be like this at our future jobs. Coming in wearing sweat pants, watching Netflix on downtime, playing a vicious game of Bananagrams or having impromptu pizza parties doesn’t seem like an everyday ordeal at the office, the emergency room or kindergarten classroom. College really is a time to enjoy ourselves and I am so gracious to Dr. Sunny for keeping that environment strong at the UWC.

I emailed shortly before she was to depart and I asked her one question: What did it mean to you to work for the writing center? She emailed back a response that makes the Order of the Phoenix look shy. I decided to share the parts of her response that I felt speak volumes on what this place is all about and the legacy she leaves behind.

Dear Tutors:

The first time I set foot in our Writing Center, it was empty.

It was just after New Year’s, and the spring semester hadn’t started yet. I remember turning on the lights, looking around at those hideous hardback chairs, and smiling. Because I knew, very soon, the magic that animates all Writing Centers would begin to animate this one.

What makes a Writing Center magical? It has nothing to do with the number of computers, printers, tables, couches, or coffeemakers it has. It has nothing to do with the color of the walls, the height of the bookshelves, or the view out the windows (or lack thereof). In a very real sense, it has nothing to do with who sits in the director’s chair. The magic of a Writing Center is created by its tutors, in every interaction you have with the students and faculty who come to us for help.

Very soon I will walk out of our Writing Center for the last time. But I am not leaving it empty. You, every one of you, has filled it with the magic only you could bring to it. Your different personalities, your unique talents, are woven into the fabric of helping writers find their voices, whether you worked with them once for twenty minutes, or twenty times over a single semester.

If I had to leave you with any advice, it would be this. #1) Stay curious. Not knowing something is not a disadvantage; it’s an opportunity to learn something new. If you want to stay young forever, never stop learning. #2) Stay open. Stay idealistic. Remember that the world is not what you see on the news. It is a vast and fascinating place, and most of the people in it are good, and kind, and honest. #3) Most importantly, stay yourself. Don’t let someone else’s definition of beauty, happiness, or success define you. Figure yourself out day by day, minute by minute. Stay aware. Stay present. Stay awake, as much as all the distractions of our world – Facebook; Pokemon; Instagram; Netflix; Amazon – may try to anesthetize you, to turn you into mindless, well-conformed consumers. Be more than that. Be you. Remember that, as Nakagawa Soen-Roshi once said, “all are nothing but flowers / in a flowing universe.” Know that inside you, after all, there is magic. Now more than ever, the world needs you to use it.

Blessed be,

Dr. Sunny”



She is understanding, caring, considerate, fair, funny, realistic and wholeheartedly the kindest person you  will ever meet. I am so lucky I met her-even got to work for her. She’s the boss you wish for. Dr. Sunny sure is a rarity. We are all going to miss her. I very much envy the people that started off working with her from the very beginning but at least I was able to take on so many projects and responsibilities for her. This truly is my dream job. A place where you can relax, stay focused on school but not exactly lose your mind over it; this is a place where you only get stronger as you go along and it’s all because someone so vigorously fantastic was lifting it up with her hands.

Dr. Sunny you will be missed so dearly cows will moo for you in a soft distance where ever you are, whoever you are enchanting with the effervescent knowledge you will be feeding to your new batch of seedlings in St. Louis. The UWC will be lost for a little bit without your sunny guidance but eventually we shall chug on with a new director. At least we know she/he won’t have to whip us into shape, you have molded us so perfectly. We are probably going to be the best crew she/he could be dealt with. However, he has some soft shoes to don on. No one rigid could wear your shoes unless they loosen up a little bit and decide to do a little dance and realize this is more than just a job but an opportunity to make a difference just as you have. Otherwise those shoes are going to be too soft to keep from falling off.



Writers Unite: Knowing when you need help

by Beth Cantu, Peer Tutor

I have a ridiculous nightmare every semester around this time, but this one was different.

I was standing in front of my colleagues and a panel of professors, presenting my senior project. But all that was coming out of my mouth was gibberish. I was only halfway through when the Dean of our department raises their hand and says, “How did you even get this far?” They stamp a huge “F” on my paper, and suddenly I’m watching graduation, my graduation, from the bleachers, a sea of black caps with white tassels dance below me.


I woke up this morning anxious and sweaty. Even now as I’m here at work writing this, I’m still shaken. I know the nightmare will likely not come true, but I feel that I have to focus now even more than ever.

I used to be too proud to ask anyone for help with my writing, even before I worked here at the UWC. I rarely asked my colleagues to proofread for me. I was the self-proclaimed queen of grammar and MLA format; everyone came to me for help.

One of my assignments for my 19th Century Brit Lit class was on H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (even as I type that name, I’m shuddering in fear), and I was feeling more confident than usual. Dystopia is my game, and I felt like I had this one in the bag.

When papers were handed back, I smiled at my professor, but she seemed to evade eye contact. Rather than passing the paper back through the line of classmates before me, she walked over to me and set the paper upside down on my desk. “Not your best work,” she whispered. When I flipped it over, the paper had a huge purple “C” on the first page.

To you, a “C” on one paper is probably not a huge deal, but I wasn’t used to getting anything lower than a “B” on any kind of assignment. The whole event shook me to my core. I started rethinking my career path. Maybe I wasn’t that good of a writer. How did I expect to succeed in graduate school if I couldn’t even write a junior level paper correctly?

Dramatics aside, I was really doing fine in the class. And, in hindsight, that paper wasn’t actually that bad. It wasn’t that great, but, after having just brought myself to read it again, I realized that my professor knew I was capable of doing better work.

I have had this professor nearly every semester since I started college, so she knows how stubborn I can be. She knew a “bad” grade would light a fire inside me, and push me toward a higher level thinking.

For the next assignment I had, I asked one of my best friends, Bekah (who, coincidentally, works at the writing center with me now) to help me outline, organize, and proofread my paper. Not only did my grades go up (higher than what I was getting before!), but I noticed completing my writing assignments became easier and faster. I was also getting better at self-editing.

Now that I work here at the University Writing Center, I always make sure I schedule appointments for myself for each assignment, and I always suggest to my friends that they do the same.

It is not uncommon that I have a client that insists they don’t have to be here, and they just need a client report form for their class. I never hesitate to tell them that everyone needs help at some point, and even I come in to ensure that my writing is at its best.

I’ve been going in and out of the writing center, scrambling to get my big senior project done, and tomorrow is the BIG DAY. Hopefully, all of this hard work (from not only myself, but with the help of my fellow tutors) pays off!

I’ve come to notice English majors/minors are notoriously reluctant about asking for help, especially from non-English major tutors. Part of this stems from the desire to speak with people who understand our courses, our theories, and our level of analysis.

In order to help, the University Writing Center @ TAMUK is teaming up with the English Club and hosting a “Writers Unite!” Writing Marathon, a mass writing session FOR English Majors, BY English Majors. You can bring in your ideas or your assignment, and you are able to discuss your topics with other English Majors, while Writing Tutors are available to help with things like organization, citations, and grammar! We will have snacks and fun study break activities for you to enjoy. You can also earn tickets to win awesome prizes! This will take place on Dead Day (May 5) from 12PM-8PM in the UWC. For more information, come down to the University Writing Center on the second floor of the library or check out TAMUK English Club on Facebook. You can also email

P.S. If you are not an English Major, but are taking an English or another writing intensive course, you are still more than welcome to join us!

Until next time!


A brief intro to introduction paragraphs

Writing it Out

Let's introduce ourselves to strong introductory paragraphs. Image courtesy of Let’s introduce ourselves to strong introductory paragraphs. Image courtesy of

By Grace Bonde, Sophomore Writing Coach

The school year is almost winding down to a close, and right now most students are focused on struggling through the upcoming weeks of testing, doing homework when it’s finally nice outside, and the end of the year finals. Even though many of us are thinking about wrapping things up, I would like to go back to the beginning…of our papers! More specifically, the opening sentence, or lead, that introduces your audience to the rest of the paper.

Introduction paragraphs are hard to write. I believe we can all agree on that. They take a lot of creativity and have to be created anew for every written assignment. There is no easy formula for writing an interesting lead that sets the tone for the rest of the work. Leads, unlike the structure of…

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When and How Should Your Students Use the Writing Center?

The Writing Campus

help keys

Alisa Russell is a Master’s student in the Teaching Writing and Literature program at George Mason University.  She works as an administrator in the Writing Center, a research assistant for Writing Across the Curriculum, and a teaching assistant for First Year Composition. Her current research interests include the Writing About Writing movement in composition theory/pedagogy and Writing Center training and strategies for working with multilingual writers. You can reach her at

Whenever we assign writing assignments in our classrooms, we often peripherally acknowledge that the Writing Center is a viable option for our students to work with a tutor toward improvement. However, students may not fully understand the extensive options that the Writing Center provides for them. After scrambling for an appointment or not making one at all, the student may bring in a near-final draft for a quick check mere hours before the due date…

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CFP: Submissions to Proposed Edited Collection of RAD Writing Center Research

Please repost and distribute the following to all interested parties, especially graduate students:

In their 2012 volume Researching the Writing Center: Towards an Evidence-Based Practice, Rebecca Day Babcock and Terese Thonus remind us that “writing center scholarship is a young field, and the direction(s) in which we will grow depend upon the decisions we make today about the definitions of and the connections among theory, inquiry, and practice…[W]e propose that recommendations for practice be based on evidence in the form of observations, recordings, microanalyses of actual tutoring sessions; analyses of session feedback forms and textual revisions; and interviews with participants when feasible” (3). In other words, Babcock and Thonus sound a call heard with increasing frequency in writing center scholarship: a call for RAD scholarship, research – whether quantitative or qualitative – that is “replicable, aggregable, and data-supported” (2).

This proposed volume echoes that call. Its intention is to present current RAD research into writing center practice, including that being undertaken by graduate students, undergraduate tutors, and writing center directors, as well as other writing center stakeholders. Areas of interest might include:
· tutor training methods

· writing center spaces

· student/writer populations (those writing centers serve)

· peer tutor/consultant populations (those who staff writing centers)

· tutorial conference outcomes

· categories of/approaches to collaboration

· identity politics

· peer tutor outcomes

· students/writers and/or tutors/consultants with disabilities

· L2 students/writers and/or L2 tutors/consultants

· graduate writers

· patterns of tutorial conference discourse

· affect in the tutorial conference

· writing center administration

· online tutorial conferences

· writing centers and retention

· high school writing centers

· tutor-embedded courses

· student writing groups

· faculty writing groups
This list is not meant to be exhaustive; contributions in other areas of writing center practice will be considered. Proposals for works-in-progress (including pilot studies) are also welcome. However, at least the initial stage of data collection and analysis must be completed in advance of the final submission deadline.

Please do not propose submissions based solely on assessment measures. While writing center assessment is necessary for evaluating and revising local programs, the purpose of RAD scholarship is to create, extend, and/or revise theory or practice, not necessarily to assess the efficacy of individual programs. In other words, RAD scholarship seeks to make a contribution to the field at large via systematic, pre-planned inquiries involving data collection and analysis. Again, quantitative and qualitative methodologies are welcome.

Proposals of 750-1500 words are invited by July 1, 2015. All proposals should include:
1) Statement of purpose for the proposed and/or completed research

2) Names and roles of the researcher or researchers (i.e., writing center director; graduate student; undergraduate tutor)

3) Description of the population to be researched (students/writers; tutors/consultants; writing center administrators; etc.), if appropriate, and the setting of the research (two-year or four-year university; high school; etc.)

4) List of research questions

5) Description of research methods (interviews; observations; statistical comparisons; etc.) and plans for data collection and analysis

6) Timeline of research project (date data collection will begin and end; date data analysis will begin and end)

7) Evidence of or plans for securing IRB approval to conduct research
Send proposals via email to: Dr. Sunny Hawkins, Associate Professor of English, Texas A&M University-Kingsville ( Electronic submissions only, please. Proposal review will take place between July 1 and August 1, 2015; notification of submission acceptance will be sent via email by August 2, 2015. If accepted, final submissions will be due no later than February 1, 2016. Proposal for the edited collection is in progress and will be submitted after proposal submissions are selected.

Questions? Contact Dr. Sunny Hawkins at

Dr. Sunny Hawkins
Associate Professor of English
Undergraduate Writing Center Director
Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Brainstorming: How to Avoid “Snowball” Writing

UofL Writing Center


Kristin Hatten, Consultant

Learning to brainstorm is—in my humble opinion—one of the most important aspects of learning to write. This may seem obvious, but I think the further we progress into our writing careers, the more we tend to skip a good, solid brainstorming session. I, for one, am extremely guilty of this—especially since I started graduate school; I get overwhelmed with the project at hand, and, instead of proceeding calmly and strategically, I barrel forward into my paper, despite the fact that I know better. So, here, I want to outline some steps that I plan to walk myself through in order to avoid this “snowball-style” writing style, in hopes that they will be helpful to you as well!

First, freewrite! Freewriting is a great way to start a brainstorming session because you can do it however you want! Freewriting may consist of a rough outline, a chart, boxes…

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Professor Expectations of Writing Assignments: A Student Perspective

The Writing Campus


By Mikal Cardine

Mikal is a senior studying English at George Mason. She previously worked with WAC to create disciplinary writing guides for student use. To reach her, please contact

In the subjective world of writing, there doesn’t seem to be any rules – just lots of different guidelines as we students move from class to class. However, effective communication is what writing is all about, and professors can best teach their students this skill by practicing it themselves, especially regarding their expectations of writing assignments. Before assuming that we know what is expected of us, professors need to consider our circumstances and differences: Some of us have not been in a focused writing class in years. Some of us have not taken 302 before taking the WI course. Some of us placed out of first year writing, or have transferred to Mason and are still adjusting to new…

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Breaking Down the Narrative Essay Assignment



One of the most common writing assignments in introductory English Composition classes is the narrative essay. Students are often very familiar with writing an academic essay, such as a classical argument, but when asked to compose a narrative story, many students are flummoxed. It’s true that narrative writing is a different kind of writing than academic prose, but it’s still writing. Once you understand the parts that make up the whole, composing a winning narrative will be a piece of cake. For our purposes, we’ll focus on a typical Comp I assignment for a short 4-6 page narrative essay.

The Event

Most writing assignments ask that you focus on a very small moment in time to make the essay manageable. Trying to write about your entire high school career, a four-year span of time, is too large to cover thoroughly in 4-6 pages. So pick a specific moment in time…

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Actively Writing: Experimentation as a Way to Improve the Writing Process

UofL Writing Center

As writers, we often struggle with what to do with a paper after we have finished saying all that we want to say. This stage can happen at any point in the writing process, from having 3 pages done and needing 5, to needing a conclusion, to just hitting a dead end with the paper. This moment, commonly referred to as writer’s block, is quite infuriating. However, one of the best ways to combat this moment is by redefining how you see writing.


Most people see writing as a solitary act, one where the writer is stoically sitting for hours on end in front of a computer, unmoving except for one’s fingers across the keyboard. There has been a new emphasis on collaboration as part of the process today, which makes writing slightly more active, but not by much. However, what I wish to propose with this piece is…

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