CSU Writing Center teaches skills, builds confidence

Nick Botkin

A student receives assistance on a paper
Colorado State’s Writing Center helps students develop writing skills and understand target audiences. (Photo courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Collegian)

 

Who are writers really writing for? 

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The key to good writing is awareness of audience, according to Lisa Langstraat, director of Colorado State University’s Writing Center.

“We always have multiple audiences when we are writing,” Langstraat said. “Even when we are writing a note to ourselves.”

The center emphasizes audience awareness in helping students hone writing skills. Students are not often aware of the role of a readerly audience in crafting their texts, according to Langstraat.

“We train our consultants to understand different approaches,” Langstraat said. “Consultants put themselves in the position of the audience.”

According to Langstraat, consultations help people understand the purpose of their writing.

“We talk about that in terms of the difference between an academic versus public audience,” Langstraat said.

Langstraat emphasized that the writing center is not simply for first-year students or struggling writers.

“We are working with students writing for classes or other needs,” Langstraat said. “Any kind of writing, fiction, poetry.” One student even sought feedback on a love letter.

A variety of students seek feedback and assistance. The center worked with 46 majors and 420 CSU courses in 2016-17.

“We are also integral to our English as a Second Language or English Language Learners,” Langstraat said. She added that last year, 40% of clients were international students.

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Located in the basement of Eddy Hall, the center was founded in 1978.

“Back in the early days we had very few consultants,” Langstraat said. “And we had maybe 800 consultations a year. Now we are at nearly 5,000.”

 The CSU Writing Center has a staff of 19. They come from a variety of academic backgrounds, including biology, political science, ethnic studies, and Teaching English as a Second Language.

Cory Cotten-Potter is the associate director of the Writing Center. Cotten-Potter is a third-year fiction student in Colorado State’s Masters of Fine Arts program and his creative writing background has informed his workplace philosophy.

“Coming from a creative writing background,” Cotten-Potter said, “and going through the workshop environment, I see how important it is to have that conversation surrounding the role of writing.”

Students sign up online for consultations, which last around 30 minutes. Demand is heavy and students need to schedule appointments in advance. 

 “We have a waitlist,” Langstraat said. “If there is a cancellation, we will automatically notify them.”

The center not only offers face-to-face consultations but allows students to submit drafts online and meet via video conference. In addition to the consultations in Eddy, the center offers evening consultations in Morgan Library, Sunday-Thursday evenings.

Langstraat said students feel like they are part of a community of writers and have a good support system.

“It is lovely to hear feedback about how the consultation has helped them achieve what they want to achieve,” Langstraat said.

Madeline Werner is a freshman biology major at CSU. This was her second time in the center, where she was seeking feedback on her composition papers. She specifically mentioned the staff’s professionalism and the impact of their feedback on her coursework.

“I am just a perfectionist,” Werner said. “Coming here I get really good feedback about the agents that go into a paper.”

Werner also noted the benefits of the audience-oriented emphasis.

“The feedback that they give is instructive,” Werner said,  “but also relative to each type of writing.”

 With its expanding clientele, the center also faces challenges.

 “We do not have the resources to work with every student who would like to work with us,” Langstraat said. Langstraat added that the center lacked funding for the necessary number of consultants.

  Nevertheless, Langstraat is hopeful. In particular, she would like to see the center open other satellite locations in addition to Eddy and Morgan.

 “I see the Center being a place where writing across the curriculum is embraced and supported more fully,” Langstraat said.

More about the Colorado State University Writing Center:

Where: Eddy Hall, Room 23 and Morgan Library, Room 171.

Eddy Hall Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday 10 a.m.-1 p.m. 

Morgan Library Hours: Sunday-Thursday 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Contact: 970-491-0222.

Director: Dr. Lisa Langstraat

 Collegian reporter Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @dudesosad.