Writing Center Celebrates 20th Anniversary

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TORCH PHOTO/LAUREN FINEGAN

Marybeth Gerdelmann, Staff Writer

On Nov. 3, the St. John’s University Writing Center celebrated two decades of helping Johnnies become more confident and talented writers.

St. John’s students, faculty and alumni gathered at the Writing Center in St. Augustine Hall to reflect on 20 years of growth and dedication.

According to Derek Owens, Director of the Institute for Writing Studies, when it first opened in 1996, the Writing Center was merely one desk and two chairs in the basement of St. John Hall.

With the help of Sister Julia Upton, R.S.M, and Dean of St. John’s College, Bishop David M. O’Connell, it soon took over two rooms on the second floor of St. John Hall.

The Writing Center continued to grow through the support of its directors and consultants. Today, it occupies a large room on the first floor of St. Augustine Hall that provides a warm learning environment for students.

The celebration began with opening remarks from Owens, who spoke about the history of the Writing Center. He also shared his own personal experiences about how working in the Writing Center alongside associate directors Alison Perry and Tom Philipose continues to be a rewarding experience.

The main focus of the celebration was on the essential tools that make the St. John’s Writing Center so successful. These essential tools are the writing consultants.

“Everyone knows writing centers help students with their many writing tasks, and that this can lead to better GPAs and enhanced retention,” Owens said. “What people often don’t know is that writing centers are where many of a University’s best and brightest become consultants and discover their intellectual community.”

Writing Center consultants, Mikayla Torres, Carly Johnson, Samira Korgan, Michael Benjamin, Kennedy Idedevbo, Lexi Bennett, Ceci Sturman, Yugi Paul, Miguel Vasquez, Anna Cairney, Tina Iemma and Chief Copy Editor Emeritus, Sarah Guayante, participated in a roundtable discussion about how working in the Writing Center has contributed to their personal and academic growth.

“Becoming a consultant in the Writing Center here at St. John’s University has undoubtedly been the most significant experience thus far in my academic and professional career,” student writing consultant, Ellen Urtecho, said. “Everyday that I walk into work, I am challenged in the best ways possible by my peers, clients and directors.”

Consultants are making an impact not only in the St. John’s community, but internationally as well.

“It helped me foster communities in Morocco, in Budapest and in Panama where I’m utilizing things I’ve learned here,” writing consultant Torres said.

For St. John’s alum Steven Williams, a member of the class of 2011, returning to the place where he worked during his college career was very special.

“The Writing Center was a home on campus,” Williams, who was a commuter at the time, said.  “I found the first job that I thought was truly fulfilling.”

Everyday for the past 20 years, the Writing Center has lived out its mission of helping students find their voice.

“You have a role and that role is important,” Torres stated. “We’re going to help you utilize those tools to create a better community.”