Campus Writing Centers are often among the most utilized services in universities of all sizes, yet are rarely touted in news stories or magazine articles as being critical to student success. Let’s face it, winning  $5,000 prize in a student business plan competition is news-worthy — landing the student, department, and program in a national news release; however, including in the fine print the fact the business plan underwent numerous revisions with help from consultants in the Writing Center — not so captivating!

So, here is where we want to toot our horn and share our success stories and the many ways our Writing Center is a critical resource on the Clarkson Campus to students across majors. If you would like to be featured, please let us know…we want to CU (and everyone) Write!

November 2016 Feature Success: Annie Helfgott (’16)

Annie Helfgott, raised in Keesville, New York in the Adirondacks, is one of many Clarkson Writing Center tutors (now called “consultants”) who served the Writing Center with great success.  Annie came to Clarkson as a Clarkson School student, forgoing her high school senior year for the challenge that our early college entry program offers exceptional students. She liked Clarkson right away, and elected to stay here for her entire undergraduate experience, graduating in May 2017 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Communications.

Incredibly active in Greek Life and campus clubs, including her participation in The Golden Knotes acapella singing group, Annie was like many of our writing consultants in that she was both an exceptional student and held multiple positions and leadership roles on campus. She was active in student government as a member of the campus Executive Board (E-Board), served as a peer educator and Clarkson School mentor, and managed to take on an organizational and promotional role in nearly every fundraising and charity even in which Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity was engaged, especially in her leadership position as Philanthropy Chair.

It was this latter involvement that got Annie involved in leadership development at the national level. She attended as first a student, and later as an intern, at the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute (UIFI) at Indiana University. This week- long, values- based, intensive leadership institute aims to teach young Greeks how to become leaders who understand and value their Ritual and can face adversity with a calm and open mind.

As a Writing Center consultant, we jokingly referred to Annie as the Grammar Czar; she was the resource we all sought out with questions about grammar or mechanics (she was that good!). She also had a rare ability to teach through questioning, which is the foundational model that most collegiate writing centers embrace. Annie was able to guide a student writer to see their own challenges and mistakes, and she challenged them to develop strategies to work on them even outside of the given consulting session.

Her well-rounded experience and joy of collegiate leadership saw Annie change career pursuits at the end of her junior year. Prepared to seek out PhD programs in neuropsychology, a dream she had as a child, she instead heeded a more recent calling to enter the field of higher education. She is now employed as an Area Coordinator for Residence Life at Eastern Oregon University, which has fulfilled her vision of working with students and her passion for exploring the country’s rich mountain regions, reminding her of her Adirondack roots.

October 2016 Feature Success: Zhan Wen Li (’16)

Zhan came to Clarkson as a first-generation international college student after her mother moved to the U.S. to give her a brighter future. Shy when she landed in our Writing Center, Zhan practically lived here over her four years, working with consultants to improve her Univ 190 journal entries in her first year, running through her “speed interviewing” answers for the career fair, and utilizing our services for her resume development and numerous cover letters.

But it was her senior Honors Thesis where she perhaps gained the most help — from survey construction and feedback, to refining her ideas for a research model, we didn’t just edit her grammar, we challenged her to think about her research in terms of novelty, validity, and reliability. Her work, a proposed model and study to test consumer perceptions and potential purchase among For Profit company structures vs. Socially-Responsible Companies with varying profit structures, was accepted to an entrepreneurship conference in California, which she attended in the spring semester prior to graduation. Zhan is sharp and hardworking and her goal attainment is all due to her drive and acumen. At the same time, she also she credits resources like the Writing Center for aiding in her skill development and communication.

Zhan graduated in 2016 and is launching her career with IBM (Chicago) as an enterprise application consultant. She was back on campus this fall for the 2016 Career Fair, sitting on the OTHER side of the table for IBM recruiters. She said this was an amazing experience, because she was able to see what applicant attributes and characteristics employers value, and she said she better understood how important a resume is regarding whether a candidate even gets a foot in the door. Notable, she said, you have to be explicity front and center in identifying what you are looking for (job vs. internship vs co-op) and when you are graduating. “If a recruiter didn’t see a graduation date in the first few seconds of examining the resume, it was put aside,” notes Zhan of the process. She said the recruiters with whom she was assisting noted they didn’t have time to search resumes for that kind of expected information. “If they had to guess at what it was you wanted and when you were ready to start, you were excluded right away,” she added. In addition, recruiters stated resumes should include not what you “did” (doing) in a professional experience, but how you added value or what you accomplished. This is great advice to students looking to improve their resumes and get noticed.

Forever a life-long learner, Zhan hopes to someday pursue her MBA and to continue to refine her communication skills, including writing. Her visit to campus included a stop in the Writing Center for a nostalgic proofread of some of her professional materials like her resume and cover letters, as well as a paper for her second degree from Clarkson, which she will complete in May 2017, in the School of Business major in Data Analytics.

September 2016 Feature Success: Jonathan Bramsen (’14) 

What can we say about Jonathan? Jonathan Bramsen attests to the fact he didn’t use Clarkson’s Writing Center services in the first four years of his undergraduate experience and in retrospect, he wished he had. However, student journeys through academic preparation sometimes take a more winding, meandering path, and that is certainly the case with Jonathan. He shared with Writing Center director Courtney Woods on his first visit to the WC in his super senior year that it took him more than four years to “really get his act together” and he wanted make the most of his Clarkson experience. A determined first-generation college student, this self-directed young man decided that what was needed was a solid plan with detailed goals, strategies, and detailed resources as a blueprint to getting him where he needed to be.

He focused first on time management and minimizing distractions and decided that he would treat his remaining year as a serious job. Instead of returning to his room between classes, he instead left for campus early in the morning, ate both lunch and dinner on campus, and stayed until late evening, working on homework, labs, and assignments all day long. Television and social media became rare indulgences only when his work was done. He also focused on expanding his personal and professional networks, joining clubs, attending professional events, and taking advantage of services available on campus as a CUPO student as well as general offerings to all students.

That included us. The Clarkson Writing Center.

“I found Jonathan academically and creatively eccentric; that’s the only way I can describe him,” notes Woods of her regular meetings with him. “I thought there was something unique about him and the way he thinks and approaches problems,” she added. Bramsen came to see her to work on internship applications, essays, and assignments from time to time. In his third and fourth years, Bramsen took advantage of CUPO’s summer research opportunities and presented at an academic conference held at SUNY Binghamton. It was there that a senior faculty member in the bio-engineering program approached him, suggesting he take a look at the university’s PhD program while noting a full-ride scholarship for students with tremendous promise.

“Jonathan was full-throttle Jonathan when he returned!,” noted Woods of his genuine astonishment over being recognized. “I never dreamed I could go to graduate school on a scholarship,” he shared with Woods when he asked her for help. His self-doubts and lack of confidence crept in, she notes, but he tackled that very comprehensive application process, bringing dinner and note paper and color coding stickers  (“I said he was creatively eccentric, didn’t I?”) with him, working hours every night for nearly two weeks straight with Woods. In a short turn-around time, he prepared cover letters, a Vita, research and teaching statements, in-depth personal essays, and numerous application requirements. “He would dictate his thoughts as he paced the room, ” she said, noting his often emotional talking points tied to his appreciation for his opportunities in life. “This stage of the writing process is called invention; this is my strength in sessions with writers,” notes Woods who says many of her consultants on staff are far better at explaining grammar and mechanics than she is.

His work paid off. “I guess in some ways, our work paid off,” she says, noting also the immense resources and support the CUPO staff and program provides students, adding, “Several months later, he bounded into the Writing Center with the news. He was heading off to graduate school in pursuit of a PhD.” Woods says he gave her a bear hug with his appreciation, followed by a letter the following year explaining not only his work, but his immense thanks for making a difference.

This past summer Jonathan was on campus and dropped in unannounced. He had been asked short-notice to speak to CUPO students and had hoped Woods was on campus. He walked in to the center asking, “Remember me?” as she met him at the door returning the bear hug. “He explained his research at SUNY, his plans to enroll in medical school when the PhD was completed, and he said that I was one on a list of Clarkson faculty and staff who had been instrumental in where he was heading. He said I was a person to whom he would always be indebted.” Woods explains that although the accolades are kind, watching students excel and succeed are what are most important not only to her in her role as director of the Writing Center and a classroom instructor, “but also to our student writing consultants,” she notes, adding, “they take their work incredibly seriously and want their peers to reach their goals as well.”

As Bramsen headed out the door, Woods was even more convinced that his future would be bright. “He is just eccentric enough, just charismatic enough, just humble enough, and just bright enough to be the kind of person who discovers some cure for a disease or comes up with some medical innovation that will make a difference.” And although she credits Bramsen for his tenacity, she is proud she played a role for two weeks in getting him to the next stage in his academic and personal development.