Three years have passed, but Josh Ambrose still remembers the day he sat down with a young lady in the George Mason University Writing Center to help her with a personal essay for medical school. As Ambrose soon learned, the student was a refugee from Afghanistan with high hopes of returning to the country as a doctor.
Now assistant director of the Writing Center, Ambrose has since worked with countless individuals to improve their writing.
The Writing Center offers free tutoring sessions to the university’s community at all three campuses. In addition, its Online Writing Lab allows students to electronically submit their papers for feedback.
“Our goal as tutors is to help students learn how to plan on their own and how to write and edit on their own,” said Christine Bobal, a second-semester tutor. “When they can become more independent it’s really rewarding.”
Each semester, between 1,000 and 1,200 students use the center, at least half of whom are non-native English speakers.
“There’s this persistent myth that the Writing Center is where you go when your paper needs to be fixed, or when something is wrong,” Ambrose said. “That is a myth that we really want to contradict.”
Ambrose teaches English at Mason and said he has found a significant difference in the writing of students who use this service. He said his students learn to articulate things better and their organization dramatically improves.
“As much as I love to teach, I simply cannot spend 45 minutes a week with every student. Tutoring allows for a one-on-one relationship that just isn’t possible in a large classroom.”
This year, the center has a new director, Dawn Fels, who said she is looking to expand its services.
“We will be offering grammar workshops that tailor to the needs of students in the School of Management program, which has specific requirements for grammar precision in student work,” said Liz MacLean, one of the center’s tutors. “We’ve also been contacted about setting up a workshop targeted to students pursuing studies in social work.”
In addition to more workshops, the center is looking to increase relations with high schools interested in starting their own writing centers. They will be working with Centreville High School and have been approached by a school in Ohio as well, Ambrose said.