The Write Stuff

by Rosemary Clandos

Students at Azusa Pacific University’s Writing Center secured a series of win-win victories since its January opening. Strong writers emerged as stronger writers. Challenged writers became better writers. And the student consultants who advised them sharpened their editing and tutoring skills.

Whether they be students with learning disabilities, international students still mastering the English language, future nurses doing research, graduate students, or simply poets, the center’s clients have benefited from the free services.

“One of the biggest problems we have found is that students have trouble developing a clear focus of what to say and how to communicate [their thoughts] clearly and in an organized fashion,” said Adrien Lowery, Ph.D., director of the Writing Center. “Clear communication in writing and speaking is important across the curriculum. Students will use that in all their classes and in life; they will be representing what we do here as an institution.”

Located in the William V. Marshburn Memorial Library, the Writing Center provides one-on-one consulting services, student-led discussion groups, workshops for research papers, and resources for publishing. Lowery and her staff also invite professors to submit details of their writing assignments so consultants can further assist students.

“It’s a safe place where students can bring their papers and learn how to communicate in their own voice, in written form,” said writing consultant Ryan Ikeda ’02, a business major. “We help them to understand their assignments and encourage people to write.”

They also teach them to find and fix the weaker areas in their projects.

“The Writing Center gives students the opportunity to excel with their God-given abilities to write. When they do get published, they will be recognized not only in the Christian community, but also throughout the world,” said Ikeda who has written for two literary publications at APU and the school’s newspaper, The Clause. After graduation, he plans to help establish a media production company in the Middle East.

Center consultants take part in weekly training sessions and must complete weekly reading assignments designed to increase their tutoring and editing skills. The eight part-time consultants and two special project consultants have access to nearly 200 reference texts – many from Lowery’s personal library – covering all aspects of writing and teaching.

“The center has roots in the mandate to love God with your whole heart and mind,” said Ikeda. “It allows people to integrate what’s in their hearts by challenging their minds to communicate in the most effective way.”

Efforts to establish the Writing Center began two years ago and were headed by Department of English chair and professor James Hedges, Ph.D., and professor Diana Glyer, Ph.D. Their goal was to further academic excellence by supporting students and providing professors with personnel to help students understand and accomplish writing assignments.

Josh Long ’03 has used the services at the Writing Center a few times a month to get feedback on personal creative writing projects. “When you are interacting with writers, your own writing improves,” said Long, who is the editor of the APU literary publication West Wind and is considering teaching and magazine writing after graduation.

“Students hear a positive buzz and get excited when they hear about the center from their friends,” said Lowery, who has 12 years of experience working at five writing centers, six of which were spent in administration. “ESL students are the most enthusiastic. They get so excited about having a writing consultant who is a peer and can give them some non-threatening feedback.”

Despite a positive following, Lowery acknowledges that obstacles standing in the way of the center’s success still exist.

“Students sometimes put a negative connotation on being sent to the Writing Center,” she said, referring to the stigma that often surrounds a search for outside help. “[But when] they find out how much help they get, they come back voluntarily.”

In the future, Lowery plans to add more free services, including additional workshops, a website that provides support for students on campus and off, additional student-led writing groups, and associations with other Christian and secular learning institutions and resources.

Q&A with Adrian Lowery, Ph.D.

What is the vision of the Writing Center?

Our vision is to give students opportunities to become stronger writers by helping them learn about their writing strengths and weaknesses. They learn to locate problems in their writing and solve them. We want parents to be confident that students can come to a place that is striving for academic excellence.

What was the value of creating the center?

Critical thinking and critical writing are vital skills for APU students across the curriculum. We support students in any writing project and in any discipline. The center increases in value as we expand our support to meet the needs of faculty and staff by providing special writing workshops and resources.

How have you seen students benefit from the Writing Center?

It helps students in their studies and overall in their lives. Students get excited about their writing projects and tell us that they look forward to doing them. Their projects reflect better organization and less grammatical errors, and we see progress in the way they clearly express their ideas. In addition, it is very rewarding when my colleagues gratefully tell me that they recognize improvements in their students’ writing. Also, they express their appreciation because we give students undivided attention with academic writing.

What partnerships are being developed to strengthen APU writers?

We research similar programs at other universities and colleges for the purpose of jointly sponsoring writing festivals and other projects. I attend conferences and take advantage of networking opportunities with some of Southern California’s top learning institutions. Also, we hope to reach out to the Azusa-Glendora community and develop partnerships with local schools and community groups.

What was your reason for accepting the position as director of APU’s Writing Center?

I have a passion for helping people express themselves clearly so they can communicate what matters most to them and their audience. A lot of our personal identity is created when we write. Even in an academic paper, choosing the research and what goes in or stays out of the text reflects the writer. I want students to become aware of who they are and how they communicate. I value the opportunity for genuine self-expression and clear communication. As students learn to express themselves, they learn more about themselves.

How do you maintain your teaching skills and writing abilities?

Last year, I was an adjunct professor at APU, and this year, I am an assistant professor of English. I am writing and receiving feedback from other writers on my book about sexual purity. Also, I am researching an anthology of literature, while I explore grant opportunities for the project.