[Fresh] Writing at Villanova

John Immerwahr (john.immerwahr@villanova.edu)
Fri, 11 Feb 2000 11:07:55 -0500

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Interview with Dr. Karyn Hollis, Assistant Professor of English and
Director of the Writing Center.

Fresh@News: Recent surveys of employers show that they believe that
learning top-notch communication skills, especially in writing, is one
of the most important things for a college student to learn. What are
some of the things we are doing to emphasize writing at Villanova?

Dr. Hollis: Today virtually every job demands good writing skills and
teaching writing is a big focus here at Villanova. We try to teach our
graduates to write with clarity, confidence and creativity. We want our
students to use writing to think critically and reason convincingly
about issues important to them as individuals, citizens and
professionals. Our aim is nothing less than providing all students the
opportunity to learn to shape their world through writing.

Fresh@News: Ambitious goals. What are some of the things we are doing
to accomplish this?

Dr. Hollis: One of the first steps we take is that every first year
Villanova student takes two semesters of our Core Humanities Seminar
program. (See the earlier interview with Dr. Doody to learn more about
this). Core Humanities is one of our “Writing Intensive” courses, and
students do a lot of writing and rewriting in these classes. While we
require writing of all our students, the writing requirements are
especially strong for students in Liberal Arts and Sciences. The Liberal
Arts and Sciences Core Curriculum requires that students encounter
writing instruction in every discipline during the four years of their
academic career at Villanova. This means students will regularly take
“Writing Enriched” and “Writing Intensive” courses beginning their
freshman year with Core Humanities Seminars and Literary Experience
courses and culminating their senior year with capstone classes in the
major. To graduate, students must take four Writing Enriched and four
Writing Intensive courses, but most students will have greatly exceeded
that number during their four years at Villanova.

Fresh@News: What do you mean by “Writing Enriched” and “Writing
Intensive”?

Dr. Hollis: In Writing Enriched courses, students must write at least 10
pages (frequently many more) of polished prose with a carefully
monitored composing process which includes an evaluation of rough drafts
and the opportunity to revise. “Writing Intensive” (WI) courses require
from 20 to 30 pages of polished prose using the same evaluative drafting
process, but with more attention paid to the writing style of a
particular academic discipline or profession. In fact, over 250 courses
are offered as Writing Enriched (WE) across the curriculum.

Fresh@News: What about students who need help with their writing?

Dr. Hollis: One of the most important resources we have for students is
the Writing Center. Centrally located on campus in the Dalton Room of
Old Falvey, the Villanova Writing Center serves as a resource for
student writers in Writing Enriched and Writing Intensive courses or for
any student who seeks an informed opinion during the production of a
piece of writing. Staffed by well-trained undergraduate and graduate
peer tutors, the Writing Center offers supportive advice during all
stages of a student’s writing process.

Fresh@News: When can students go to the writing center?

Dr. Hollis: The center is open Sunday through Thursday from 1:30 to
9:30 p.m. and Friday from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. While students should call
in advance for an hour-long appointment (610-519-4604), tutors will also
do their best to work with “drop-in” writers. The Writing Center is a
busy place, seeing more than 3000 students a year, and it is especially
busy at certain times of the year, but we try to insure that every
student who needs help gets it.

Fresh@News: Are there other opportunities for students who are
especially interested in writing?

Dr. Hollis. Some of the other opportunities for building a writing
repertoire include taking specialized writing courses in the English
Department; writing for the Villanovan and other student publications;
entering the various essay contests sponsored by the English Department,
the Core Humanities Seminars, and the Women’s Studies Program; and
becoming a Writing Center tutor.

Fresh@News: Tell me more about becoming a writing center tutor? Is
that something that applies to the class of 2003?

Dr. Hollis. Becoming a writing center tutor is a great opportunity for
a student, and this is just the time for first year students to start
thinking about it. We ask faculty to nominate superior writers, but
students who are interested may also apply directly. The students who
are chosen to be writing center tutors take a special course on teaching
writing. After completing the course, they work in the writing center
as paid tutors. The tutors all say that becoming a tutor really helps
them improve their own writing. As the old saying goes, there is no
better way to learn something than to teach it to someone else. Our
writing tutors also say they really enjoy meeting and working with other
students, most of whom are very appreciative of the help they get from
the tutors. Since the position is paid, it is a real opportunity for
students to make some money, help other students, and develop their own
writing skills, all at the same time. I can’t recommend it highly
enough.

Fresh@News: If a student is interested in becoming a writing center
tutor, what should he or she do?

Dr. Hollis: Students who are interested should contact me directly
Karyn.Hollis@villanova.edu or 610-519-7872.

Fresh@News: Do you have any advice for parents?

Dr. Hollis: Try to encourage your students in their writing by
stressing to them how important it is. Also I would suggest that you
ask your students if they would be willing to share some of their
written assignments with you. I think you’ll get a much better sense of
what they are doing in college if you look at some of their work.

--
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