Writing Center Tutors Present Research at National Conference

The three pose together in a backdrop of pumpkins and fall decorations.

Three peer tutors, Jeanette Jakupca, Aiyanna Maciel, and Amber Biron, along with their director, Leigh Ann Dunning, from Stetson University’s Writing Center, traveled to South Padre Island, Texas, during the first weekend of November to present their research at the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW).

The three pose together in a backdrop of pumpkins and fall decorations.
From left, Amber Biron, Jeanette Jakupca and Aiyanna Maciel take time out from the conference.

The theme of this year’s conference, which was hosted by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, was Migration. During the conference, attendees considered the variety of borders that exist in and around writing centers as well as ways to move through these borders.

“The location of this conference — so close to the border of Mexico — was particularly meaningful,” Dunning said of the conference’s theme. “So many of the peer tutors and faculty members from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley are multilingual, and they use their experiences with multiple languages to better help their peers understand the act of writing.”

In line with the conference theme, seniors Jakupca, Maciel, and Biron presented their qualitative research project in a panel presentation, “Becoming a Multilingual Writing Center: Connecting the International Student’s Perspective of the Writing Center to Best Practices for Tutors.” Their research involved interviewing international and multilingual undergraduate students at Stetson to understand this demographic’s perceptions of the Writing Center, so that the Writing Center can implement programing or tutoring strategies that better fit their needs and expectations.

“We were able to workshop new ways of helping them [international and multilingual students] and new ways to market to promote visibility for this population,” Maciel, a World Languages and Cultures major, Latin American Studies minor, and Communications Manager of Stetson’s Writing Center, said of their research.

Their presentation was followed by a discussion with the audience members.

“It was an honor to present and share our research and it was equally an honor to receive feedback on how to improve our project and our Writing Center,” said Jakupca, an English major, Education and Asian Studies minors, and Lead Tutor at Stetson’s Writing Center. She continued, “Research is one of my passions and I am grateful for the opportunity to conduct my own project with wonderful partners, present it to others just as passionate as myself, and receive feedback on how to improve myself as both a person and as an academic.”

As a result of their research, the tutors hope to help multilingual students reflect on and utilize their experiences learning languages as a way to better understand writing for U.S. academia. In order to encourage multilingual students to visit the Writing Center, the tutors plan on creating flyers about the Writing Center’s location, hours and services that will be translated into the top spoken languages at Stetson.

Of Maciel’s overall experiences at NCPTW, she said, “The conference workshops I attended helped me understand the anti-racist practices that we can use in our Writing Center and how to better integrate social justice into my own work as a tutor.”

Leigh Ann Dunning

The conference provided Stetson tutors a space to have important conversations and present original research to writing center scholars and practitioners. “Experiential learning is so valuable to undergraduate students,” Dunning explained. “Conducting research and then sharing it with peers from universities across the United States not only provides our tutors the opportunity to better help the students they work with in the Writing Center at Stetson, but the experience also prepares them for their own future professional lives.”

If you are interested in becoming a tutor or writing fellow or would like to learn more about the Writing Center, please contact Leigh Ann Dunning at [email protected].

-Amber Biron