ith this year’s debut of the WT Writing Center, a resource usually found only at the university level is now regularly accessible to students and others in the WT community.

“The Writing Center is exactly what it sounds like—it is the intersection point for all kinds of writing within the school,” explains Dr. Christine Benner Dixon, English Department Chair. “We often think of writing as something that is taught in English classes, but pretty much every discipline relies on clear communication through writing, whether that is in an essay, a story, a proposal for a project, a public presentation, a lab report, a speech, a trifold display, a website—what have you. The Writing Center can help with all of it.”

 “Students often feel anxious when a major essay is due in history class or when their lab report needs to precisely reflect scientific findings,” adds Upper School English teacher Sharon McDermott. “The Writing Center staff, a group of experienced WT teachers, is always there to offer advice and strategies on everything from college essays to comma splices, from organizational challenges to MLA documentation. The students leave with more ‘tools in their toolbox.’ This, in turn, allows them to gain a sense of ownership about their writing and a sense of confidence in recognizing how to improve it.”

Together with Interim Director of Upper School Dr. Anne Fay, McDermott and Dixon developed the Writing Center last summer. Located in the Upper School Building, students can schedule sessions in advance, or—if a consultant is free—simply drop in. While the Center was created with students in mind, and is an extension of the teaching philosophy embodied daily in the classroom, services are also available to teachers, staff, and administrators, and are designed to respond to each writer’s needs.

“There are students working on projects that go well beyond classroom requirements,” states Dixon. “So, when students are seeking publication, preparing for presentations, applying for jobs or fellowships, we want to be there to help them. We can help with anything from brainstorming to sentence-level errors to big-picture revisions. Confused about semi-colons? Come see us. Unsure whether your diction is appropriate for your particular audience? We can help.”

“The Writing Center offers a relaxed environment where you work with an experienced staff member who is not there to judge your work,” declares McDermott, who knows the power of the one-on-one approach. While working at the University of Pittsburgh Writing Center, McDermott helped a new administrator increasingly improve her communication skills—from memos, to emails, to meeting notes. To this day, that administrator credits her time in the Writing Center with her promotion.

“A Writing Center serves dual purposes,” McDermott reflects. “One, it supports students, administrators, and faculty as they evolve into stronger writers, and two, it models for everyone the importance of writing well and invites them to have a real stake in their own work. I am delighted that we are able to offer this experience and resource to our community!”