Writing Programs


Writing Center Mission

The Writing Center is a student-staffed program designed to provide one-on-one assistance at any stage of the writing process, from initial brainstorming to final drafts — and everything in between. We offer individual peer review conferences for Union undergraduates working on writing projects across the liberal arts, sciences, and engineering curriculum. All conferences are face-to-face and typically last 50 minutes.

Our staff of specially trained Union students work with their peers in an open, supportive, and enthusiastic learning environment. Our goal is to promote excellence in writing across campus, paying special attention to the culture of academic writing at Union and its relationship to the long history of vibrant, wide-ranging intellectual activity in the liberal arts tradition at the college.

The Writing Center is located on the second floor of Schaffer Library, Rooms 226 and 227. Make an appointment online, or “drop-in” during hours of operation. We are open during the ten-week term, Sunday through Thursday, 3-11pm. We are closed on Friday and Saturday.

Please note that the Writing Center typically opens each term on the Sunday after the first week of classes. Because the Writing Center is staffed by students — just like you! — we offer limited hours during Finals. We are not open during breaks (winter, spring, or summer). If you have questions, please contact us!

Our Teaching Philosophy

At the Writing Center, our approach is collaborative and conversational. Our student-led staff engage their peers in lively discussion about the ideas and purpose, along with the situation, audience, organization, clarity, and coherence of writing projects. We work with students on sentence-level issues and grammar, but we prioritize “higher-order” issues in student writing — from understanding the assignment to idea development, thesis, structure, argumentation, and the use of evidence, along with paragraphing, topic sentences, transitions, word choice, and so on. Whether we’re working with students on sentence-level issues and grammar, or higher-order issues like structure, argumentation, and the use of evidence, our goal is to help students reflect upon their writing, and develop strategies for revising their own work. In brief, we’re about ideas — not just editing!

We believe that writing is a social and conversational act. At the Writing Center, we teach that writing well means engaging the voices of other people, and remaining open to more than one view. Excitement and collaboration, creative, critical, and analytical thinking — we believe these values strike to the heart of intellectual life at a residential liberal arts college like Union.

The Writing Center is closely connected to the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program at Union. Learn more about the mission of the WAC program here.

First Principles

We like to say that the Writing Center is “for students, by students,” and in this sense we are committed to “lateral learning,” or what one scholar refers to as the belief “that students have something important to learn from one another.” To this end, we are guided by the following principles:

(1) We approach each writer with respect and work to create a relationship built on mutual trust.

  • We view each writer as a complex and multi-faceted human being with emotional as well as intellectual needs. Establishing rapport and building confidence are critically important to us.
  • We maintain an attitude of openness and flexibility. We view academic writing as a form of thinking — as a creative intellectual pursuit.
  • We listen closely to each writer’s perspective — and we build out discussion from the foundation of ideas.

(2) We engage in genuine dialogue as a means of collaborative learning and exchange.

  • We engage writers in open, generous dialogue and without judgment.
  • We rely on our own experience as lifelong writers and learners.
  • We involve writers in assessing their own strengths and weaknesses — and we share our own successes and failures.

(3) We always affirm what writers do well — and we help writers prioritize their work by discussing ideas for improvement.

  • We express genuine excitement and curiosity about each writer’s project.
  • We begin with higher-order concerns — such as reading the assignment to understand the purpose, situation, and audience for each writing task, including discussion of thesis or main idea, as well as structure and supporting evidence, along with related issues of academic argumentation, such as critical thinking, logic, coherence, clarity, and flow.
  • We continue with later-order concerns, if there is time — or we help writers schedule another appointment to discuss sentence structure, grammar, style, and mechanics.

(4) We encourage students to reflect on their writing and take control of their own work. We suggest options, but always encourage writers to choose for themselves.

Our job is to facilitate the development of writers, rather than “fix” an individual paper or assignment. We do not discuss grades or the teaching style of Union instructors. Instead, we talk with writers to help them become more intentional, reflective college thinkers and writers.

Learn More

What Are “Higher-Order” and “Later-Order” Concerns?

The Peer Review Conference: A Template

How to Get the Most Out of Your Conference