This semester, several faculty, staff, and current and former participants gathered in the Seneca Room for a late afternoon reception to honor students entering the Writing Colleagues Program at Hobart and William Smith. As the name suggests, a Writing Colleague is a partner in learning through writing.
Ben Ristow, assistant professor of writing and rhetoric and director of the Writing Colleagues Program, and Alex Janney ’08, writing colleagues coordinator and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Instructor, welcomed a cohort of 16 talented HWS students into the WRRH 305 course, which is meant to train future Writing Colleagues. The course consists of rigorous reading and writing practices intended to inculcate each mentor with the reflective skills needed to work with other students at HWS.
“So far, this group has been a really dynamic, critical community,” says Ristow. “My impression is that these students have different abilities and come from different backgrounds but also have the ability to socialize as a group over readings.”
Socializing over work is crucial to the work of a Writing Colleague. Once a student decides to take on a placement within the program, he or she becomes an integral part of the classroom. The Writing Colleague attends class discussions and delves into readings with fellow students and then is able to offer constructive and meaningful feedback on others’ writing within the confines of one course. Since Writing Colleagues are members of the classroom, they are able to support students’ writing processes over the course of an entire semester.
“The Writing Colleagues in this group always get me thinking of new ways to explore the material,” reflects Janney. “I’ve been teaching these readings for a while, but I am still constantly learning from the students in the program.”
To enter the program, students undergo a competitive application process. This semester, 16 writing colleagues were selected from 29 applicants-with writing samples, faculty recommendations, and an application essay. Finalists participate in an interview that requires applicants to act out a mock Writing Colleague session, which allows faculty to observe the willingness of the student to act as an actively-listening, reflective mentor.
After the selected students complete the Writing Colleagues seminar, they are then qualified to work with professors in a series of field placements, associated with courses the professor is teaching.
Ristow says that placements for the Writing Colleagues are also integral to their own development as writers.
“Their support of others builds their skills as writers as well as their own notion of writing as a whole. It’s really a reciprocal relationship,” he says.
Students accepted into the program this semester include: Abby Abdinoor ’17, Will Cost ’18, Zhaneque Craig ’18, Quinn Cullum ’18, Rebecca Czajkowski ’18, Anthony Falco ’16, Gemyra Greggs ’18, Katie Hackett ’17, Nicole Harrington ’17, Emma Herbst ’18, Sarah Kloos ’18, Alexia Sereti ’18, Julia Sipos ’18, Meredith Surette ’17, Sam Van Etten ’17 and Nicole Tanquary ’17.