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Writing associates have the difficult task of trying to engage students in conversation about each individual’s writing. But Kirby Waldinger ’07 (Newtown, Pa.) has a harder aspect to her job as a writing associate for Survey of Spanish Literature II: most of her conferencing is done in Spanish.

The College Writing Program is designed to incorporate writing into every subject. The writing associates are not employed to proofread the students’ work, but to give feedback as readers.

“The basis of the program is that we are encouraged to engage the students in conversation. Sometimes we get elevated positions as editors but we are really supposed to get students to talk about their writing, to have control over their own work,” says Waldinger, a double major in English and Spanish.

She tackles the challenge of helping a student writer improve while still conversing in Spanish.

“A lot of students’ questions tend to focus on grammatical aspects and most of the grammar just doesn’t translate, and there are things in Spanish that have no correlation to English,” she says. “It’s not right or wrong. There are different nuances that students don’t always catch.”

According to psychology major Samara Spielberg ’07 (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Waldinger is making a major difference.

“Kirby has a very positive attitude about helping,” she says. “She knows that this is our second language and that it makes things difficult. She is sympathetic to the fact that it is hard to get all of your ideas across when you are writing in another language. She helps find ways to allow you to express your ideas and thoughts.”

Previously, Waldinger was a writing associate for Engineering Professionalism and Ethics.

“I was intimidated at first because I am a Spanish and English major and know nothing about engineering. But the way the program was, you didn’t need to know about the topic specifically. A lot of the writing they were doing was about ethics and we focused on organization and structure [rather than content],” she says.

Waldinger appreciates the uniqueness of the writing associate-student relationship.

“It’s not a teacher-student relationship; they are my peers. There is definitely a different dynamic,” she says.

One of her sorority sisters, economics and business major Samantha Ralph ’07 (Setauket, N.Y.), meets with Waldinger for her Spanish literature class.

“She seems very confident of her knowledge of the Spanish language, and her writing ideas and grammar are all impeccable. I am good friends with her through Pi Beta Phi, but regardless of our prior ties she is a helpful, considerate person to work with. Kirby takes her job seriously and is totally ready to explain all her suggestions in a very relaxed, calm way,” Ralph says.

When she isn’t working as a writing associate or at the sorority house, Waldinger often can be found volunteering in Easton teaching English as a second language.

“It’s the opposite of what I do as a writing associate. I’m helping immigrant adults learn English,” she says.

The people Waldinger helps come from a variety of countries, such as Sudan and Haiti, but many of them hail from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

“When they are struggling with a word, I want to break into a Spanish conversation, but the basis of the ESL program is to speak in English at all times,” she says.

Categorized in: Academic News