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In her third semester as a writing associate, Maggie Oberrender ’07 (Bridgewater, N.J.) has already tutored over 40 of her peers on the importance of strong writing skills.

Established in 1987, the writing program helps integrate the practice of excellent writing into courses. The program trains selected undergraduates as writing associates, assigning them to classes representing a wide variety of disciplines. Lafayette students must complete a written application, grammar test, and interview process to become writing associates. In addition to meeting with students in affiliated courses, they run a drop-in service for those who need help in other classes.

Students enrolled in First Year Seminar or Values and Science/Technology classes use this service most often; Oberrender worked with a writing associate during her First Year Seminar class. A double major in English and French, Oberrender also meets with faculty to discuss writing assignments and outline professors’ expectations for each assignment.

As a writing associate, she works with the same group of students for an entire semester, and each meeting is conducted as a private half-hour session. The one-on-one work environment is conducive to advancing the individual’s writing skills, she says. Oberrender meets with each student at least four times during the semester, tracking his or her progress from meeting to meeting.

“Depending on the stage of the assignment, [my conference with the student] ranges from discussing topic ideas to final drafts or semester-long research papers,” she says. “My main goal of every conference is to get the student talking about his or her writing.”

She often encounters students who need help expressing an argument clearly. Oberrender asks students to tell her what they need to articulate in writing.

“Without even realizing it, students are able to successfully revise their own papers by vocalizing their thoughts and consciously making the effort to be unambiguous and convincing,” she says.

Many students ask how to organize a paper better. Using the same technique, Oberrender helps students order their thoughts in a manner that makes sense to them, allowing them to develop the structure of the paper.

“The main point of my conferences with students is to help them feel confident about their writing,” Oberrender says. “The meetings focus on the students themselves, not just their actual writing assignments.”

As a first-year student, neuroscience major Lauren Finder ’08 (Ridgewood, N.J.) turned to Oberrender for pointers on technical writing. They met frequently to discuss writing style, grammar, and other issues. After a semester of working together, Finder noticed great improvement in her writing.

“She seemed genuinely interested in my work and helped me to feel confident as a writer,” Finder says. “She was helpful and very friendly.”

Although she is not clear on the specific field she’d like to pursue, Oberrender wants to continue her work with writing. She plans to get a master’s degree in English, publishing, or editing.

Oberrender is president of Le Cercle Francais (French Club) and a member of Arts Society, College Choir, Experience Lafayette Committee, and Madrigal Singers, an a cappella group. She is a graduate of the Pingry School.

Categorized in: Academic News