Eckard and the Growth of the Writing Studio

Students working in the Writing Studio. Photo Courtesy / Kelly Dildine
Students working in the Writing Studio. Photo Courtesy / Kelly Dildine
Students working in the Writing Studio.
Photo Courtesy / Kelly Dildine

SC Contributing Writer

At East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, students can often find Associate English Professor Dr. Sandra Eckard in the Writing Studio assisting both students and tutors.

With a B.A. in English from Frostburg State University, an M.A. in Medieval Literature from West Virginia University, and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric in Linguistics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Eckard is well-educated and has a diverse English background, making her qualified for her position as Director of the Writing Studio.

Her specialties in English include composition theory, teaching with popular culture, and reading theory.

When asked about the classes she teaches at ESU, Eckard responded, “I love the variety of writing and literature courses – some of my favorites, in addition to [General Education] offerings, are Teaching Writing, Composition for Education Majors, and Writing About Young Adult Literature.”

Previous positions as Professor and Reading Specialist at Frostburg State University, as well as experience as a writing studio tutor as an undergraduate, has benefitted Eckard on her path to her position as Director of East Stroudsburg University’s Writing Studio.

Eckard’s role as Director includes hiring and training tutors, supervising the studio as a whole, keeping current resources in the studio, and communicating to the tutors about how to be helpful and effective.

Regular training for tutors is also important, Eckard says, since, “You never “finish” learning new ways to help students. The goal is to constantly talk about tutoring and share new strategies to help the students we work with.”

Her experience as a tutor during her undergraduate years and various roles in writing studios throughout her graduate years helped her to, as she says, “learn the ropes, so to speak, on what I saw that worked and what didn’t. I got to see that being an administrator was a difficult task that you had to love to do well.”

As to why she continues to be involved with the studio, she says that along with enjoying working with the tutors, she enjoys helping the students and watching their writing skills grow.

Eckard explained the function of the Writing Studio as “a walk-in center – students can come to the studio for help six days a week, as often as they want. Our primary focus is one-to-one tutoring to help the students polish skills.”

Workshops are also offered, and professors can request in-class or out-of-class visits for students to work on a specific skill.

The number of students who make use of the Studio each semester is constantly growing, with an average of over 1,100 sessions per year, and many students becoming “repeat clients.”

The 30-40 minute sessions allow students to work on papers and continue to come back as often as they would like.

The studio has evolved since opening, from about five employees to the current 25 each semester, including work-study, tutors, and graduate assistants.

Qualities that helpful and successful tutors possess, aside from the obvious writing skills, include liking people and the desire to spend your day working with others.

“It’s also important to want to grow – every tutor starts off with good ideas but continues to explore how to be more effective at writing tutoring,” Eckard says.

Regan Hoerl, a senior at ESU and tutor in the Writing Studio, works closely with Eckard. Hoerl enjoys the many personal benefits of being a tutor, including student feedback.

“I enjoy when students come into the Studio with prewriting and return weeks later with an A on their paper. When I hear students talking in the hallways about how they visited the Studio and got a great grade on a paper, I gain a sense of pride and confidence.”

In terms of important qualities for tutors to possess, Hoerl [pronounced Hurl] quickly places patience at the top of the list.

“I have learned in my year with the Writing Studio that patience is key to being a successful tutor,” she says. “Some days, you have non-stop sessions because a professor required their classes to visit the Studio. We’ve learned to take small breaks between our sessions. If we didn’t, we would go crazy!”

Hoerl expresses the importance of making students’ time in the Studio worthwhile.

“Every student who visits the Writing Studio deserves 30-40 minutes of my attention and time. For me to be able to succeed in this, I have to make sure that I am relaxed and ready to work.”

Inside the studio, located on the first floor of East Stroudsburg University’s Kemp Library, students have access to a lounge area complete with three couches, multiple tables for group work, and a projector and white board, where they can work comfortably.

In the tutoring area, Eckard “focuses on having qualified tutors and plenty of resources available for students to use to polish and improve their work.”

Students are able to review what they have written with a tutor, select any areas they would like to work on, and then practice those skill areas within their writing.

According to Eckard, “Our goal is not to just edit a paper, but to have the student leave feeling more confident in their writing abilities as a whole.”

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