An important accomplishment of the Writing Center has been the establishment of what feels like a lifelong community of friendships and family. On Tuesday Oct. 6, former tutors and UIC alumni returned to campus to share their experiences with transitioning into the real world after leaving the Writing Center. They spoke about the skills they developed during their time at UIC, along with the friendships and sense of community they gained through the WC.
The panelists included: Edgar Villeda (English, ’03), Angelique Zobitz (English, ’04), Suraj Madoori (biological sciences and English, ’04), Milie Fang (biological sciences, ’14), and Samantha Gordon (MBA in accounting, ’15).
In his opening remarks, Walter Benn Michaels, head of the English department, shared: “I always thought that if I had a chance to be a student here, the Writing Center would have turned out to be a center place in my life because I think that what you all give to and get from the university is a kind of seriousness and dedication to helping each other and students develop writing skills.”
For many individuals, both tutors and writers, the WC has become a second home. It’s a place of differing perspectives and viewpoints where we can feel safe to express our ideas without judgement. Here we can all develop valuable skills that will follow us throughout our careers and for the rest of our lives.
“The impact of the Writing Center is immeasurable on the life that I live today,” said Angelique, vice president of Adaptly, a social media marketing company. “Just walking in here literally choked me up because I came into the university with my own type of swagger for sure, but I think the Writing Center gave me the necessary skills and finesse to get to where I wanted to go in life.”
The panelists highlighted the skills they gained through working with people from different disciplines and backgrounds.
Edgar, business development manager at McDermott Will & Emery, recalled that consistently working with new people taught him to navigate his own personality to suit the personalities of others.
“That’s the biggest key that I have gained at the Writing Center, I would say, because it’s the most applicable to anything that you can do out in the world,” he shared.
Edgar learned how to become an effective communicator, found confidence in expressing his opinions, and learned not to fear the other person he was communicating with.
Milie, currently applying to med school, learned to break through communication barriers by acknowledging and setting aside her biases. She shared the challenges of her very first tutoring session, in which she collaborated with a writer she disagreed with.
“It was hard to get over the claims she was making,” she said. “Everyday I think about that and how I want to not be judgemental when people say something that’s very sensitive to me, and just try to understand how they say things and their perspective.”
Milie learned to push aside her personal views in order to effectively collaborate with her writer. Through differing perspectives, a common ground in tutoring sessions is to focus on how to make a piece of writing stronger.
At the WC, we learn to respect the opinions of others even when they don’t align with our own beliefs. We also learn that every person has their own story that isn’t visible until they decide to share it with us.
When Suraj, manager of federal policy at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and manager of the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, tutored a writer who was an Iraqi refugee, he learned the importance of refraining from making assumptions about writers without getting to know them first. After hearing his writer’s story, he realized that he never would have guessed her history had she not decided to open up to him.
“It’s so humbling to understand the personal narratives of a lot of these writers that come in,” Suraj shared.
Writing is an outlet for many people. It’s difficult to share your work with others, much less with people you aren’t close with.
Samantha Gordon, an accountant at NDH Group, shared the benefits tutors gain when interacting with writers they haven’t met before: “You learn about empathy; you learn a lot about compassion. Writing can be super cathartic to some people who come in with stories and experiences, and they are trusting enough to be able to communicate those with you.”
The WC strives to be an environment where individuals from distinct academic, cultural, and ideological backgrounds can find a mutual thread through writing. Tutoring is a learning process for both writers and tutors. As peers, we learn from each other and grow from our interactions. These interactions allow us to develop the skills that will help us succeed.
Thanks to the alumni for sharing their stories. We look forward to seeing you all at our next event.