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Writing Center learning assistants
Writing Center learning assistants at the new DSU Writing Center include Tayler Logue (left) and Brett Blackstock. Kennedi Ford (not pictured) also works at the center part-time. DSU’s new writing center is now open in 112 Beadle Hall on the DSU campus.

New DSU writing center goes old school

Academics, Admissions

DSU Writing LabNew technology is often the focus at Dakota State University, but sometimes old school is the way to go.

DSU has had an online writing lab for many years, but never a physical location for an in-person writing center. Thanks to a Department of Education (DOE) grant, the institution now has a dedicated, face-to-face writing center, located in 112 Beadle Hall. The center offers one-on-one individualized student coaching on reading, writing and critical thinking.

“Many students describe writing as an isolating experience,” said Kacie Fodness, who oversees the interactive center. “Having a physical location allows for enhanced collaboration and important dialogue, so this is an excellent opportunity for DSU.”

The center is an excellent opportunity for students as well, although Natalie Van Wyhe, a freshman exercise science major from Canton, S.D. was skeptical when she first went to the writing center.

“I did not want to go there and learn my Spanish paper was going to have to be rewritten.” Instead, she and learning assistant Tayler Logue went through each paragraph, with Logue asking questions and making a few suggestions, and offering advice on formatting. Logue is a elementary education/special education major from Brookings, S.D. Brett Blackstock is another learning assistant; he is a computer science/computer game design double major from Poquoson, Virginia.

“I have never written a paper in APA format (a style manual of the American Psychological Association) and Tayler was very informed on how to cite and correctly format. I will definitely visit again because of the friendly atmosphere,” Van Wyhe stated, adding “she helped me get a 105% on my Intro to Spanish paper.”

The work is typically assignment-based, with learning assistants helping with drafts and revisions, grammar and proper citation styles, but “you don’t have to have something written to schedule an appointment,” said Fodness, who is activity director and learning support specialist for Title III and Student Retention.

“Students can come in and just talk through the assignment to generate ideas, as more of a conversation to get that paper or essay where it needs to be,” she said, and sometimes, “it’s just about having a quiet space to work and support if you need it.”

Fodness has been pleasantly surprised to see early usage numbers, including a number of repeat students. “This speaks to the need for the resource.” She hopes to eventually add workshops on topics such as the MLA Handbook (a style guide for research papers), or time management. 

Students may make individual appointments by emailing writingcenter@dsu.edu, or using the page on D2L for undergraduate students. They may also come by during drop-in hours. There continues to be an online component which is appointment-based, Fodness added, for distance students or those who can’t be physically on campus during hours of operation.