Dr. Nathalie Virgintino, Assistant Professor of English at Concordia College and director of the school’s John Bahr Writing Center, recently collaborated with Auliarahmah (Nia) Gobel, a peer tutor at the center, to present a workshop to a conference of the Northeast Writing Center Association (NEWCA), held at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.
The NEWCA workshop, “The Writing Center as a Studio: Focusing on Space, Art-Based Practice and Improvisation in Relation to the Writing Process” covered topics on which Dr. Virgintino is an expert: helping students develop as writers, and creating an effective space for a writing center.
Dr. Virgintino played a key role in the recent redesign of Concordia’s John Bahr Writing Center, located in the newly renovated George House. The center is conceived as a studio space. It’s open and welcoming to Concordia’s diverse student body, designed to be conducive to learning, and supportive of the kind of multimedia, multi-genre and multimodal composing students engage in today.
The pedagogy that Dr. Virgintino and Nia described in the workshop – with its emphasis on improvisation – is used to great effect by Dr. Virgintino, six staff specialists, and peer tutors like Nia who make the John Bahr Writing Center a popular resource for students.
“Nia was an amazing student with high-level writing and English skills. I invited her to be a peer tutor, but she refused at first because English is her second language,” said Dr. Virgintino.
“I didn’t consider myself a strong writer, so I was a bit anxious when Dr. Virgintino approached me,” said Nia, a sophomore psychology major from Jakarta, Indonesia who was recently admitted to Concordia’s rigorous Fellows program. “Teaching writing in English is challenging, but I think I am good at perceiving the way others learn. We don’t have a script when we tutor: each student brings a different problem so we need to be flexible about how we assist. The goal is not to correct everything, but to be a collaborative partner – teaching students how to identify their own mistakes and weaknesses.”
Dr. Virgintino said: “I love working with peer tutors. They add so much value to our teaching, and at the same time the experience can be so valuable to them. One of Concordia’s greatest strengths is its emphasis on creating and serving a community, and during peer tutors’ service to the community, they learn about themselves as students and as individuals. A former peer tutor told me, ‘The writing center was more of a family to me than a work space. I saw the other tutors as role models. Their knowledge of writing exposed me to the complexity of the writing process both creatively and academically.’”
Nia agrees. “I have learned a lot and am exploring my potential. I’ve had the chance to develop my personal interest in writing and hone my professional skills. I wasn’t so active in high school, but here at Concordia there are many leadership opportunities, and I have been happy to take advantage of this one.”