I’d like to believe I wasn’t alone in having had some concerns about my writing abilities when I first came to Swarthmore. The class that I sat in on during Swatstruck was an upper-level philosophy course. I remember being so completely blown away by the eloquence of the students, how well they were able to articulate vastly complex topics and theories. If I couldn’t keep up with how well they spoke, how I could possibly write at their caliber was beyond me.
Fortunately or unfortunately, my first semester three of my four classes were writing-intensive courses, each with weekly papers. In a rocky trial by fire, I slowly began to learn the ins and outs of academic writing, becoming familiar with the tones, styles, jargon, and forms that one needs to be fluent in just to make it through a class here. But I didn’t do it by myself; alongside me were a number of valiantly patient Writing Associates who directed me towards resources, taught me how to craft arguments, and helped me to hone my citation styles.
At the time, I was so grateful to them and to the program for their help with my papers. Later, I decided that what was most valuable was their help with understanding jargon, teaching me how to grapple with vocabularies and codes of power that I didn’t have access to before coming to Swarthmore and had to learn to access quickly. But now, only a semester into working as a Writing Associate in the center, I’m starting to see it as much more, as perhaps the campus’s biggest equalizer.
As Swarthmore students, we are all so incredibly niche. Each of us are majoring and minoring in any number of things, focusing our research on obscure topics, and participating in all sorts of sports and extracurriculars both on- and off-campus. One of the few experiences we all share is that we have to write. Even the S.T.E.M.iest S.T.E.M. major has to do labs or write-ups about what they’re working on. We all must take three Writing-marked courses just to graduate. And because of this, the Writing Center ends up holding nearly all the diversity of our campus in just one small, warmly lit room in Trotter.
It’s been such a gift to meet with students from all sorts of academic backgrounds and to work with a community of people that are passionate about everything under the sun, but especially helping build a community of practice together. As the Writing Center nears its thirty-five-year anniversary of working with students from all different backgrounds to hone their thoughts and ideas, I wonder if it can be used as a model of sorts for building other inclusive communities and spaces on campus, places where students from truly different areas of study and interest can learn from and grow with each other.
Whether or not this is a possibility, I remain joyful to be included in such a supportive community. I value the relationships I’ve had the pleasure of forming with people all over campus, and I look forward to continuing to grow in my academic and non-academic pursuits through those connections.