Debby Ellis Writing Center

Faculty FAQ 


How does the DEWC work?

The Debby Ellis Writing Center offers one-on-one consultations to all student writers at Southwestern.  The Center, located in Mood 306, is open for walk-ins during our regular hours.  At the core of our mission and our methodology is conversation: writers sit down with consultants to discuss their works in progress, even if there is nothing yet on paper.  DEWC consultants are prepared to help students with at all stages of the writing process, from assignment interpretation, to invention and idea-generating, to organization of ideas, to citation style, document style, format, final editing, or proofreading.

Who works at the DEWC and how are they trained?

The DEWC is staffed largely by students.  Almost all of them have taken the upper-division English course “The Teaching of Writing,” taught by Dr. Piedmont-Martin.  Some subject-area specialist consultants in Natural Sciences and Social Sciences have been trained through internships and mentoring by experienced consultants.  All consultants participate in ongoing training and professional development.

Will consultants know how to help my students?

Our well-trained generalist consultants can do a great deal to help a writer, regardless of discipline.  However, you can help them by writing clear, specific prompts.  Please be very explicit about what kind of documentation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) you would like your students to use, and please be advised that the guidelines for all styles change frequently.  You can also help us prepare for your students by sending us copies of sample papers, rubrics, or other writing guidelines.

Can I get a report about my students’ visits to the DEWC?

Yes, maybe. DEWC consultants will ask your students if they’d like us to send you an email about their visits.  If a student says “yes,” then the consultant will send you an update to let you know that your student has visited us. However, a student may not want the DEWC to send you an email, and it is our policy to maintain confidentiality of all student visits.  If you ask students not to use the DEWC for a particular assignment, they are bound by the Honor Code not to use our services, and we therefore advise that you ask students to self-report their use of the DEWC.  Except as they are bound by the Honor Code as well, DEWC consultants will not be asked to report on the activity of other students.

Why are there still errors in a paper if a student visited the DEWC?

Good question.  There are many reasons why a student who has visited the Writing Center may not hand in a perfect paper.  Because our goal at the DEWC is to produce better writers, not just better papers, we cannot serve as a proofreading or editing service.  We will help students to revise, but our consultants won’t “clean up” other students’ papers.   Therefore, even a punctuation-specific consultation might focus on learning proper comma use and a few preposition errors may go unaddressed (during this half-hour, at least).  It’s also possible that a consultant offers suggestions for revisions or edits that a writer chooses not to accept.  Our consultants are trained to focus on higher-order concerns, so it may be that your student visited and the bulk of the consultation was spent discussing organization or thesis concerns.  Finally, there may have been a misunderstanding between the student and the consultant.  Because we work to keep the DEWC a student-centered space, however, and because we work to help students retain ownership of their writing, we also must insist that the final text is the responsibility of the student writer.

Should I require students to visit the DEWC? 

We ask that you not require students to visit us, individually or as a class.  We hope to be a resource for students throughout their four years at Southwestern rather than an extra assignment they have to complete.  Of course, we certainly appreciate your suggesting, cajoling, encouraging, or even bribing students into visiting us; we just hope you won’t require them.

Is the DEWC compliant with the Honor Code? 

Yes.  You may wish to ask students to acknowledge their work in the DEWC (or to attest that they did not visit the DEWC) in the pledge, but otherwise Southwestern recognizes the Writing Center as a part of the teaching and learning process.

Can DEWC consultants help students with a substantial project like a capstone, research, or honors thesis?

Sure.  The best plan is to ask your student to look over our staff page and find a few consultants who might be a good match.  Then the writer can come in for a preliminary consultation to set a schedule and a plan for visits and get to work.

Can the DEWC help a student struggling with college-level writing?

Yes, if the student is motivated and committed to a long-term project.  Students who make the DEWC a regular part of their writing practice see real gains in confidence and control over their prose.  Although this process is not instantaneous, with time, work, and patience, they will see their writing improve.