Student-powered, student-focused: Writing Center introduces new library location
Director says attractive suite in Durick offers warm lighting, a welcoming environment and safe space for focus and creativity among well-trained student coaches and staff
The Writing Center at Saint Michael’s College held an Open House on October 5 to introduce students, staff, and faculty to the new space in the Durick Library’s Room 222. Student writing coaches caught the attention of passers-by with fall- themed snacks and word games on the library outdoor front steps on a warm late afternoon.
Those drawn inside found an attractive space with “warm lighting, a welcoming environment and a safe space for focus and creativity,” said Allison Cleary, the faculty Writing Center director/ writing proficiency coordinator and also still a media studies, journalism and digital arts instructor.
Senior Writing Coach and Saint Michael’s senior Miranda Maiorino ’22, considers the new Center a hidden gem. “It came out pretty great! Now it is no longer just for clientele. Anyone who is looking to write is more than welcome,” said Maiorino, a media studies, journalism and digital arts major and Yonkers, NY native. “My hope moving forward is to not only have this new location for the Writing Center up and running, but also to have it thrive. With my position, not only am I still coaching, but I am also the marketing ambassador and acting as a representative for the Center. So, what I want to do is emphasize the awareness of this place.”
She said the Writing Center, a creatively improvised suite of rooms located down the hall to the right at the circulation desk on Durick’s entry level, is for all writers who want support or feedback around their writing. “The goal is to create a safe space, with the support and resources, which allows students to produce their best work,” Maiorino said.
Cleary agreed. “The Center is for all writers,” she said. “You may struggle with writing or even if you are comfortable with it, our excellent coaches can give feedback that could really bring that essay or story to the next level.”
Since the Writing Center always has been student-powered and student-focused, as the Center’s leaders put it, last spring, Cleary and other faculty members collaborated with students to create the new space with those aforementioned goals of warm lighting, a welcoming environment and a safe space for focus and creativity.
“Durick Library Director Laura Crain and I worked with facilities to transform three rooms to make that happen. Two of the rooms had been office spaces –with good karma from the librarian who had previously worked there –and the third was an old mailroom,” Cleary said. “We widened the big room’s door for accessibility, painted the walls a mellow yellow, tore out old shelves and cabinetry, and opened the space up for a new feel. Laura donated funds for a ‘huddle space’ with a big monitor where students can work jointly on a manuscript.”
Visible first to those walking into the new space are various table and floor lamps that provide a warm glow throughout the three connected rooms. But the warm light is not the only new element that makes the new Writing Center a comfortable workspace.
“Toni Messuri in the Academic Enrichment Commons donated funding for weighted blankets, ergonomic bean bag chairs and ‘happy’ lamps with full-spectrum lighting—all items that help students relax and focus on their academics,” Cleary said. “All good writing comes from good, focused work. The Writing Center can help make that happen. Our goal is for students to feel empowered and sparked by a sense of joy in their writing and what it can accomplish.”
As coaches settle in and more writers find their way to the Center, the goal is to have a safe space that caters to all kinds of students, she said. “If you come to the Center, it’s likely that the coach you work with will offer you a cup of tea and a snack from our table before sitting down with you to strategize on how you might tackle your writing project,” said Cleary.
To assist any student seeking writing support or other feedback on writing projects, the Center has 28 writing coaches across all different majors who would like to help. The new space is open for walk-in hours, from Sunday through Thursday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. or a client can make an appointment with a designated writing coach online here: https://tutor.smcvt.edu/tracweb40/default.html