Our Lives on Paper

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Lexy Schulte
CONTRIBUTOR

“Everyone who comes into the Writing Center has a story to tell.” Photo courtesy of UNO Writing Center.

The best part of my time as a Writing Center consultant has been getting a peek into students’ lives and passions.

However, I wasn’t always confident in my abilities. The first time I worked with a student from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, I thought, what am I getting myself into?

As I read through the paper about stem cell research, none of the terms were familiar to me. I fumbled through a few paragraphs before I started to look past the intimidating vocabulary and into the sentence structure, organization and transitions.

During that appointment, I realized I may not be an expert in the medical field, but I am equipped to help those who are, with their writing needs.

I may not know much about engineering or aviation studies, but through the Writing Center, I get a view into different majors at UNO and UNMC.

The Writing Center has many branches across campus, but ASH 150 is like my second home. The tables and chairs host consultants and students as they tackle different writing projects. The whiteboards are filled with notes and polls like “Who’s your favorite fictional character?” (How can you choose just one?) or “What’s the best Christmas movie?” (“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” obviously).

The middle table pressed against the wall is my favorite. I sit in the chair facing the door while the other seat is filled by rotating students who come to the Writing Center for help with assignments and projects.

A diverse array of students come into the Writing Center. They range from first-year students who are in for help with their English Comp papers, to students writing personal statements for grad school. While my role as a consultant enables them with different writing tactics, I have learned a lot from students along the way.

From a UNMC med student, I learned about immunology. I wasn’t familiar with most of the terms in his research proposal, but as I continued to ask for explanations, a smile crept onto his face as he began discussing a topic he was passionate about.

With a student in the sociology grad program, I learned about her research on Sheelytown, a Polish neighborhood that once populated Omaha. She discussed the interviews she had with the residents who once filled the lively community. Now, what’s left of Sheelytown is Dinker’s Bar and Grill,  a small brick building that boasts “Omaha’s best burger.”

The greatest thing about working with students from different majors is learning about what makes them passionate. While I may not know anything about Sheelytown or immunology, I learned from students who are experts in their study, and in return, I get to help them become effective writers.

Some students who come in are just beginning their college journey. Whether it’s from an instructor recommendation or they stumbled across the Writing Center walking through ASH, first-year students also trickle into the room for a consultation.

While the assignments for English Composition I and II remain consistent, they allow me to get to know students through their writing. Even though I only get one-hour sessions with students, their assignments, such as their personal narratives, give me a peek into the formative moments in their lives.

One student wrote about being a Chinese immigrant and seeing the news coverage of the Atlanta spa shooting that left six women of Asian descent dead. The Asian community experienced a spike in hate crimes since the coronavirus pandemic began. He felt out of place and frightened because of his identity.

Another student wrote about feeling like he didn’t have a place in high school. He had trouble joining sports, such as football and basketball, and felt like he didn’t belong in sports. Then he was introduced to powerlifting, and he found his place among the weight racks and barbells.

The Writing Center is a place on campus where students can get help with writing, but to me, it is a place where I get to see the diversity that makes up UNO’s students. Everyone who comes into the Writing Center has a story to tell. Though my job may only look like I am there to help check grammar or make suggestions about organization, my role is much more than that. I listen to students tell their stories. I advocate for their writing.

Writing plays a bigger role than just putting words to paper. Stories are told and connections are made. Students write about the world around them and the topics that make them passionate. And that’s the important thing about writing, because if nothing else, you get to explore what you love.

Students interested in finding Writing Center resources or scheduling an appointment can visit www.unomaha.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/writing-center.

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