ECU’s University Writing Center, celebrating 40 years of writing excellence

This year marks the 40th anniversary of East Carolina University’s University Writing Center, a free resource that has helped countless students, faculty, staff and community members become better writers in all areas of their lives — academic, personal and professional. In the 2022-23 academic year alone, the UWC conducted more than 4,000 individual writing center sessions and 28 outreach events with more than 700 writers.

The UWC is directed by Dr. Nicole Caswell, associate professor of English, and assistant director Dr. Rebecca Johnson.

“The writing center has a huge impact on our campus,” Johnson said. “We conduct about 5,000 face-to-face and online appointments a year, assisting students from all levels and majors within the university.”

“That’s just the start of what we do, though. We often receive requests from professors to do workshops for their classes. We make writing resources that are found on our website and in Canvas. The center collaborates with other departments and organizations on events. We also have a Community Writing Center where residents of Greenville can submit their job application and graduate school application materials for review, even if they’re not currently students,” she said.

Finding Your Voice

Nathan Pelish, a Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences graduate student pursuing a certificate in Teaching English in the Two-Year College, is a UWC student employee, also known as a writing consultant. Experienced writing consultants meet with individuals to talk about their writing, whether they are brainstorming ideas, drafting their papers or polishing their final products. Pelish said he applied to be a consultant at the center because he wants to teach others how to write and help them “use their voice and be heard.”

Nathan Pelish is a graduate student and University Writing Center consultant who wants to help others use their voice and be heard. (Contributed photos)

“I enjoy seeing what a client does with an assignment, how they make it their own. Regardless of the topic, I see papers where the writer draws the reader in and tells a compelling story,” he said. “I also like the growth mindset, where the intent is for all of us — client and consultant — to learn and improve.”

Pelish said his work with the center allows him to practice what he is learning in his classes. He helps people with their writing while being exposed to different perspectives and fields.

“I’ve found these lenses to be useful for analyzing life events. In this way, writing leaves the page and shapes both myself and my life,” he said.

Once he completes his graduate certificate, Pelish wants to pursue an MFA in creative writing while teaching English at the college level. He said he wants to keep improving as both a writer and a teacher.

“We all have something to say that the world needs to hear,” he said. “Put pen to paper or your fingers to the keys and let yourself be heard.”

Sophie Brotemarkle, a student consultant at the UWC, enjoys supporting and uplifting writers who come to her for writing assistance

Positive Feedback

Sophie Brotemarkle, a senior majoring in theatre arts with a minor in creative writing, became involved with the UWC in the spring of her sophomore year. On the recommendation of her theatre professor, Dr. Jen-Scott Mobley, Brotemarkle went to the center for assistance with a paper she was drafting on theatre history.

“I’d never heard of the center, but I became very interested in the mission,” she said. Now Brotemarkle is a student consultant at the center.

“I enjoy getting to meet students from different walks of life,” she said. “It’s interesting to learn about the majors and classes we offer here at ECU and the unique perspectives students bring with them.”

Brotemarkle said she enjoys supporting others in their writing and providing positive feedback.

“We talk about the author’s voice in the center and how to uplift the students we serve. Working at the UWC has made me realize how fortunate I am to have always had my voice as a writer encouraged and supported. I consider how I can pass that along to the students I meet and the power of bolstering. Writing is hard. Sharing it with others is harder and getting feedback is hardest. I don’t know most of the students I meet, so I always try to be uplifting during a session,” she said.

Applying the knowledge and skills she has learned at the center and through her studies, Brotemarkle said she would like to pursue a career in stand-up, sketch and improvisational comedy. Her dream job is to write for a sitcom.

Career Impact

Daniel Franch is a 2016 ECU alumnus (B.A. in foreign languages with an emphasis in German, B.A. in history and B.S. in history education) who also worked at the center beginning in 2012 on a recommendation from Randall Martoccia, a senior teaching instructor of English. Franch said he has been an avid reader since middle school and enjoyed writing essays and papers in high school, which is why he said working at the center was “a natural fit.”

“While a consultant, I enjoyed meeting students and faculty…and helping them with various writing assignments,” he said. “Together, we grew as writers and scholars, and I enjoyed meeting peers and colleagues from other academic disciplines. In particular, I enjoyed working one semester as a mentor in a writing-intensive political science course. At that time, I had no idea that I would end up making a career transition into the political arena.”

Franch credits his ECU professors and the UWC’s staff, training and conferences as having an impact on his career. He now works with the North Carolina Democratic Party as regional organizing director for the Piedmont area.

“Working as a consultant had an indelible impact on my personal and professional growth. I owe a considerable amount to my former supervisor Dr. Nicole Caswell, Dr. Will Banks, my former colleague, Rex Rose, and numerous history and German professors for helping me grow into the pragmatic, progressive man I am today,” he said.

Daniel Franch is an alumnus of the UWC who said the center made an impact on his career and personal growth.

Helping Students Succeed

Johnson, who began working at the UWC as an assistant director in fall 2019, right before the COVID shutdown, said she has worked in writing centers for nearly a decade but that the pandemic was a tough time for everyone.

“We have a wonderful staff that is dedicated to helping students. The writing center played a crucial role in helping students with navigating this time of crisis, as well as the transition back to face-to-face learning,” she said. “I hear stories all the time from people on campus about how visiting the writing center helped them to succeed in their classes. I’m very proud of the work that the center does, and I’m lucky that I get to work with such a smart, dedicated and kind group of consultants.”

For more information about the center or to make an appointment, visit the UWC website.