The motto at the USF Writing Studio, according to Assistant Director for the Writing Studio Danielle Farrar, is that there is no such thing as good writing, just good rewriting, and no such thing as good writer, just good rewriters.
On the second floor of the library, tucked around the corner from the Smart Lab, sitting amid the bustle of the Tutoring Center, separated off with big clear walls is USF’s Writing Studio. Inside are tables, chairs, a few cubicles and some computers. Students sit in one-on-one sessions with one of the 22 consultants the studio has.
Since its move to a more central location on the second floor of the Library among the rest of USF’s Academic Success services, such as the Smart Lab and Tutoring Center, Farrar said the studio has seen greater use and has expanded in size.
The studio offers free writing consultation services for students, faculty and staff at USF in a one-on-one setting. Help is offered for any academic or professional writing project at any stage in any discipline, Farrar said.
Each week, approximately 220 to 250 students use the studio, Farrar said. Most of those are students from the sciences.
“People tend to associate writing with stereotypical writing disciplines, so for example, English, history, philosophy, under the umbrella of humanities and we actually tend to see fewer writers from the humanities and more writers from other disciplines that wouldn’t necessarily associate with writing but actually writing is completely critical to all disciplines,” she said.
“For example, nursing is one of the most writing intensive programs on campus. Integrative bio is one of the most writing intensive programs on campus. Chemistry does a lot of writing, so there’s a lot of the hard and soft sciences that do extensive work.”
Farrar said she thinks the services offered by the center are important because students need to learn to be effective communicators in order to get their ideas across.
“For people who don’t think that writing applies to what they do, you can’t communicate what you’re doing unless you’re able to communicate effectively,” Farrar said. “So, whatever discipline you’re in, it doesn’t matter what you do. If you can’t communicate that, then how is anybody else going to know or how are you going to be able to transfer that knowledge or that skillset to somebody else?”
This semester, the studio launched drop-in sessions, which allow students, faculty and staff to come in and meet with available consultants for about an hour on a first-come first-serve basis.
“It’s an iteration of what we did have, what was called ‘compression sessions,’ which were also a first-come first-served, up to fifteen minutes,” Farrar said. “We liked the idea of drop-in tutoring because it’s still first-come, first-serve, no appointments are required, but the writers can stay for the whole 50 minutes, but there’s more emphasis on the writer actually working during that time rather than there being the one-on-one consultation that happens in a standard session.”
Currently, the hours for drop-in sessions are Monday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and Friday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. These hours are subject to change every semester, Farrar said. However, most of the students the studio sees is by appointments, which is the primary form of consultation. The center also offers online consultation. Everyone has one appointment per week that they can use, Farrar said.
Farrar said the studio has come a long way from its start approximately eight years ago in the English department in Cooper Hall. The studio’s humble beginnings came with a staff of around three consultants. From there it moved to a small space on the first floor of the Library, which Farrar said felt hidden. Then, in 2014, the studio moved into its upstairs locations, where Farrar said it has grown and gained more visibility due to its proximity to the Smart Lab and Tutoring Center.
“I don’t think we’re as hidden as we were before,” she said. “… Here, because it’s the second floor so it’s the Learning Commons, there’s a lot of students working and I think we get a lot more visibility just because we happen to be surrounded by a lot of people.”
Giuliana Gazabon is a consultant at the studio and a 2016 graduate of the University of West Florida where she got her master’s in history. She said she loves to help people and thinks her job at the studio is rewarding.
“I think it’s a very fulfilling job, especially when I get students or grad students come for anything like personal statements or scholarship essays,” Gazabon said. “… We get such a wide range of writers. Just helping people become better writers is very fulfilling for me.”
She said she always asks at the end of her sessions whether or not the session was helpful, and usually they say yes. Then, they come back and tell their consultants that they got A’s on their papers. Gazabon said one student even called into the center to say they were one step closer to their dream job thanks to help the studio gave them on a paper.
Farrar said there is often a negative stigma associated with receiving academic support, but said most of the students who come to the studio are high achieving students who want to make sure they continue to improve their writing. Gazabon had a similar sentiment, saying she’s never had a student come in who said they were failing.
“We get so many PhD candidates and even faculty and people would think, ‘Oh, they’re faculty, why do they need help?’” Gazabon said. “They’re just wanting to keep that (high performance).”
One thing Farrar said the studio does is try to reach out to students who are struggling to offer them consulting services, but says that group often doesn’t take advantage of the center.
“We would like to also those people who, those students who are lower performing, or are struggling,” she said. “It’s those students that we have a hard time getting into the space and we tend to see less of them.”
Gazabon and Farrar said the studio is more than about writing. Farrar said the space is also about building confidence, recalling incidents of anxiety and students breaking down in the studio.
“Sometimes I’m not even helping with the writing, per say,” Gazabon said. “I’m helping with brainstorming or making a person feel that they’re able to write.”