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The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

Behind the Keyboard: What It’s Like Being a Writing Fellow

Photo by Liz Kameen

Joel Hendricks:

I sat in the Writing Center at the end of last semester just waiting for time to tick by until I could return home for winter break. While scrolling on my phone, a notification popped up informing me of an email I had received from one of the students I had fellowed for that semester. In that email, they thanked me for giving them confidence as a writer and helping them improve their skills. I sat up, immediately saving the email due to the immense amount of joy it caused me to feel in that moment. I never expected that doing something as simple as helping students with their writing could be so impactful and fulfilling. 

As a writing fellow, students who complete an application process and half-unit course with Chris Hassay are placed in a class where they assist with the writing projects students may encounter. What’s truly special about the program is that you not only get to help students with their writing but also improve your own writing. The course with Chris incorporates ways to successfully support student writers with activities and readings that help you understand the different ways people approach writing. 

The course would be one thing, but actually getting a chance to work with students is another. I have had the chance to read so many papers, all with a unique voice, which gave me an opportunity to consider my own writing through new lenses. The writing fellows program is not just a one-way street; you actively get better by extending a hand to other students.

Beyond that though, just being able to know you made a positive difference in someone’s time at Moravian is a feeling that, quite frankly, can’t be beaten. I never anticipated that I’d be so proud of the successes that the students achieved with just a small little push in the right direction. In many ways, being a writing fellow is not a job, nor is it an extracurricular activity; it is an experience to better everyone involved in a way that elicits positive discussions led by you.

Writing is, for the most part, universal in the Moravian community. Being able to look out and know that you had a hand in opening the door for more people to be a part of the community is one of the greatest honors on this campus. I couldn’t recommend this program enough … the benefits for you and the students you help cannot be put into words.

Liz Kameen:

I remember the first time I saw my Writing Fellow in my First Year Writing Seminar (FYWS) – this ubiquitous figure that sat in the front of class, offering guidance that extended far beyond the coursework. I’ll be honest and say that I immediately wanted that position; I loved writing and editing, but beyond that, I wanted to be able to help people become more confident in their writing skills. And, with the help of the Writing Fellows program, I feel that I have been able to do that so far. But more than that, I’ve made so many connections on campus, meeting students in courses that I would have likely never otherwise interacted with. 

Writing Fellows provide an amazing resource to all classrooms, but I feel in my FYWS course, I was able to provide so much more guidance, even if it was just on the history of Moravian. That is my favorite part of the program in my opinion – I feel like a different sort of RA/Orientation Leader in that sense: providing guidance outside of that specific classroom, extending into personal or professional concerns. 

My first semester as a Writing Fellow was in Professor Sarah Baer’s Women Voices in Pop Music course, and it felt so amazing to experience a full circle moment and help provide instruction in a course I once took. But, more importantly than that, it was so fulfilling reading all of the students’ papers about their experiences with music and their favorite musicians. It felt like seeing a glimpse into their soul, and for so many students who felt like they were “bad writers,” I could see how much easier it was to write about something they genuinely were passionate about. 

This has to be my favorite part of being a Writing Fellow. Every single person has their own voice in their writing, but beyond that, students convey themselves through the topics they choose to write about, and it is so interesting to learn more about them without them explicitly stating so. And seeing students become more comfortable and confident within the writing process throughout the semester’s progression is a joy unable to be put into words.

If you know me at all, you have probably heard my rant about people who say they are bad writers; in my opinion, no one is a “bad writer;” they just have to be in the right headspace, environment, and be graced with the right resources to succeed. So often, I hear students say on the first day of the class that they are nervous about the writing components of the course, and yet, when able to write about things they are genuinely interested in, they flourish. 

Helping other students with their writing only makes me a better writer myself, so this entire program is a positive feedback loop benefit. I am so thankful to be able to participate in Moravian’s Writing Fellow program, and if you have any inkling that you might be interested, I encourage you to look into it more. 

AJ Minnich:

In the spring of 2021, the day after my high school graduation, I went to accepted students day. While I was there, I went on a tour of Moravian’s Campus and as we walked over to Reeves Library, our tour guide pointed up into Zinzendorf Hall and explained that Moravian has a writing center where you can get free consultations from fellow students. 

Right at that moment, my mom looked at me and said, “you should do that. You’d be great at it.” My oh-so-naive and dismissive past self brushed it off and thought “like hell I would ever be able to do that.” The thought of talking to a random stranger and helping them with a paper that I wouldn’t have the confidence to write scared me out of the wazoo.

I was (and still am to an extent) a very shy and socially anxious person so the thought of doing something like that sounded as appealing as spending a night in the basement of Comenius. Our tour guide then went on to explain the writing fellows program and how numerous classes would have someone dedicated to assisting students with their writing.

Again, I shooed it off and thought there was no way I would ever do something like that. There was no way someone so shy and awkward could do something like that right? How could I help people if I wasn’t even confident in my own abilities?

As I progressed through my college career, however, I slowly started to see how at every turn, I undersold myself and didn’t give myself enough credit for everything I had to offer to the community around me. 

In the fall of 2022, I had grown interested in becoming a writing fellow because I had friends who were in and applying to the program, and with my recent promotion to editor-in-chief of The Comenian, I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to improve my writing through helping others do so as well. However, despite already doing so for The Comenian, I couldn’t help but feel like I still wasn’t fully up to the task.

So, I emailed the fabled Chris Hassay that I had heard so much about, and set up a meeting to discuss becoming a fellow. I do not lie or exaggerate when I say how important that half-hour (turned full hour) meeting is to me and how much it has shaped the way I am today both as a student and a resource for other students.

When I sat down in the Writing Center, I was once again scared out of the wazoo thinking that this was a mistake and that I’m not good enough, but when Chris sat down with me to discuss things, he completely put my mind at ease. Right as the meeting began, he started talking to me about how his favorite additions to The Comenian in recent memory were not the news and community spotlights but rather the reviews I did for all of the Mass Effect games. 

It may sound silly but at that moment, that was exactly what I needed to hear and since then, Chris’ guidance has continued to push and empower me to improve while also being confident in my writing.

Put simply, being a writing fellow/consultant has fundamentally changed the way I approach both my and others’ writing. Thanks to the constant and amazing support from Chris Hassay and Dr. Crystal Fodrey, I now know that I can help people through writing and that I was underselling myself for years.

I was petrified of not knowing something or not being able to answer a question that was asked of me but both of them showed me that was not something to be afraid of but rather celebrated. No one can be an expert at everything nor can we answer every question like Chat GPT (unless you ask it who the first female president is for some reason) but it is our willingness to find the answers to those questions that is most important.

Not only has it been immensely fulfilling to help so many students with their writing, but it’s also been empowering to me to see that I can actually help people with my skills. Chris and Dr. Fodrey, I cannot thank you both enough for how much you have helped me and countless other students in feeling comfortable and confident in their own writing and abilities. Your continued kindness and support both in and out of the writing center has created such a kind and welcoming community of writers in the halls of Zinsendorf and these are experiences that we all will treasure for the rest of our lives. 

You helped turn the shy and insecure kid I was into what I am now, and the lessons I’ve learned from being a fellow and consultant have extended far beyond the bounds of the Writing At Moravian program.

So yes Mom, you were right once again, and this time, I am so glad I was wrong.

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  • T

    Tara WebbApr 27, 2024 at 3:59 am

    I am so proud of you, AJ. You are such a gift to those around you and I am so happy that you are finally starting to see that. And I KNEW you would be GREAT at it! ツ

  • C

    ChrisApr 26, 2024 at 2:17 pm

    Well this just made my whole year