*The Writing Success Program (WSP) is the longest running writing support service at UCLA. Over the years, WSP has helped countless students develop confidence in their voice. However, funding constraints threaten to reduce or eliminate our services in future years. VOTE YES on the Social Justice Referendum to ensure WSP’s continual existence. For more information on the referendum please visit www.socialjusticebruins.com. To vote visit my.ucla.edu.*
WSP Helps Students Build Confidence In Their Writing
By: James Han and Haesoo Kim
Regardless of what you choose to study in college, writing is one of the most essential skills you can learn. The writing skills you develop in college will prove to be invaluable far beyond graduation, impacting your professional, social, and even personal life. Improving your ability to communicate on the page correlates with increased confidence.
Many students for whom English is a second language (ESL students) or English language learners (ELL) find that college does not offer thorough 1-on-1 support to help them develop their writing skills. ESL/ELL students come from many different backgrounds-some are international students and some come from multi-lingual households where English was not the first language they learned.
These students sometimes struggle with the same communication barriers throughout all four years of their undergraduate experience—not from lack of trying, but rather because the current pedagogy is not structured in a way that gives comprehensive, interactive feedback on assignments. An ESL/ELL student may receive a paper with a disappointing grade with comments like: “See a tutor for grammar.” “Improve organization of body paragraphs.” “Vague thesis.” These remarks merely—and somewhat unhelpfully—identify concerns without specifying patterns of grammatical errors, or underlying logical inconsistencies in organization, or offering suggestions on how to expand on a vague thesis. Even visiting a professor’s office hours does not always help.
In the case of ESL/ELL students, many of whom may already have difficulties fully grasping course materials, these comments may be overwhelming and discouraging. This is an issue that impacts student retention.
To support ESL/ELL students, the Writing Success Program (WSP) offers personalized 1-on-1 support. WSP acknowledges that students come from varying backgrounds and that some may enter UCLA without the necessary preparation to succeed at college level reading and writing. Two counselors at WSP—Haesoo Kim and James Han—not only work with ESL/ELL students on their writing projects, but also experienced similar challenges in communication long before college.
Haesoo’s first language was Korean. She was first exposed to English at age 4 when her family moved to the US. She developed an interest in languages with encouragement from her elementary school teachers who invested heavily in her transition to an English-speaking world. As she grew up, she took on a role as a bridge between her parents (who preferred Korean over English) and her brother (who spoke mainly English and had forgotten much of his Korean). On the other hand, James was exposed to English from birth, but became fluent in Chinese after he moved from New York to China at age 1. When he returned to the US a year later, he had trouble making friends in school because of his scant knowledge of English. To accelerate his English learning, his parents decided to speak English exclusively at home.
By working with ESL/ELL students through WSP, both Haesoo and James believe that 1-on-1 support with these students will help them develop a positive relationship with the language and, in turn, their own voice. They have witnessed firsthand the tremendous improvement in writing ability and overall confidence that results from this kind of support. After all, at WSP, we do not focus solely on the editing process. Instead, we are a holistic service that offers content development, outlining, and brainstorming help; when we do correct grammar, we make sure to explain the patterns of error to students and create game-plans to help them catch their own mistakes in the future.
As the only student-initiated, student-run writing service on campus, WSP is able to respond to student needs as they arise. We pride ourselves on a methodology that fosters divergent thinking and centralizes the student within the writing process; this brings out the student’s voice and gives validity to their ideas. Writing counselors guide students through every step of the writing process. Our goal is to ease writing anxieties students may have upon entering the university.
Unfortunately, WSP—the longest-running writing support service on UCLA’s campus—is at risk of facing extreme budget cuts, which would lead to reduced staff and counseling hours. This means that the program would have fewer available time-slots for students—students who may need the 1-on-1 attention that we provide because it does not exist elsewhere.
WSP’s funding depends on the success of the Social Justice Referendum, which will also support other services that help ALL UCLA students, such as free printing, the test bank, the food closet, and van services, amongst other resources. If you want to help vital services like WSP continue to empower fellow Bruins, go to the Social Justice Referendum website to learn more, and vote YES for the Social Justice Referendum by visiting MyUCLA this week.