Farnham Writers’ Center runs a program in conjunction with Kennebec Valley Community College

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While the Farnham Writers’ Center (FWC) provides a space in which Colby students can receive feedback on written work, it also is the basis for a relationship that extends beyond the Hill.

When walking into the Center, one is usually greeted by the smell of coffee and a couple of tutors lounging in armchairs. The white boards on three sides of the room are decorated with various puns and references to Diana Hacker’s A Pocket Style Manual.

The FWC staff is there to support students through every stage of writing a paper, from brainstorming to a final check. The tutors are a rare resource here on campus, making themselves known through grammatically-inspired posters across campus. However, did you know that they extend their reach beyond Colby’s campus?

One particularly influential program that the FWC runs is in conjunction with the Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC). Colby tutors have the opportunity to bring their skills to two different campuses, one in Fairfield and one in Hinckley, Maine. In the past six years, a number of students participated in this program by visiting the campus weekly and meeting with students there; many find it to be incredibly rewarding and interesting.

Olivia Biagetti ’14, who is currently living abroad in Denmark, was one of the tutors who went to KVCC weekly. “I loved working at KVCC. Although the early wake-up and hesitancy about meeting new people sometimes clouded my excitement, I always felt welcomed and calmed when waiting for my first clients at KVCC’s student union. As a tutor, it fulfilled my interest in learning about both different learning and writing styles. Often, the writing at KVCC was highly technical, ranging from nursing to engineering, which call for a style not normally seen in our liberal arts setting. As a person, especially one who has pursued a career as an educator, KVCC not only fulfilled, but also expanded my interpersonal and empathy abilities.”

Biagetti was deeply moved by her experiences in this new setting; she loved being able to break from the Colby “bubble” and remember that the rest of the world was out there waiting for her. She also found the diverse group of people that she met there inspiring. She remembered fondly a tutoring session she had with a student who had emigrated from China and wanted to ultimately transfer to Colby or another liberal arts school. “She was a woman driven to gain an education that her previous situation had denied her. In fact, the word ‘driven’ is a good way to characterize most of the people I met during my time at KVCC.”

This program has been in place for a very long time, longer than the 6 years that Director of Farnham Writers’ Center and Assistant Professor of Writing Paula Harrington has acted as director of the FWC. The program is one of Colby’s many initiatives to connect with the local communities.

Harrington is a firm believer in the program, saying that she thinks it is incredibly beneficial to both parties. “The tutors that I have worked with over the past six years have been really impacted by this experience,” she said. “They get to take their tutoring skills and use them with a completely new population. I also believe that they get a totally new experience out of it. A lot of the students at KVCC are older, returning-to-college students, so I think this aspect brings a whole new side to the tutoring process. I think that the tutors benefit from these sessions because these students act as cultural informants who have actually been out in the real world.”

The program is also continually evolving and expanding. In addition to traditional tutoring weekly at the Hinckley and Fairfield campuses, in the 2010-2011 academic year, the FWC introduced an on-call tutoring programing, where students from KVCC can send in a paper to have a tutor from Colby look at and return within 48 hours. This increased the number of papers that tutors see and build a stronger relationship between the two institutions.

Harrington believes that building bridges between Colby and the surrounding communities is crucial to the College, and she thinks that the connection between the FWC and KVCC is one of many excellent facets for Colby students to engage in the world around them. “It’s important for Waterville and the surrounding area to support Colby, but it’s also critical that Colby supports the surrounding area.” She said, “We aim to do that here, and I think that we do a strong job of it.”

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