Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Cascade Writing Center lays the foundation for student success in its new location

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The Cascade Writing Center is located in Terrell Hall 220.

Mark Easby, coordinator of the writing center at the Cascade Campus and English instructor, takes his post seriously.

“Writing is the foundation for everything,” he said.

The Cascade Writing Center is designed, Easby said, to strengthen the written language skills which undergird nearly every academic discipline, even math-oriented fields like engineering and the sciences.

“Even in mathematics and the sciences there is a need to express oneself clearly,” he said. “We have criminal justice students who need to be able to clearly describe the details of an incident or a crime scene. … It’s hard to find a field where writing isn’t important.”

The Cascade Writing Center, located in Terrell Hall 220, operates both by appointment and on a drop-in basis. Instructors are encouraged to bring their students to the center early in the term, so that they know it’s there for them and so they can familiarize themselves with the kind of support that’s available. Students can make appointments up to three weeks in advance, Easby said, in order to prepare for big writing assignments that might await them.

Don't be a grammar snob! Words to live by in the Cascade Writing Center.

Don’t be a grammar snob! Words to live by in the Cascade Writing Center.

“In terms of anxiety, writing is right up there with math,” Easby said. “I think students are glad to have this resource available to them. Their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Still, Easby said, some students can get the wrong idea about the Writing Center and what it offers.

“Sometimes, expectations are unreasonable,” he explained. “We’re not an editing service. They have to do the work and the research.”

But fortunately for students, Writing Center staff and tutors are on hand to help with everything from American Psychological Association (APA) style; to advice with grammar, diction, and syntax; to integration of secondary source material. A typical session, booked in advance, lasts 30 minutes; walk-ins are allotted 20 minutes.

The center moved to its current location more than a year ago where it occupied a table in the Student Learning Center. Since then Easby has seen an increase in the number of students using his services. During 2015, the center logged more than 2,000 30-minute sessions, and has seen that number grow by 18 percent so far this year, he added. Typically, the center serves about 100 students each week.

And students currently using the Writing Center’s services have an added advantage: Since the Cascade Campus Library was temporarily relocated in early 2015 to make way for construction and renovation, its reference librarians have set up shop adjacent to the Writing Center and have stepped up to help students with their research.

More and more faculty members, too, are steering their students toward the Writing Center, Easby noted. Instructors frequently bring their classes to the center in the early days of a given term to introduce them to Easby and familiarize them with the services the center has on offer. And once students come through the door it’s likely that they will return, Easby said.

“Once students become aware of this resource, they’re eager to take advantage,” he said. “There’s no question in my mind that [the Writing Center] helps with student retention. You don’t just take a writing class and then forget it. It sets you up for everything else you’re going to do.”

The Cascade Writing Center is open by appointment only from 8 a.m. to noon and from 3 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays. Drop-in hours are from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. To make an appointment, visit Terrell Hall 220.

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