Writing Center offers vision from past, for future
By Terry Gaston
BPC Public Relations
MOUNT VERNON -- On the occasion marking the celebratory opening of Brewton-Parker College's new Writing Center, the college's chief academic officer connected the vision that began the college a century ago to that of humanities faculty who planted the idea for a center's services that could reach into the community.
Dr. Ron Melton, provost at Brewton-Parker, addressed a gathering of college faculty, staff and students along with many area civic leaders on Sept. 24 for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Writing Center, located in the Jones House across the street from the Holliman-Fountain Education Building.
The Writing Center's ceremonial opening also served as one of the first public events that recognize the college's centennial, which will culminate on April 28 with a celebration recognizing the signing of the charter on April 28, 1904.
"One hundred years ago, men and women had the vision of having a school in this place," Melton said. "This place was unoccupied, there were a few buildings in Mount Vernon and Ailey, but people here had a vision, and that vision included the creating of a school and that vision was realized."
Melton then spoke of the humanities division faculty members who three years ago had a vision to develop means of improving on the basic composition courses.
"They have implemented significant changes in those courses in the three years since," Melton said. "One of the things they discovered was that we could help students develop their writing skills, but we needed more time than what we have just in those basic English courses that everybody takes.
"So they came to me last year and said, 'We have another vision, of a place where we could offer tutoring to students and we could help students develop basic writing skills.' "
With the assistance of the college's plant operations personnel, the transformation of turning the Jones House - which at the time was being used for storage - into a viable center began with the goal of having the Writing Center available to students when the fall semester began in August.
"We did that, so all these visions have been realized to this point," Melton said.
The Writing Center serves the Brewton-Parker community by providing assistance in all the steps of the writing process, said Dr. Vicki Hill, director of the center and assistant professor of English at Brewton-Parker.
"Whatever writing task students face, we have resource materials to guide them and exercises to help them identify and eliminate potential problems," Hill said. "They may also schedule a tutorial session to discuss their writing in general or a specific assignment on which they are working."
Among the free resources and services that are available to students at the Writing Center is a library of reference materials on English grammar and usage, composition skills and proper citation and documentation of source materials.
Computers equipped with learning software devoted to composition and grammar skills are also available, as are diagnostic tools and exercises designed to help students identify and alleviate specific problems with grammar, style and composition.
Also accessible is a wide selection of handouts on topics of interest to writers, such as specific grammar and style pointers and tips for research and composition.
The tutoring services offer students the opportunity to receive private, one-on-one consultation in their writing process, in which they can bring a draft of an essay or research paper at any stage of development and receive detailed, specific attention to their writing concerns.
The Writing Center is also designed to benefit faculty in all disciplines.
"Instructors can assign written work with confidence when they know the students will be able to get professional, institutionally supported help," Hill said. "The center also will sponsor workshops covering particularly prevalent and troublesome writing problems that will relieve some of the burden of teaching writing skills off faculty."
Hill added that the Writing Center staff will not proofread or edit a student's draft, in order to aid the students in understanding their own writing process more completely.
Dr. David Smith, Brewton-Parker's president, said the Writing Center is a very central element to the college's mission.
"Students who graduate from Brewton-Parker should be able to communicate in writing, both rhetorically and literally, in ways that communicate profound thoughts and deep ideas," said Smith, also noting the commuter student lounge built in the Jones House.
"Our nontraditional, off-campus students all have use of the lounge," he said. "They have access to a television, computer outlets, a refrigerator and refreshments nearby, and very comfortable furniture where they can come and rest between classes."
Melton said his vision for the Writing Center is that it will become a community resource.
"We will explore avenues of using this center to help other people develop their basic writing skills," he said.
"I firmly believe that starting from this small building, that we are beginning something this year that will have a tremendous impact not only on the lives of students of Brewton-Parker but also people in this community, and I have a vision that at some point this building will not be big enough for what we are doing here."
Dr. Ron Melton (center), provost at Brewton-Parker College, holds the ribbon while Dr. David Smith (third from left), BPC’s president, and five civic leaders prepare to cut the ribbon to mark the celebratory opening of the college’s new Writing Center on Sept. 24. Joining Smith and Melton from left are: Keith Hamilton of the Montgomery County Commissioners; Joey Fountain, mayor of Mount Vernon; and Marsha Temples, Bill Mitchell and Brian Bishop of the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce.
Brewton-Parker College faculty (from left) Dr. David Moseman, assistant professor of Christianity; Dr. Glenn Eernisse, chair of the music division; and Dr. Ruth Ellen Porter, chair of the humanities division, visit in the Writing Center's computer room during a reception following a Sept. 24 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Writing Center, located in the Jones House across from the Holliman-Fountain Education Building on the Brewton-Parker campus.