A Conversation With: Matthew Capdevielle, Writing Center

Author: Lisa Walenceus

Matthew Capdevielle is the Director of the Writing Center. He also teaches a Writing and Rhetoric course, WR13100, to first-year students.

What is the Writing Center?

The Writing Center is unit of the University Writing Program, along with Writing and Rhetoric. Both the Writing Center and Writing and Rhetoric teach students how to frame a claim, conduct research, provide evidence, consider alternative views, and write in language appropriate to the intended audience.

The Writing Center provides one-on-one writing consultations by appointment to provide help with a wide variety of writing projects, including theses and dissertations, senior theses, research papers, and essays, including personal statements for applications. We serve the entire campus community — undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff — working with writers at every level. Some of the University’s best writers are regular visitors to the Center.

We also have an off-campus location at the public library that serves the broader South Bend area.

What sort of help do students get in a Writing Center consultation and how do they access them?

Access is easy. Consultations can be scheduled online and once the appointment is scheduled, students will receive a reminder message one day before their appointments. We do consultations in 203 Coleman-Morse from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, on Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. We also have Sunday hours from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Tutors are available in our Hesburgh Library location in the evenings, Sunday through Thursday, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

We do have high demand for our services, so it’s best to schedule an appointment early in the semester.

A consultation with a Writing Center tutor is 45 minutes long and can provide help at any stage of the writing process — from thinking through the parameters of an assignment to a review of a finished draft. Multiple drafts can be reviewed.

Our review process is designed to support students in thinking through their own writing problems. Sometimes a tutor may give a “mini-lesson” in the consultation, explaining, for example, things like the conventions in framing a thesis or organizing a paper. In every case, our goal is to help student learn how to talk about their writing and what they want to accomplish with it, to solicit feedback, and then to put that feedback to good use.

Who does tutoring for the Writing Center?

The Writing Center tutors are Notre Dame graduate and undergraduate students who have been nominated by their professors as both outstanding writers and excellent listeners who can read their peers’ work charitably and critically and speak with enthusiasm about writing and ideas. Nominees are then invited to apply. The selection process is quite rigorous, involving review of faculty nominations and candidate writing samples along with an interview with several current Writing Center tutors and administrators.

All tutors enroll in a three-credit writing pedagogy course that meets weekly to discuss best practices in teaching writing and to think through as a group some of the student questions and issues that they’ve encountered in their work. We are constantly thinking about what it means to be “a writing community.”