Housed in the R. Michael Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning, the HMC Writing Center has almost everything students could want. There are snacks, drinks, stress balls, board games, inspirational photos, comfy couches and a giant flat screen monitor for movie watching. There’s also a well-trained staff of Writing Center consultants, ready to help students polish their papers and perfect their punctuation.
Having been housed elsewhere on campus over the years, including in the windowless basement of the Parsons Engineering Building, the Writing Center is home for good in the Shanahan Center. Architects designed the space intentionally for this purpose and even asked Writing Center Director Wendy Menefee-Libey and her staff to suggest specific features. Requests for a hot tub and pass-through window between Menefee-Libey’s office and The Café were rejected, but the center manages to function beautifully anyway.
The main room provides space for group workshops and staff training, and three private rooms are available for one-on-one conferences.
Writing Center consultants assist students in any discipline with any stage of the writing process, from developing an idea to perfecting a final draft. Students work through the writing process and improve the expression of their ideas by participating in individualized conferences and occasional group workshops.
In addition to word games, the center offers a variety of reference books, including style manuals and grammar handbooks, as well as handouts on everything from crafting a good thesis to writing in technical fields to writing with style and grace. Wall-mounted trays hold Mudd-specific literature on how to outline E4 memos, write BIO 54 lab reports or clarify proofs.
Throughout the year, Menefee-Libey and the Writing Center consultants present workshops on various topics, including technical writing, revision, peer review, lab reports, essays and research papers. They also attend the annual Southern California Writing Centers Association tutor conference. Consultants are sophomores, juniors and seniors who each work five hours per week and attend an annual fall retreat.
When the architect rejected the students’ request for a hot tub in the Writing Center, Menefee-Libey asked what she might provide instead. They asked for a cat. In a classic case of not always getting what you want but sometimes getting what you need, Menefee-Libey got the students a stuffed cat, which they named Hot Tub, and the Writing Center mascot was born. Hot Tub mostly hangs out in the center but does get out at least once a year to attend the annual conference with the rest of the staff.