Editor’s note: We’re spotlighting writing centers around the world! This week, Anita Moutchoyan shared about the Haigazian University Writing Center in Lebanon which she directs. You can learn more about the center by visiting its Instagram page: HU-Writing Center or its Facebook page: Writing Center – Haigazian University.
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The Haigazian University Writing Center is affiliated with Haigazian University which was established as a liberal arts institution in 1955 in Beirut, Lebanon. The university is inspired by the Armenian Evangelical heritage and operates on the United States model of higher education, using English as the language of instruction while offering courses in Arabic and Armenian. The university offers the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, and Master of Business Administration degrees.
The university, on average, has a total of approximately 650 undergraduate and graduate students per academic year. It is a multi-ethnic, compact campus where intercultural exchange and a strong sense of community are encouraged.
The HU Writing Center was established upon the reception of a grant from the U.S. Embassy in the fall 2018 semester. The Center is affiliated with the English department but functions independently.
The Center’s staff includes a director and two senior tutors. During the 2018-2019 academic year, the Center’s first peer tutor was selected and received thorough training; he has now joined the current staff. Presently, the Center is training four new peer tutors. Each trainee tutor is assigned a mentor and has to complete two semesters of training by completing a series of essential readings, observations, and mock sessions; the training also includes visits to writing centers in neighboring universities (to conduct further observations etc.). After the completion of the training, peer tutor trainees are asked to submit a reflection paper and are evaluated and hired accordingly. Peer tutor recruitment criteria include personal interest, recommendations by faculty members, a good command of the English language, efficient communication skills, and financial aid receipt.
During the first academic year, the Center served 111 tutees comprised mostly of students and a few faculty and staff members; the academic year closed with a total of 212 appointments. In the fall 2019 semester, the Center served 51 tutees and completed 92 appointments. Tutoring sessions range from half an hour to an hour and are conducted face to face; recently, given the exceptional circumstances the country has been going through, the staff members are attempting to use online platforms to recreate writing center sessions during periods of extended closure.
The Center is unique in its ability to interact with the whole community; its writing support goes beyond in-center sessions expanding across departments and even off campus through outreach collaborations. It is a safe space where tutors and tutees from diverse and multilingual backgrounds converse about language challenges and receive support through tutoring sessions and various workshops. It is noteworthy to mention that the Center, within a short period of time, has been able to leave an impact across departments; students, faculty, and staff have shown deep appreciation and support for the free services it provides. This was further confirmed by the president’s suggestions to consider offering multilingual support in upcoming academic years.
A few years ago, it was almost impossible to visualize a fully functional writing center being established at the university due to different hindrances – be it financial or otherwise. However, today, the community benefits from the much-needed English language support the center provides across the curriculum.
The Center plays a role in helping create better writers, one writer at a time. Our experience has taught us that commitment and persistence enable the creation of invaluable spaces that support writing.
Anita Moutchoyan received her BA in English Literature and her Teaching Diploma from Haigazian University in 2008 and her MA in English Literature from the American University of Beirut in 2013. She is a Fulbright alumna. She currently teaches Communication Skills and Cultural Studies courses at Haigazian University. She also teaches Communication Skills courses at the Lebanese American University. She has had experience working as a tutor at the AUB and LAU Writing Centers for over seven years. Upon receiving a grant from the US Embassy in 2018, she launched the Haigazian University Writing Center where she currently serves as its director. Email: email@example.com