Graduate college’s new learning center making an impression on students

Tara Larson

After a need was seen on campus for students, Iowa State’s graduate college opened a new learning center last semester to help them succeed in their academic careers.

The center has been titled the Center for Communication and Excellence, otherwise known as CCE. It is currently located in Pearson Hall, the graduate college building.

Elena Cotos, director of CCE, said plans had been being made for a number of years.

“There was a need,” Cotos said. “Back in [2011], the writing center we currently have on campus changed their service model and started working with only undergraduates and were turning down the graduate students.”

After the writing center made this change, plans began being made to open a center for graduate students.

A pilot ran last year for graduate students to complete. After having success, The CCE opened.

After the initial pilot, the original writing center began to allow graduate students back, Cotos said. However, their admittance is still on a small scale.

“The kinds of writing support between the existing writing center and our center differ in that we focus on research writing, particularly in the disciplines,” Cotos said.

The new center offers workshops, seminars, peer review groups and oral and writing consultants. Writing consultants special in disciplinary, interdisciplinary and the English language. All of the materials in the center and materials used for training were developed at Iowa State.

Peer mentors are all graduate students and spent all of last semester learning how to look at and give feedback on research article writings. They also learned effective mentoring skills.

“I think [the center] provides a lot of support in ways that the university hasn’t traditionally offered graduate students before with writing support,” said Sarah Huffman, program coordinator and trainer of the peer mentors.

There are currently 14 mentors, but the program hopes to hire more. A recruitment process will begin this summer, and the next set of training will begin next semester.

“You see benefits that your own writing and communication is improving,” said Anna Prisacari, who is studying human computer interaction and works as a peer mentor. “You can actually learn from other students and their work.”

Another mentor has also felt an impact from the center.

“It’s improved my writing and the way I conduct my own research, but it also has improved the way I relate to others outside of my disciplinary,” said Deborah Burns, peer mentor and sociology graduate student. “I personally want to see [the center] grow. This is actually such a benefit.”

The two students both agreed that other graduate students from different colleges wish they had a center like this available.

“It is not very common to have a communication center within a graduate college,” Cotos said. “It certainly helps demonstrate that the graduate college is dedicated to the success of the graduate students.”

An open house for the center will take place sometime this spring. 

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