Writing The Future
By Thomas Webb
We probably hear the word every day—collaboration. Our bosses, peers and professors say it with reckless abandon, as if the concept is some panacea ready to give you all the answers. While she doesn’t think it quite works exactly like that, Jessica Reyes, current assistant director of the Writing Center at Towson University and K-State alumna, does believe that collaboration is an important key to success in writing and in life.
At her center, which has 56 student employees and schedules an impressive 11,000 appointments a year, Reyes is in charge of, among other things, hiring, training and mentoring tutors. Within this role, she sees the opportunity to show students and tutors the power of working together to become effective writers.
“One of the things the writing center excels at is working collaboratively with others,” Reyes said. “We emphasize peer-to-peer learning and collaborative learning.”
Reyes believes some students may be surprised with the amount of writing is required for essentially any job they may get, and may be further surprised to find just how much they will be working with others. So, making sure the students who come to the center have the resources to be effective writers is one of her main priorities.
“One of the things students underestimate, often, is how frequently they will use written communication in their future professional lives,” she said. “Collaboration in general is how actual work gets done in the workplace. Very rarely are there jobs were someone is solely responsible for something. Working together and figuring out how to meet goals is a valuable skill.”
Before Reyes found her home at Towson, she graduated from the College of Arts & Sciences at K-State with bachelor’s degrees in history and English, and continued at K-State by earning a Master of Arts in English in 2013. As an undergraduate, Reyes was a McNair Scholar, and became a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.
As a student, she had a broad range of interests including the digital humanities, which led to her having the opportunity to study at the Literary Lab housed at Stanford University. However, she always seemed to gravitate back to work that involved the writing center at K-State. She recounts her first experience with what would later turn into her profession as accidental.
“I stumbled into a class, English 497: Working with Writers. It was all about writing center theory and practice, and at that point I had no idea what a writing center really was. I had never been to a writing center, but Kara Northway was amazing and got us all connected, and involved and engaged,” said Reyes. “One of our early assignments was to actually go have a tutoring session, and I was very resistant. But then I went, and it was amazing, and I fell in love with the concept, and the people, and peer-to-peer learning.”
In some way, Reyes’ work parallels her experience with the resources and opportunities provided to her as a student within the College of Arts & Sciences. Her work at the Townson Writing Center provides a major resource to students that she sees as integral to success, just as her alma mater did for her. And, given her commitment to providing students with meaningful and helpful resources, she offered some final guidance.
“I think my advice for anybody at any level, or position they may be, to be successful requires utilizing resources and building a network of people who are invested in your success,” she said. “There are things that individual people can do to be successful, but I think that overall being collaborative, and being part of a bigger team, a bigger project, a bigger endeavor makes the success more powerful.”