When you’re writing a paper and it’s just not flowing, or when you need feedback on the structure of an outline or the clarity of a thesis statement—USAHS has a great resource for you.
“Students are sometimes surprised about how high the expectations are for quality writing in grad school,” says Hideki Nakazono, MA, founder and director of the USAHS Writing Center. “We support our students in getting their writing to the level they need to reach as both graduate students and professionals.”
The Writing Center is staffed by 11 professional writing coaches, all of whom have an advanced degree in a writing-related field; nine have doctoral degrees. Our coaches work with students on their capstone papers, dissertations, and other projects. They also help recent graduates, faculty, and staff shape articles for publication in scientific journals.
“Some of our students—especially in our post-professional programs—haven’t written an academic paper in years,” Nakazono says. “Our nurses, for example, are used to making clinical notes, but they may need to relearn how to write in a formal scholarly style.” Writing coaches can help students with crafting an outline, developing a compelling thesis, and making structural changes to improve flow and logic.
However, “We’re not an editing service,” Nakazono clarifies.
“We want students to develop into independent scholars. We give them the tools to edit their work themselves.” In essence, they teach the principles of good writing while giving feedback on organization, content, grammar, citations, and more.
How It Works
The Writing Center’s services are included in the cost of tuition. Depending on the student’s schedule and preferences, coaches can meet students one-on-one for live virtual calls, or they can provide asynchronous video feedback while displaying the relevant part of the document on screen. Nakazono says the coaches don’t solely give feedback by email because “the tone doesn’t translate; it can sound like you’re yelling.” It’s important that constructive criticism be delivered in a way people can hear. “With writing, there are a lot of anxieties that people have to overcome. There is a degree of intimacy and exposure.”
Some students “click” with one coach and stick with them, while others work with different coaches to learn different skills. Nakazono says he’s been fortunate to find coaches who work well with students. “It’s that connection with students that drives what we do and gives us a sense of purpose,” he says. “Being in health sciences, their work is so important; their goals are for the betterment of society.”
Nakazono previously directed the writing center of an arts university in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where his team worked with students on screenplays, short stories, and other creative projects. “It was so much fun,” he says. “But at USA, our students are also creative. They’re thinking of innovative ways to help people. We don’t always associate creativity with science. But it’s totally there.” He adds that as writing coaches, “we are given the opportunity to think creatively about how to help students achieve their goals. We see their passion for the work they do. We meet them where they are and help them get where they need to be.”
Besides one-on-one meetings, the Writing Center also offers four group drop-in sessions per week focused on American Psychological Association (APA) and American Medical Association (AMA) formatting and citations.
Coaches might work with a whole classroom on a topic, coming in virtually. For example, Nakazono worked with Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) students on the Austin campus on writing the literature review for their capstone projects. This initiative grew into a four-part OTD scholarly series that the Writing Center will roll out to all USAHS campuses in Spring 2022.
Coaches are also continuously developing self-help resources. As part of the USAHS Library’s Scholarly Skills Community on Blackboard, the Writing Center created a set of four instructional modules about writing topics, complete with videos, PowerPoint presentations, and quizzes. Just two months after its Summer 2021 launch, 22% of students and faculty had accessed the community.
How to Book an Appointment
The Writing Center is in high demand, Nakazono says. In fact, it has been so popular that in order to ensure equal access (and to keep students from using it as a crutch), appointments are now limited to two per month. The Center keeps a waitlist for when the schedule is filled, and students can attend the APA and AMA style sessions without limit.
You’ll find the Writing Center on the MyUSA portal. Click the Student Services tab, then “Writing Center” in the left navigation menu. From there, you’ll find a wealth of resources about writing, style, formatting, citations, and more. To book an appointment, you can use the online scheduler, usa.mywconline.net, and select live or asynchronous feedback. You can also contact the center at [email protected].