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Student Spotlights

Gretchen: Art Education

Being a writing tutor at the BYU Research & Writing Center might not be an obvious fit for an Art Education major but Gretchen Rieckenberg has found a lot of value and skills from her internship!

What was your internship experience?

As an intern at the Writing Center, I began by observing and analyzing multiple tutoring sessions before moving on to tutor with others and ultimately by myself. Interns have the same basic responsibilities as the hired tutors, but must also attend a class where we discuss assigned weekly readings and experiences. These meetings were focused on learning about different tutoring strategies and how to handle common challenges that writing tutors face.

During the tutoring part of my job, my responsibility was to meet individually with students and help them at any stage in the writing process. I was able to help with everything between brainstorming a topic and fine-tuning a thesis paper. When meeting with a student, I first took a few minutes to learn about their paper, their writing process, and what they needed help with. The goal was to let the student be in control of the session (to maintain ownership of the paper) and I as a tutor would act as a guide to help them get where they needed to go. The most rewarding sessions were those where the student would come in unsure of themselves, but leave feeling confident and knowing what to do next. Writing papers can be hard and terrible, and I love being able to help it be a little less terrible for students."

What was the most useful thing you learned from your internship?

The most useful thing I learned (and am still learning) is how to teach. My major is Art Education with a goal to teach elementary school--a far cry from helping university students with writing, it seems. Despite the large difference, I know that teaching skills I pick up now will help me be a better teacher in the future. The most important of these skills is learning how to work with students individually. Since everyone's different, a teaching/tutoring style or strategy that works for one person might not work for the other. I'm learning how to pick up on these things and adapt my approach to best fit individual needs.

How did your courses and your major prepare you for your internship?

The ways that my courses and major have prepared me aren't as obvious. My required advanced writing class (Persuasive Writing) helped a lot. The first thing we learned was how to write cover letters, which was helpful for applying for the internship and also helping students who came in with cover letters. I had a great teacher who I was able to write quality papers for, and it renewed my passion for writing and helped me have a better writing process. I applied for the internship at the end of that semester.

As for my experiences with art, those have helped me in unexpected ways. Most of the tutors at the Writing Center are majoring in English and/or Editing, and there's a good variety of disciplines among those with other majors. As far as I know, I'm the only tutor in the fine arts. Because of this, I've been able to help students writing art papers better than my peers might be able to. In one instance, a student came in who was struggling to come up with a thesis to analyze a painting I had coincidentally written a short paper about the day before. Even though our papers were completely different topics, my familiarity with the painting and with analyzing art helped us reach a thesis she felt confident about. Also, with students who have projects featuring heavy design elements, I feel confident in advising them with their design as well as with their words. I've helped a lot of students review resumes, cover letters, and personal essays for various applications. I now feel more confident in writing those things myself.

I feel like through my internship, I'm able to expand my education in a practical and hands-on way that gives me valuable experience for my career path.

Gretchen Rieckenberg