Retired faculty members keep hand in instruction as writing advisors

Although the students who use their services come from all different academic disciplines, varying countries and cultures, and range from first-year undergraduates to doctoral candidates, they generally share one challenge, say the volunteers of the Writing Advisor program: grammar.

“Sometimes the first draft of their papers won’t contain any articles at all,” says Kai Hildebrandt, one of the professors emeriti who have been helping students with their essays. “In fairness, some of their native languages don’t have articles like English does.”

Not all the clients are new to English, but almost all benefit from a second set of eyes looking over their writing. The advisors offer suggestions for organization, sentence structure, word choices, grammar and spelling, but not content, says retired French professor Adrian van den Hoven.

“Sometimes it is necessary to ask the students what it is they are trying to say,” he says. “We can help them to express their thoughts more clearly.”

Brooke White, executive director of student affairs, says the retirees provide a valuable service to students.

“The collective experience and knowledge that these faculty volunteers bring to this support is irreplaceable,” she says. “Add to that their enthusiasm and the genuine interest they display to students seeking assistance and you have what could be considered a platinum level of service and support.”

She says the volunteers’ contributions exemplify the learning aspect associated with the development of good writing skills.

“I believe their presence indicates to students the commitment that the University has to support the development of writing skills throughout a student’s academic career,” says White. “In Student Affairs we are thrilled with this faculty partnership and it is our hope that we will be able to expand this faculty volunteer writing support in the near future.”

The students aren’t the only ones who benefit, says Alan Metcalfe, professor emeritus of kinesiology.

“I have been retired for 14 years and what I really missed is the interaction with the students,” he says. “This gives me the opportunity to reconnect with them.”

The writing advisors staff a desk on the main floor of the Leddy Library to provide assistance on a drop-in basis:

  • Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m.
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 to 5 p.m.

To make an appointment, e-mail