Professional Development

A Conversation with Writing Center Alumna Maggie Rothrock

Maggie Rothrock ‘20, former Writing Center consultant and ’19-’20 student manager, graciously sat down for a (virtual) chat with me, from one student manager to another. She discusses a host of things, including what her post-grad life has been like, her time at the Writing Center, and why writing is valuable.

A photograph of Maggie Rothrock Wheaton '20
Photo courtesy of Maggie Rothrock

Life After Wheaton

Lindsay Danielson (LD): So, first I’d just like to know what you’ve been up to in your life.

Maggie Rothrock (MR): I’m working with City Year through Americorps, where I’m tutoring elementary school kids in Chicago. We do one subject, either ELA or math. I got put in math, which was kind of confusing, but here I am [laughs]. But I’m not just going to be tutoring. We support kids in social-emotional learning as well. Also, we’re all online, so I’m just hanging out in my apartment most of the time, but I’m very busy all the same. There’s a lot of internet problems, not to mention parents who really want to support their kids but find themselves struggling with the tech that they have. It’s kind of been chaos [laughs]. But that being said, I’ve still been able to call a lot of parents and meet kids. 

LD: So you’re working a lot with students now. Do the skills that you gained in the Writing Center translate to this job?

MR: I wasn’t sure coming in, but I was hoping it would be kind of similar. I learned so much at the Writing Center that I feel will transfer anywhere I go, especially because of my former position as manager. I feel like I figured out a way to organize my thoughts and life because of that job. The actual student tutoring hasn’t started yet, but I would say that I’ve been tutoring a lot of parents in tech. So being patient and listening to them are like my work at the Writing Center. 

It’s pretty easy for me to work with people now because I’ve done so much tutoring and teaching in the past. I definitely feel like I have a much better grasp on how to guide people and give advice and keep people on track without sounding unprofessional or getting angry. I think a lot of that speaks to my experience in the Writing Center.

Managing the Writing Center

LD: It’s great to see how those skills transfer! I’d love to know—what was your favorite part of being the Writing Center manager? 

MR: Oh man! I really liked being in a position where I was doing something that I felt was meaningful for the campus, and especially for students who don’t feel as comfortable or included at Wheaton. I felt like I was in a place where I could really make a difference for them. And while the day-to-day work wasn’t always super fun, it was good to know that the end goal was to help students.

Also, I loved how [Writing Center Director] Dr. Gibson allowed me to vision-cast and think about where the Writing Center was going. It was really purposeful work, and I got so much experience from it. When I list my skills on my resume, I’m like, “Oh, I learned this from the Writing Center; I learned that from the Writing Center, too!” 

LD: How was the Writing Center Manager position different than you expected? 

MR: It was in some ways harder than I expected. I mean, managing people especially can be very difficult sometimes. Everyone’s schedules are so limited, and coordinating the appointment schedule was hard. But to be honest, going in, I really didn’t know what I was going to be doing [laughs]. Even now people are like, “What did you do there?” and I’m like “Well, everything!”

Supporting Writing Center Clients

LD: More broadly, how is the Writing Center a useful tool for all students?

MR: The Writing Center is useful because a lot of students don’t feel comfortable going to professors about writing, and professors don’t necessarily have the time to help with really detailed questions. It’s also a less threatening environment—not that Wheaton professors are scary, but I do think talking to someone closer to your age and your same stage of life can be a lot less intimidating than talking to someone with a PhD [laughs]. I think one-on-one teaching is important and helpful because you have someone who’s really paying attention to you. Having the emotional support of knowing that someone is in your corner is really helpful for learning. The Writing Center gives students the individual support that they want in a way that is encouraging, comfortable, and low-stakes.

LD: Recently I’ve noticed that lots of my clients come in feeling stuck and insecure, saying things like, “I’m a bad writer.” What would you say to a student who feels that way? 

MR: Some students really struggle with that mindset. As a tutor, I try to point out something specific about their writing that works to encourage them, saying something like, “Hey, you have a really strong first paragraph here; if you continue that line of thought for the rest of the paper, it’s gonna be an effective paper.” You could also ask something like, “What about your writing makes you think that?” Talking about a particular writing concern is more useful than saying “I’m a bad writer.” When you label yourself as a “bad writer,” it can seem impossible to improve. But if you realize that everyone is a writer in progress and take actionable steps, you can start becoming a better writer.

For the Love of Writing

LD: I love the phrase “everyone’s a writer in progress.” Why do you love writing?

MR: There are so many reasons! I think one of them is that I love how powerful writing makes me feel. That might make me sound bad [laughs]. I feel like I can express myself more eloquently in writing than I’ve ever been able to in speech. When I write something, it’s out there in the world on the page, and it gives me a voice in a way that speaking doesn’t. It’s such a human thing to communicate, and there’s something so powerful about putting your words on the page to exist for someone else to read later. That’s a really cool thing. Especially for students who feel less confident in their speaking or less heard on campus, writing can give them a voice.

LD: That’s great! So, last question: have you been writing anything lately?

MR: I’m on the computer for so much of the day that, at the end of the day, all I want to do is get outside and walk or sit or whatever [laughs]. So it’s a little tricky because I tend to collect my thoughts a lot easier when I type. I have been journaling every night, so that’s been a good practice to keep up. I’ve also been very slowly working on a novel that I started—but it’s going very slowly. I’m not planning to finish it anytime soon. Every now and then, I’ll feel passionately about something and write an essay on it. But, I think this is a season of my life where I’m going to put writing on the back burner for a bit. Even so, writing is always going to be part of my life.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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