I remember sitting in front of my laptop, searching, “How to be a good manager.” Not only was the title of “manager” itself contributing to my fear of the role, but self-doubts began to rise in my mind. Would I be able to live up to our staff members’ expectations? Would my lack of experience in such a position decrease the Writing Center’s professionalism? Despite the weeks of training I received, these thoughts lingered as I walked into my first day as the Student Manager. Yet now, as I sit reminiscing over the past year that I have spent working in this role, I can see only blessings and lessons to share.
My initial expectation for this role was a heavy amount of responsibility and a large workload. All this was due to my previous internship experiences, such as coordinating education programs and managing NGO databases, which proved to me that work can often be intimidating. Therefore, I viewed this as a job where I would be dedicating my time and effort toward something valuable, but sometimes lonely. However, my experience in this position opened my eyes to a concept I had never considered previously: reciprocal hospitality. As I spent more and more time reflecting on my learning as the Student Manager, I have come to witness that every corner of the Writing Center is facilitated through warmth that is mutually received and given:
- From consultant to client: The Writing Consultant is present to assist the client’s writing journey in the most effective ways. The consultant embraces the opportunity to share their writing skill set with the client, offering insights and creating a safe space for the client to share. Simply put, the consultant is ready to support the client at any stage in the writing process–academically, emotionally, or mentally. For information specific to the Writing Consultant experience, you can refer to Sarah Danielson’s blog post on the topic.
- From client to consultant: The client displays hospitality from the moment they step into the Writing Center. Writing is a vulnerable act, and sharing your writing with a stranger can be a humbling and even a fearful experience. The tremendous leap that clients take to share their writing requires courage, and by bringing their works to the Writing Center, clients are showing hospitality through their brave humility. Furthermore, the process of revising writing is communal and requires effort from both sides. By engaging in active discussions and clear communication, clients are also able to enrich consultation sessions by sharing their shimmering ideas. And every client –and I mean every single client– always has something to teach the consultant, just as much as they can teach them.
- From manager to staff: The Student Manager exists in order to ensure the smooth day-to-day operation of the Center. Through logistical work such as creating the Writing Center online schedules, handling cover requests, communicating with staff via email, or making necessary adjustments to the WCOnline and Terminal Four websites, the manager plays a key role in constructing an effective framework for the Writing Center’s functional performance. While this work sounds mundane, its service to the people who step into the Writing Center is essential to making our space a place of welcome.
- From staff to manager: The individual efforts of each staff member to facilitate an effective Writing Center contribute to the work of the manager, and in the end, the smooth operation of the Center. Every aspect of the consultant’s work offers mutual encouragement and solidifies the relationship between staff and manager.
Challenges and Growth
While the role of the Student Manager does entail significant responsibility and commitment, the challenges that I faced while working in this position have allowed me to cultivate habits of reflection, self-awareness, and structure. Let me share just a few with you.
- Time commitment: Although the Student Manager position is time-consuming, I learned a lot from that about structuring my own life. It is not easy to add a leadership position to your commitments when you are prioritizing academics, a social life, and mental and spiritual health. It takes organization and discipline to manage the role. In my case, this was just what I had needed. Balancing three jobs, multiple musical extracurriculars, and my Elementary Education studies in a 24-hour day was overwhelming, to say the least. My first step in navigating my way through was by pruning my branches of priorities: What was important to me? How could I make wise use of my time? I structured my life in colorful tabs on Google Calendar. I learned to distribute my energy in the right amounts across different events during the day. I avoided the temptation to keep up with work during class or times allotted for studying. Understanding how my body and mind worked and translating that into healthy time management helped reorient the structure of my life, teaching me to find a balance between rest and work.
- Confidence as a Writer: While there is no such thing as a bad writer, I was adamant that I truly was that “bad writer.” Being an international student, I created my own deficit mindset about the fact that English is my second language. This kept me from feeling competent even before I was the Student Manager. However, when I addressed these concerns during my first interview with the Writing Center Director, Dr. Gibson, she voiced an opposing viewpoint: “International students have so much that they can offer in consultations: their unique viewpoints, knowledge on grammar, and even the ability to empathize with others’ struggles.” This gave me the encouragement to begin working at the Writing Center and filled me with hope that I may uplift and support students who are going through similar struggles.
Beginning my role as the Student Manager was not so different from beginning my work at the Writing Center. The title can be intimidating and I naturally felt a lot of self-doubt about my abilities. However, I would like to extend a word of encouragement to anyone who may be feeling the same way. Just as I learned through experience that there is no bad writer and God indeed fully equipped me for this position, I believe that it will be the same for anyone who steps into this role in the future. By no means will they need to carry all the responsibility by themselves; they will be surrounded by a cohort of loving staff members, engaging clients, and an encouraging director. Carry yourself with gratitude, humility, and a serving heart, and God will do the rest!