International Students Hone Writing Skills for Free at Language Institute

Georgia Tech’s incoming freshman class is 10 percent international students; for the overall student body, that number is about 18 percent. For many, coming to Tech is the first time these students have used English on a regular basis in a rigorous academic environment.

To serve those students, the Language Institute began offering free writing assistance to all students last fall. With very little promotion, the 10 hours per week allotted to help students was consistently booked throughout the last year.

“The goal was to provide a service to the Georgia Tech students that we knew was very much needed, and running the pilot has definitely confirmed that,” said Mo Burke, a Language Institute instructor. Since its inception, the program has served about 150 students each semester, many visiting on a regular basis.

Students work one-on-one with instructor Jane Chisholm in 20-minute sessions. Though the focus is on writing support, Chisholm also assists with speaking and presentation skills, customizing the time to students’ needs.

“When I came to Tech for digital media, the literature expectations were much higher, and I didn’t have as much experience since my background was in graphic design and art,” said Hye Yeon Nam, a digital media PhD student from South Korea. “I wanted to improve my skills because it’s important to communicate with my students and other people in my field.”

Nam met with Chisholm on a weekly basis and has recommended the service to numerous friends and classmates. Though other classes were helpful, Nam improved the most from the one-on-one time, for which she would have paid a significant amount per hour outside of Tech.

“The best part about working with students is sending them away feeling as if they have learned what kinds of problems they have, how they can improve their writing and what makes good writing,” Chisholm said. She’s also able to serve as a source for editing students’ writing outside of their professors and advisors, providing a relief for faculty as well.

Chisholm hopes to expand the capacity of the service and will implement an online appointment scheduling system this fall. For now, those interested in writing or communications support can visit the Language Institute in the O’Keefe building or contact Chisholm to make an appointment.