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Drop-in Consultations

Determining Whether Working the Mudd-Blaisdell Shift is Right For You

A Guide for Fellows by Bryan Shapiro ’11

 For the Fall Semester of 2008, The Writing Center created Mudd-Blaisdell Drop-In Hours, mirroring in some respects Drop-In Hours at other institutions such as Princeton University. As one of the two Writing Fellows working these new hours for the first time, I have seen enormous success in the Sunday Mudd-Blaisdell Drop-In Hours. As such, I predict an expansion of the employment of Drop-In Hours to two or three times per week in the coming fall semester (drop-off in Mudd-Blaisdell attendance in the spring semester is yet to be determined). Seeing the increased role of Mudd-Blaisdell Drop-In Hours in the coming year, it is therefore prudent that new Fellows consider whether working this shift is right for them.

I will begin by informing about the nature and environment of the Mudd-Blaisdell Drop- In Hours. First, there are two separate rooms, each only about 8 feet x 10 feet in size. The tables are square and small, meaning that unlike consultations at the main Writing Center in the Smith Campus Center, conferences in Mudd-Blaisdell are performed with a Writing Fellow sitting on one side of the table and students on a perpendicular side so that you are angled diagonally to each other. This presents immediate challenges in ensuring that the consultation is a cooperative effort, since equal cooperation is much easier when both the fellow and student are sitting at the same side of the table.

It should also be noted that some dorm rooms are situated directly outside of the consultation rooms, and that the Mudd-Blaisdell lounge is also very close in proximity to the rooms. Resulting is an occasional burst of noise permeating the poorly-insulated study rooms.

Equally important to the environment of the Mudd-Blaisdell Drop-In Hours are the nature of the students who sign up for the consultations. The students recognize the drop-off in formality in the Mudd-Blaisdell study rooms relative to the Writing Center in the Smith Campus Center, and dress accordingly. It is therefore not uncommon to be paired with students dressed in pajamas. Students also seem very laid-back during the consultations, so if you are strongly adamant for a formal tutoring sessions, than the Mudd-Blaisdell shift is likely not suitable for you.

Students attending Drop-In conferences often seem to have papers that are due the next day. Despite the stress this should induce, the students still generally seem to remain calmly disposed. However, there often is a student who is stressed by this, though whether there is a significant difference between the frequency of stressed students at Mudd-Blaisdell Drop-In Hours and the frequency of stressed students in the SCC Writing Center remains to be determined.

A very large proportion of Mudd-Blaisdell consultation appointments are made by freshmen students, which we might attribute to the fact that freshmen might feel more comfortable with consultations in their own residential hall, rather than at the SCC Writing Center, which freshmen may feel is more lofty and formal.

While Mudd-Blaisdell Drop-In consultations were thirty minutes in duration for the majority of the year (fifteen minutes fewer than the conferences at the SCC Writing Center), they have recently been extended to forty-five to match that of the SCC Writing Center. It is unclear whether the duration of the consulations at Mudd-Blaisdell will remain this long. Fellows considering the Mudd-Blaisdell shift should prepare for the possibility of more abbreviated shifts, and plan ways to keep sessions brief yet effective.

Currently, The Mudd-Blaisdell Drop-In sessions are only offered Sunday nights from 8- 11 P.M. If this remains the only time slot available in future years, Fellows should consider whether they’d feel comfortable working these late hours the night before the beginning of the week.

In summary, the Mudd-Blaisdell Drop-In Hours are best suited for a Fellow who:

• Works well in an informal environment

• Is able to cope with the occasional auditory disruption

• Sensitive to the unique concerns of the Freshman student

• Is willing to adjust to the slightly awkward seating arrangement in the study rooms

• Works well during late-night hours (8-11 PM)

Overall, the Mudd-Blaisdell Drop-In Hours have been a very positive experience for me, and I look forward to providing additional information to any Fellow looking to work these hours.