Staff Spotlight: Nita Meola
November 27, 2012
By Stephanie Ewing (MA '12)
It’s Writing Center Director Nita Meola’s personal and professional mission to debunk the myth that writing is a solitary task. For the past 12 years, Meola has been helping students learn to write collaboratively, and she’s been running Columbia College Chicago’s Writing Center since 2007.
Writing centers are collaborative learning environments, Meola said, which means students act as guides, coaches, and mentors to help other students improve their writing. “When you have to talk about your writing, you learn about your writing,” Meola said.
Meola came to Columbia College Chicago from Purdue University Calumet, where she completed her master’s in English Literature. For her, Chicago was the exciting, urban setting she’d always wanted, and Columbia’s artistic community and diversity were what she craved.
“Imagine that as a literature major, for me, for the right side of my brain, this was like walking into the bakery or the sweet shop to be surrounded by the ‘Columbia cool factor’ and all the opportunities for art,” she said.
Though her graduate studies focused on female British writers of the 18th and 19th centuries, Meola fell in love with writing centers when she started working at the Purdue University Calumet Writing Center while pursuing her master’s degree, first as a tutor, then as a lecturer and assistant to the director.
Now as the director of Columbia’s Writing Center, training her student writing consultants how to be effective teachers, communicators, and junior administrators is one of Meola’s favorite jobs.
“Eighty percent of our staff of 60 tutors are students,” said Meola. “Because writing centers are all about experiential learning, our student assistants perform as if they were working real-world jobs, taking on administrative duties and writing reports and analyses.”
Though writing centers have been around since the 1970s, Meola said she is surprised how few students and faculty members know what they’re for or how to utilize them. She aims to demystify the writing center experience and get more students through the door.
To make the Writing Center as useful and welcoming as possible, Meola and her staff of writing consultants have also begun offering online tutoring and writing chats as well as reaching out to students through social media.
“We decided to meet the students where they are,” said Meola. “We’re tweeting, we’re Facebook-ing, we’re tumblr-ing.”
It’s a common misconception that writing centers are only for students struggling with writing, but Meola said that couldn’t be farther from the truth. She says that a conversation with a writing consultant about your writing can turn a good paper into a great one.
In fact, the Writing Center is also open to faculty and staff members looking for everything from feedback on an academic paper to help with a difficult passage in a chapter or screenplay.
“[Faculty and staff] sometimes take their lunch hour here so they can continue improving their writing too,” said Meola, smiling. “Even the ‘A’ students can come in to improve their writing.”
Photo: Jacob Boll ('12)