Full-time Staff

Kimberly Abels, Director

kabels@unc.edu, (919) 962-4426
As director of the Writing Center, Kim is responsible for long-range planning, programming, outreach, and collaborations.

Vicki Behrens, Assistant Director

vicki@unc.edu, (919) 962-4799
Vicki coordinates the day-to-day operations of the Writing Center and serves as a resource for instructors and other campus partners. She also supports the writing coaches and supervises the development of Writing Center web content.

Gigi Taylor, Senior English Language Specialist

vgtaylor@unc.edu, (919) 962-0725
Gigi helps writing coaches, faculty, and staff provide effective writing support for ESL students. She also provides instruction about academic communication, English language, and American culture for UNC’s international students and scholars.

Becky Butler, English Language Specialist

becky.butler@unc.edu, (919) 843-6532
Becky helps writing coaches, faculty, and staff provide effective writing support for ESL students. She also provides instruction about academic communication, English language, and American culture for UNC’s international students and scholars.

Warren Christian, English Language Specialist

warren@unc.edu (919) 843-9604
Warren helps writing coaches, faculty, and staff provide effective writing support for ESL students. He also provides instruction about academic communication, English language, and American culture for UNC’s international students and scholars.

Alex Funt, Writing Specialist

tafunt@email.unc.edu, (919) 966-8924
Alex hires, trains, and supervises the Writing Center’s team of undergraduate and graduate student writing coaches. With the assistance of the writing coaches, he manages the Writing Center’s digital media presence.

Kim Allison, Business Manager

kallison@email.unc.edu, (919) 962-7710

Get To Know Our Writing Coaches

The Writing Center’s writing coaches are undergraduate and graduate students from a wide variety of academic disciplines. They receive extensive training in teaching writing one on one. New graduate coaches undergo more than 40 hours of preparation at the start of the fall semester, and undergraduates take a 3-credit-hour course (English 402) to prepare. All coaches receive ongoing training and supervision.

Since each writing coach has an individual approach, we suggest trying out several coaches in order to find the style that works best for you. You can learn a little more about some of our writing coaches by reading their responses to the question “What is writing like for you?”


Writing is like swimming against a current. The writing process requires an enormous amount of effort and endurance. At times, you get stuck with writer’s block and feel frustrated or exhausted or both, just as you would feel when pushing against that current without really moving forward. But at other times you feel energized and can swim through easily as words just flow to the page. Most importantly, at the end, you feel relieved that you swam to the finish with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.


Writing is like a jigsaw puzzle without its box. You frequently have a vague notion of what it should become, but you lack a clear picture of the final product. Moreover, in writing just as in puzzles, you possess thoughts and ideas i.e. pieces that you need to organize into a cohesive writing assignment. Similarly, writing and puzzles are often time-consuming and frustrating. And yet, in both cases, you have accomplished no small feat when you complete them.


Writing is like living. It is, more specifically, the difficult and often perplexing process of decision-making. We will not be perfect at it. All we can do is to hope to learn from our experiences (and mistakes) and improve along the way.


Writing is like rock climbing. As I approach a climbing site (or a writing project), I have a goal, some tools and tricks, some experience, some enthusiasm, some trepidation. I study the rock for a while, figuring out how to approach it, and as I climb, there’s progress…and getting stuck and backtracking and rethinking (…and, I confess, some slipping and swearing and a bit of panic now and then). And there’s always a belayer—a fellow climber who can offer feedback from a very different perspective. And when it’s finished, there’s immense relief and satisfaction at the top.


For me, writing is like grocery-shopping. It’s a familiar routine for which I have developed favorite strategies over time; yet each time, it’s a new experience with new needs, products, and timing to negotiate. I like having a list, and often do, although I’ve learned that making the list is its own exercise. I usually need to brainstorm menus, review what’s in the cupboards, and find out if my family’s cereal and lunch box preferences have changed. With list in hand, I tuck my cloth bags in the cart and wander up and down the aisles filling the cart. I revise my menu as I see what vegetables look good, what’s on sale, and what new ingredient I might like to experiment with this week. When there’s no time for a list, I wing it with a strategic scan of the shelves and a “reminder” march up every aisle to help me think through what we need. While grocery shopping is a chore, once I’m cruising the aisles, tasting the free samples, I enjoy the process of making choices and imagining the cooking ahead.


Writing is like participating in the Olympic decathlon. There are times you sprint, times you dig deep to run the distance, times you high jump with joy over your success, and times you want to javelin-throw your writing into the trash. You might be more experienced with some parts of the writing process than others, but you will probably need to explore several of its steps to unlock the full complexity of what is bouncing around your brain. To do your best, you might need to begin training in some skills (like brainstorming, pre-writing, research, and proofreading) that are unfamiliar or hard to you. All of these skills – like the ten events of the decathlon – combine to create your final product. That product may not be exactly what you hoped it would be but you will know that it was the best you could do and be proud of yourself for giving your all.


Writing is like bouncing a ball. With some practice you can get a rhythm going, but repeating the same thing over and over can get boring. You can learn some new tricks from a friend or experiment on your own. As you get going, you might find yourself picking up momentum or slowing down, or the ball could encounter an obstacle and go off track (or simply in a new direction). And whenever you think the ball has rolled to a stop, you can pick it up and start it bouncing again.


Writing is like making a piece of pottery. I have all kinds of ideas about what I’d like to create, and I can spend hours daydreaming about what a beautiful bowl or plate or vase I’ll have when I’m done—but at some point I have to sit down with a big, slimy lump of wet clay and get to work. Bending over the wheel can be tiring, and it’s discouraging when an almost-finished piece collapses in a heap. After the basic form has dried, it’s time for my favorite part—decorating and glazing it in preparation for the final firing. I have to remember to leave myself enough time to get the details just right—it may take several tries to make a good handle for a mug or find an appealing combination of glazes. The object I end up with may not match my vision perfectly, but it’s usually functional, and sometimes it’s even kind of pretty.