FAQ for Graduate Students Interested in Working at the Writing Center

Why should I apply?

Writing Center Teaching Assistants (usually called tutors in the past–we are now using the term “writing coaches”) describe working here as one of the most positive aspects of their graduate experience. Many people like teaching in the Writing Center because it allows them to work with students from across the disciplines, provides them with a new kind of teaching experience, helps them develop their own writing skills, and gives them a TA stipend without the take-home work of grading and class preparation. Since we hire TAs from a wide variety of disciplines, tutors also get to know a new group of people from outside their home departments.  Many former TAs have found their experiences at the Writing Center useful during their search for academic jobs, as colleges and universities value faculty who are trained in teaching writing.


How much will I work?

Writing Center coaches work 15 hours per week. You’ll never work less than that—our TAs are busy with Writing Center activities during all of their scheduled hours. But you’ll never need to go over, either—except for attendance at our fall training week (the week before classes begin), there’s no homework or prep work. Coaches spend most of their Writing Center hours talking with students one-on-one in fifty-minute appointments. Coaches also respond to student requests for online feedback, attend our weekly staff meeting, represent the Writing Center at campus events, participate in training activities, and work on individual projects like creating instructional materials.


How will the Writing Center determine my schedule?

All TAs must be available from approximately 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day of our fall training week, which takes place the week before classes begin (this year, that will be August 11-15).

During the semester, the Writing Center is open Sunday from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Monday through Thursday from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Before each semester begins, tutors submit schedule requests. Writing Center administrators then create a work schedule that meets tutors’ needs and provides coverage in the Center. Coaches’ hours must be distributed over at least four days a week. Coaches must be available to work at least one full evening (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.) per week; you may not be called upon to work in the evening every semester, but we need to split these hours fairly among the staff. Once the schedule is set, it remains the same for the entire semester. Coaches swap shifts with each other when they need to attend conferences or fulfill personal commitments.


I see that you’d like a year-long commitment, but I’m only available for one semester. Should I still apply?

We strongly prefer that TAs work for us for both the fall and the spring semesters. But funding sometimes shifts during the year, enabling us to hire additional staff—so if you might be interested in working for a single semester, feel free to apply, or contact us for more information. While it is unlikely that you would be hired for spring semester only, we do sometimes have fall-only positions.


Could I be hired for this summer?

No. For the summer, we hire only people who have already been through training here.


Being a writing coach is just like teaching, right?

Yes and no. Like classroom instructors, we want to help students become better writers. Coaching differs from classroom teaching in that tutors don’t write on students’ papers or assign grades. They spend time listening, asking questions, and discussing choices as writers brainstorm, draft, and refine their papers. Working one-on-one allows our coaches to tailor instruction to each student’s concerns.


Do I have to be a full-time graduate student to apply?

Yes. To work at the Writing Center, you must be a full-time, degree-seeking student in residence in a graduate program at UNC-Chapel Hill. You must be enrolled during the semesters in which you will work (being enrolled in dissertation credit only is o.k.). If you do not meet these criteria but are interested in working as a private tutor or editor, you may wish to request a listing on our “Help for Hire” page.


Does the Writing Center provide tuition remission?

The Writing Center does not have its own pool of money for tuition assistance of any kind, so whether our TAs receive such benefits depends on the policies of their individual departments. The Graduate School has tuition awards for grad students who meet certain conditions, including being enrolled full-time, being within the first ten semesters of graduate study, being employed as a Teaching Assistant, and receiving a certain minimum stipend. With the possible exception of being within their first ten semesters, Writing Center TAs should meet these conditions. See the Graduate School’s site for further information. If someone in your department (possibly the student services manager) is trying to determine whether you’d receive benefits, it may help him/her to know that our TAs are paid with state instructional money.


Who works in the Writing Center?

The Writing Center staff includes five full-time professionals: Dr. Kimberly Abels, Writing Center Director; Dr. Vicki Behrens, Assistant Director; Dr. Gigi Taylor, ESL Specialist; Percival Guevarra, ESL Specialist; and Kim Allison, Administrative Manager. Each semester, 10-20 graduate student teaching assistants and 10-20 undergraduate peer coaches from across the curriculum work with us each semester. Peer coaches take English 402, a three-credit-hour class, to prepare them to teach in the Writing Center. Several undergraduate office assistants serve as receptionists. We value having a diverse staff, and we all work together to create an environment that is professional, collaborative, supportive, and fun.


The application form says I need references from on campus, but I don’t have as many as needed; what should I do?

Go ahead and provide references from elsewhere. Try to find people who have worked with you as a teacher and/or as an employee.


Where can I get more information?

If you’d like to speak to one of our TAs, we’ll be happy to connect you with someone on our staff. Please also feel free to contact the our Director, Dr. Kimberly Abels, at kabels@email.unc.edu or 962-4426.