UNC Writing Center staff and coaches.

Full-time Staff

Kimberly Abels

Kimberly Abels, Director

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

Gigi Taylor

Gigi Taylor, Senior English Language Specialist

vgtaylor@unc.edu, (919) 962-0725
Gigi helps writing coaches, faculty, and staff provide effective writing support for students whose first language is not English. She also provides instruction about academic communication, English language, and American culture for UNC’s international students and scholars.

Becky Butler

Becky Butler, English Language Specialist

becky.butler@unc.edu, (919) 843-6532
Becky helps writing coaches, faculty, and staff provide effective writing support for students whose first language is not English. She also provides instruction about academic communication, English language, and American culture for UNC’s international students and scholars.

Warren Christian

Warren Christian, English Language Specialist

warren@unc.edu (919) 843-9604
Warren helps writing coaches, faculty, and staff provide effective writing support for students whose first language is not English. He also provides instruction about academic communication, English language, and American culture for UNC’s international students and scholars.

Alex Funt

Alex Funt, Writing Coach 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.


Ben Grace

Ben Grace, Administrative Support Specialist

bgrace@unc.edu, (919) 962-7710

Kim Haith, Business Manager

kim_haith@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 sailing. To start your adventure on the sea or on a blank piece of paper, it helps to know where you want to go! I use a variety of tools, strategies, and maps to help me pick my destination. While I always sketch out a route, it is important that I remain flexible. There are always moments when I need to alter my path due to changes in the wind and tide (or my arguments and evidence). Sailing and writing requires “tacking”—going back and forth between east (writing) and west (revising) to make progress despite heading into the wind (or dealing with writer’s anxiety!). These changes are part of the process. As long as I remember my purpose, I know that after dropping my anchor or submitting my essay I can relax and enjoy the sun setting over the water.


Writing is like performing in a symphony. The sheet music indicates where sound and silence occur throughout the piece of music, but as a musician I get to add my own energy, techniques, and emotion to the structure. In the first movement, I play notes that help introduce the theme, set the tone, and draw in the audience. During the middle movements, I expand upon the theme, introduce new keys and tempos, and play a solo that highlights an interesting motif. The last movement crescendos to a conclusive moment, and I feel a sense of accomplishment because all the rehearsal hours have paid off.


Writing is like going for a run. I always start with an end goal in mind and usually start my runs off pretty slow, perhaps with a brisk walk or a light jog. But once I’m warmed up, I find myself sprinting full speed ahead. I might miss a few obstacles along the way and stumble a bit because I’m sprinting, but I carry on nonetheless. I’ll continue to do this until I tire out and may even have to to stop and rest. Even though I may have to rest, I always start my run back up and usually won’t stop until I reach my goal. Once I’m done, I’ll pause for a bit and prepare to return home. Having ran this route before, I now notice the few potholes and random branches I had missed before, and I’m able to navigate this route with ease. And soon, I’ll return home a more seasoned runner ready for my next run.


Writing is like washing a sink full of dishes. On occasion I am diligent, and clean up any and all used kitchen materials and surfaces right after preparing and consuming a meal. More often, I just kind of toss everything in the general direction of the sink and call it a day. In the morning, I am confronted with a quagmire of dirty pots, plates, and cutlery—made that much crustier for having sat in the sink overnight. Try as I might, it is impossible to ignore the sinking feeling of impending obligation. Eventually, once the hot water is flowing, I can feel my anxiety melting away like a dried crust of cheese being vigorously attacked with steel wool. Slowly but surely, dishes that I thought would have to be confined to some sort of toxic waste dump return to their respective shelves, sparkling clean and ready for the next meal.


Writing is like hiking an Appalachian trial. When looking down the quickly evasive wooded path, the task ahead seems daunting and unknowable. Yet, as with all things, the first step is critical in surmounting the ever growing fear in your chest. Once that threshold is passed and the foot of the trail is behind you, the journey becomes automatic as your feet beat across the dirt and rock in some primal ritual. The path is at times arduous and unknowable, and at times as simplistic and familiar as a neighbourhood short cut. Your path might cross a river, a rocky vertical climb, or a thick and verdant swath of trees and bushes. At each of these intersections, there is no other option but to ford the river, scale the rocky obstacle, or push through the brambles and bushes. Yet, as the first rays of the sun brush your skin, as your legs rest from their primitive push, all that is left is to look back across the path which was taken, and appreciate where you began and now where you have ended as the next trail stands open before you.


Writing is like learning to fence. You may have watched others play, but using your blade correctly takes practice. The type of weapon used, the level of competition, and the opponent all have an effect on how each match will turn out. As with writing, the context and audience matter. Are you participating in an individual event or as part of a team? Writing and fencing are both activities that require you to develop muscle memory—an essential toolkit with which to begin. Fencing entails dueling with new and sometimes challenging competitors, but it also allows for extensive lessons with a coach and time for observing others. Writing is often the same, but each tournament (or writing opportunity!) is a new chance to display the skills already mastered and to learn a little bit more than you knew before. Are you ready for your next “bout” of writing? “En garde!”


Writing is like growing a garden. You likely have an initial vision of what you’d like to get out of your garden, and that might be subject to change after you get started. You need to plan out the steps, taking into consideration many factors (time of year, light, water, soil). Not everything that you grow will thrive, but you take stock of your results and learn from failed strategies. With reflection and experience your results get better and your comfort level grows. Ultimately, what you produce can be surprisingly beautiful, and you might even learn something new about yourself along the way!


Writing is like roller skating. You may go without practicing for a few months, and feel as though you’ve forgotten how to do it when you finally step back onto the rink. Starting out can be shaky, and you’ll probably fall more than a few times. But once you get back into the swing, you can finally begin to pick up speed, and the more daring of us may even do some tricks. When you’ve done enough to be satisfied, however temporarily, you’re left with the pleasant feeling of having accomplished something.


Writing is like going on vacation, you have the plan or itinerary of all the places you are going to visit and stops you are going to make. This step can sometimes be a hassle, because you have to bring your “ideal” vacation plan to fruition, kind of like penning an idea down. The actual traveling is sometimes the worst and there are times you wish you could just turn around and go back home, but at the same time you can always look forward to the fact that in time you will have reached your wonderful destination. And whether it is a pristine beach or a dazzling big city, the work can really pay off!


Writing is like life. Life is a constant journey in which you are growing and learning every day. Like writing, life isn’t always easy. Sometimes life is hard. In those moments, you find a friend who will support you and guide you through the challenges. Sometimes life is easy and wonderful! That is when we relax a bit more. Either way, life always takes work. At the end of the day, we must admit that we really do love life.


Writing is like taking your dog for a walk. Sometimes she will pause and investigate a new scent. Sometimes she will sprint ahead and drag you along behind her. When she seems unruly, you might find it helpful to take her to training to make your walks more manageable. And, if you’re lucky (and patient), these walks might become an enjoyable and productive pastime rather than a chore.


Writing is like planning a road trip. You must first pick a destination—have an end goal in mind—before you can start packing. Once you decide where you’re going, you must pack everything necessary to get you there (if you’re going to the beach, you’re definitely going to want to pack a bathing suit). The more time, effort, and consideration you put into planning your trip, the more prepared you are for an enjoyable experience.


Writing is like playing a board game. It can take some time to learn the rules, and even once you know them, you might find yourself having to look things up. Success can depend on patience, tactics, and luck, and when things aren’t going well, you might want to flip the table. But once you figure out a strategy that works for you, you’ll likely be excited to sit back down and do it again, and surrounding yourself with good people and snacks always helps.