Meet Our Staff
UNC Writing Center staff and coaches.
Kimberly Abels, Director
firstname.lastname@example.org, (919) 962-4426
Dr. Abels has led the student-centered, tech-savvy professional and student communities that compose Carolina’s Writing and Learning Center for over twenty years. She collaborates with colleagues and campus partners to build Writing and Learning Center services and fosters environments where students imagine, discover, reflect, and stretch into new ideas and academic habits.
Gigi Taylor, Senior English Language Specialist
email@example.com, (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.
Warren Christian, English Language Specialist
firstname.lastname@example.org (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, Assistant Director
email@example.com, (919) 966-8924
Alex hires, trains, supervises, and mentors the Writing Center’s team of undergraduate and graduate student writing coaches. He also collaborates with Writing and Learning Center staff to manage our digital media presence.
Franny Brock, Administrative Support Specialist
firstname.lastname@example.org, (919) 962-7710
Franny provides logistical support for the staff and coaches at the Writing and Learning Center on a daily basis. As a long-time writing coach and with experience in faculty and student support, Franny is passionate about creating a welcoming and collaborative atmosphere for student success. She is also pursuing a PhD in Art History at UNC and has experience in museum education, curatorial work, and teaching. As the Admin Support Specialist, Franny will likely be the first face you see when you visit our location in SASB North.
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 tap dancing. Some of your steps will be lighter, some heavier; it’s up to you to balance them and place your weight where you need to. You’re often focused on an audience, but it’s always important to think about yourself and what you’re trying to say. When you’re performing, you shouldn’t just focus on impressing people, or else every performance might end up the same. Sure, you could do all of the most technically impressive steps in a row, but doing the same complex step for 32 counts isn’t that exciting. Often, it’s the basics that can build into something beautiful and unique, whether it’s an extremely complex pattern you’ve spent hours on or a fun bit of improv on the fly. What do you want people to hear? You often have a few signature moves that you can easily return back to and that leave your mark on the piece. And when you stumble off of your initial track, you can often turn it into something beautiful and your audience won’t even notice. They’ll simply hear your unique rhythm and love your final dance.
Writing is like building a sandcastle. At first glance, the limit to which I can create with sand can seem overwhelming and a tad scary. By itself, the sand can feel like it has no structure, but the more I mess around with it, adding my own flair and personality, the more comfortable I feel and the more I understand the material at hand! Although sand’s innate pliability means it is the optimal material to create unique pieces, it also leaves it susceptible to collapse if construction is faulty. Utilizing various tools, such as molds or sculpting tools, as guides can prevent these potential faults and introduce me to skills that I can use in the future. Each time I build a castle, the better, more sound, it is than the last attempt. Oftentimes, I find myself discovering how to not build a sandcastle more than I find myself creating the perfect piece. With each castle I build, I remain aware that they are meant to be edited and revised to get it to the shape I want, so I do not let my spirit be broken if I have to fix some portion of my work or even start over! Soon enough, after plenty of revisions, I can stand back and look at my finished castle and fully appreciate the work it took to get it here. Building these sandcastles is a matter of process, and there’s always something to be gained from each attempt, even on the worst occasions!
Writing is like planting a flower. First, you start to dig a hole in the ground, moving aside the dirt that you do not need and making space to then plant the flower. After that, you have to tend to it often, watering it and giving it the resources to grow. Sometimes, there are roots that have to be investigated if the plant is wilting, and other times, there are even pesky bugs that stunt its growth. Yet, after the flower has finally bloomed, you still have to prune it so that it becomes even more beautiful and healthy. But most of all, with work and encouragement, flowers become flourishing, ever-growing extensions of the gardener. They show a piece of the person who grew them, beautiful and bright.
Writing is like gardening. The garden loves regular attention, and sometimes the first thing you plant may not take root right away. Other times, an insistent weed finds its way into the soil, and you find yourself pulling up the same invasive roots time after time. But over many seasons, you become more familiar with which vegetables love shade and which love sunlight, as well as when to ask for a helping hand. No matter the shape or size of the harvest, the process is worth the time.
Writing is like hiking a new trail. Sometimes this trail exists in a landscape that you’ve already explored countless times before; at other times it twists and turns through an entirely new landscape. In either situation, you have no idea what precisely you’re going to see and experience even if you’ve read descriptions of the trail from other travelers. There might be a steep two-mile stretch in an entirely new landscape that, according to previous hikers, supposedly requires scrambling, but you might discover that you don’t need to scramble at all. Or perhaps there’s a four-mile stretch on that new trail near where you’ve always hiked that previous travelers have claimed is challenging but certainly do-able, but you find that you simply can’t do it because it’s strenuous and constantly near precipices that send you reeling from fear and anxiety. You just don’t know what the trail has in store for you until you start hiking it. Sometimes the hike is easier than expected and you make it a lot farther than you initially planned. Sometimes the hike seems impossible to accomplish and you have to make the decision to turn back and either re-focus and re-fuel before trying again or, maybe, you simply search for another trail that you can complete as a practice run before trying the hard trail again in the future. You might discover gorgeous, panoramic views on your hike, or you might see nothing but undergrowth the whole time. But despite all of this uncertainty, you eventually learn, after several hikes, that the joy of hiking consists in seeing the beauty and sublimity of everything you encounter, and that the trek itself is as important as reaching your destination. Writing, like hiking, requires embracing the expedition—even if it’s a long one—that you must experience in order to reach your goals.
Writing is like architecture—it’s a synthesis of art and science. Like architecture, writing is a creative product that’s intended to elicit a reaction. However, in addition to being beautiful, both a building and a piece of writing must be structurally sound. Architects use steel beams to support a structure from the inside out, while writers use logic and organization to help their drafts hold shape. Writing and architecture alike can be both beautiful and functional!
Writing is like drawing. We start off with a stick figure and a sun in the corner. We color it in like the lines we just drew meant nothing. We don’t get better without practice. Our works grow as we learn perspective, anatomy, and proportions. And then we look at it and think: Well, that’s a little boring. So we take inspiration from others, pick apart the things we like and put it into our works. And we start to have fun with it; we start to find our own style. It becomes a true work of art. And that’s what writing is. Though we use it to write papers about things that we sometimes don’t really care about, above all it’s a creative process first and foremost.
Writing is like trying to scratch an itch on your back just out of reach. I’ll have a demanding sense that some sort of question or project is worth investigating, but try as I might, it’s incredibly difficult to figure out how to get my fingers on it. I’ll realize that adaptation and strategy are necessary, and go looking for tools to help me out. Chances are I’ll try a few different classic options (a back-scratcher; a ruler; in my more desperate moments, a wooden spoon), but none of them will work particularly well for me. I’ll eventually ask someone else to help me, and it’s only when I can work in dialogue with another (ask them to scratch my back) that I can work that itch out. And, of course, to follow through on the idiom properly, I’ll be happy to return the favor whenever.
Writing is like preparing for a marathon. You sign up because you think it’s a good idea, and then it dawns on you that you have to start training. So, you go for your first few runs and are miserable. It’s hot out, you struggle to breathe, and you’re always sore the next day. And of course, there’s this steep hill on your route that you have to deal with. The climb causes your legs to burn and lungs to ache–you’re at the point where you’re ready to give up. But you don’t let that happen. Instead, you start to find ways to make your runs more enjoyable; you stretch before and after, you make sure you have tunes or podcasts to listen to, and you change up your route to get some different scenery. After adding these small tweaks, you realize you’ve started to add more distance to your runs, and that your mile time keeps dropping. Eventually that one hill isn’t so bad to run up. In fact, you start to enjoy pushing yourself to reach the top, and relish the challenge. Soon, the race itself becomes incidental. Sure, the medal you get after crossing the finish line is cool, and that post-race meal is one of the best you’ve ever had, but their importance as end-goals melts away. Instead you realize the most important thing is getting outside and relying on your own feet to get you back home.
Writing is like running blindfolded. Unable to see where you’re going, every step feels uncertain and difficult. At best you’re tempted to do nothing, safe and secure in the prospect of going nowhere; at worst, you make bumbling, half-hearted moves that seem to take you in the opposite direction you want to go. You trip, you stumble, and just when progress seems futile, the strange motions begin to feel more familiar. Slowly, you ease into the recognition that running blindfolded is still running—one foot in front of the other, step by uncertain step. And then, not sure what to expect, you remove the blindfold, look back, and realize how far you’ve come.
Writing is like a thunderstorm. It can be seen on a radar like an assignment from a professor. Or it can come as a surprise rumbling over the horizon—a sudden force that makes the clacking of a keyboard fill a room just as thunder fills the outside air. Both have hallmarks of their process and power: wind, lightning, and thunder mirror outlining, semicolons, and citations. There are rules to follow in storms and writing—i.e. “don’t stand out in the open!” or “don’t splice commas!”—but sticking to these conventions can yield triteness. Sure, someone can stay safe inside during a storm, but they can also be a storm chaser. As writers face a task like a chaser stares down a tempest, they use their creative will to put into words all that strikes across their mind like lightning.
Writing is like grocery shopping. I do it for a variety of reasons, and no two trips are quite the same. Maybe I ran out of food (or toilet paper). Maybe I’m feeling ambitious so I want to make something other than instant ramen. While I go into the store with an overall purpose, I know I’ll probably end up getting a combination of items that is slightly—or very—different from what was on my list. There are frustrations and disappointments along the way, of course, like when I can’t find the cheese I was looking for, or when the trip takes much longer than expected. Nonetheless, I emerge each time with what I ended up needing after all, and often I’m even equipped with an ingredient or two that I can use in many meals to come. And somehow, ice cream always makes its way into my cart.
Writing is like a fantasy football draft. Both can be enjoyable or feel like loads of work, depending on how you approach it. The more research, preparation, and practice you do ahead of time, the better your result will be; outlines, mock drafts, and freewriting are your best friends. Both are a careful balance between sticking to your plan and being able to go with the flow. You have to learn from your past successes and areas for improvement. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is thinking that you are done before you really are. Just because you’ve drafted your last player doesn’t mean your team is set, any more than writing your last word means your paper is finished. Between searching the waiver wire, editing, making trades, and proofreading, the best teams and papers aren’t made in one night. They come about through hard work and dedication. That’s what makes the end result so sweet.