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Of Penguins and Writers

Lexi describes her experience with the Writing Center, and how she became a Writing Consultant!

Lexi describes her experience with the Writing Center, and how she became a Writing Consultant!

When I think of the many reasons why I love Carleton College, I often think about the amazing resources that we have at our fingertips. On such amazing resource is the Writing Center, which I have the distinct privilege of utilizing as both a writer and a consultant.

Located on 4th Libe, on the left of Oscar the Penguin, the Writing Center supports “all Carleton students on any writing project and at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to polishing a final draft. Our aim is to improve writers, not just individual pieces of writing.” As writing consultants, our job is to help students feel more confident in their writing abilities by providing them with tools they can use on their own.

Lexi poses with Oscar the Penguin
As you can tell, I was really excited to meet Oscar in the (taxidermized) flesh!


When I first came to Carleton, I was really nervous about writing my first college paper. I hadn’t written anything so “academic” before in my life. I also didn’t have very good writing habits; I wrote one draft, read it to myself once, then submitted it to wherever it needed to go.

To say I wasn’t confident in my writing abilities would be an understatement. Sure, I had written some articles for my school newspaper and an essay here and there, but I never really felt like I knew what I was doing. I felt like I was a penguin learning to fly: out of my element, unnatural, and awkward as SQUACK!

Cue the Writing Center. After much encouragement from my A&I professor, Dr. Annette Nierobisz, I found myself booking an appointment with a consultant. The Writing Center loves walk-ins, but in order to ease my own anxiety, I thought it best to book an appointment.

On the day of my appointment, I showed up sweating profusely and having no idea what to make of the friendly student sitting next to me. Mitchell Anderson ‘23 was a CS major, what in the world was he doing at the Writing Center? I thought this job was for English majors only!

Well, the short answer is that it takes all kinds of penguins in the Writing Center to work with all kinds of other penguins and papers. Because you may be writing a literature review, a lab report, and a Carletonian article all in one term, it’s good to have lots of penguins with lots of different specialties. Additionally, since Carls hail from all over the world, it’s important to have relatable penguins who respect and care for their flock. Penguins don’t naturally know how to fly; they actually have to learn engineering skills and earn their Instrument Flight Rating so they can build airplanes and fly them, even in poor weather conditions.

In case my penguin metaphor was slippery (like ice in Antarctica): writing does not come naturally to everyone. In fact, it is highly unnatural to a lot of penguins. If our goal in writing is to translate our thoughts from chemical signals to words on a paper, then we have to develop that process through practice and training.

Mitchell Anderson ‘23 made me feel comfortable in the Writing Center. We discussed tools and strategies that I could take home with me in order to become a better writer overall, not just in regards to my singular religion paper at the time. We looked at the organization of my paper and reworked some phrasing to make my point more clear. We methodically went through portions of my paper that I felt were just not quite right. In providing me with penguin engineering classes, I was better able to build my airplane and start flying.

Green English book on a table
Us Writing Consultants can show you writing resources like this.

I also felt that Mitchell respected my ideas and me as a person. I recently learned why I felt that so intensely this summer at my writing consultant training. Our lead consultants and Melanie Cashin, Director For Academic Support Center, taught us that the Writing Center is built on the foundations of “Your ideas are great. Let us help you say them better.” In every single training session, we focused on how we can meet writers where they are, be respectful of their unique experiences in the world, and help make their ideas shine. Our job isn’t to proofread and hand you back your paper with red ink, our job is to help you build skills that will benefit your writing in the long term.

New Consultants hug in front of the Libe
This is the newest batch of Writing Consultants plus our leads. Look at our friendly smiles!


And that’s truly what I love most about the Writing Center, and by extension, Carleton College. This is a lifelong process of growth that truly is only just beginning. When I look at the Writing Center as a resource for students, I see it as one of many tools in our hands to become better people overall. It can help us rethink the ways we’ve approached writing in the past, and adapt to the changing world around us.

That’s why you, dearest penguin, should slide on over to the Writing Center.