For multiple decades now, both international and multilingual students have played an increasingly important role in the University of South Florida’s (USF) educational mission. Crucially, such students contribute to the diversity of the student body and collegiate experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels, helping to provide a truly global perspective on many of the topics discussed both in and across different academic disciplines. Although these students are an important stakeholder group at USF at large, when it comes to multilingual graduate students – and particularly those with first/native languages other than English – these students are traditionally underserved.
To address this need, in the Fall of 2022, USF’s Applied Linguistics program opened a new Multilingual Writing Center in collaboration with both the Department of World Languages and the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). The Multilingual Writing Center is being spearheaded by Dr. Matt Kessler, Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics, and Sean Farrell, a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Linguistics, who also serves as the center’s primary tutor. Both Kessler and Farrell specialize in issues of research and pedagogy related to multilingual writing.
As Kessler explains, “international students – and multilingual students in general – often face unique challenges that are far different from those issues that monolingual students face. Most universities have writing centers, however, those writing centers are usually ill-equipped to meet the needs of multilingual writers. These issues are then exacerbated at the graduate level as well because of the sheer volume of writing that is required by most master’s and doctoral programs. Specifically, many graduate program administrators and faculty from across disciplines recognize that some of their students face significant issues, but they simply lack the time and resources to support their graduate students with their writing development.”
The Multilingual Writing Center itself is intended to help those students who need additional support. Graduate students at USF can sign up for a free appointment using the center’s online scheduling system. When doing so, students select the date and time of their appointment, and they also provide information about their graduate major, the writing assignment they are working on, and any other special notes that may be useful for the tutor. Students then attend their appointment in person at the Tampa campus in Cooper Hall, Room 467, where they will have a one-on-one tutoring session with a Ph.D. candidate who specializes in multilingual writing.
“The primary mission of the center is to increase the academic writing support available to multilingual graduate students,” says Farrell. “However, we specifically try to help students understand the academic writing conventions of their field, including the typical rhetorical, organizational, and language choices made by expert writers in their discipline. We also work with graduate students to help them better understand any recurring issues they may face, including how to address those challenges.”