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Fitting words and music together: Student tutor Samantha Cooper

By James Southworth, PhD

Samantha Cooper has always loved to write and help others with their writing.

“I like how words fit together,” said Cooper, who will be graduating from Laurier’s Faculty of Music in 2016. After being accepted into a number of prestigious graduate programs, Cooper chose the direct entry PhD program in Historical Musicology at New York University (NYU).

In the first two years of her undergraduate degree, Cooper used the Laurier Writing Centre “all the time,” meeting with a variety of writing tutors to get feedback on her writing assignments.

“I had tutors that I liked to meet with,” said Cooper. “We focused on infusing more of my voice and analysis into my writing. That’s something I’ve always had to work on.”

Given Cooper’s love for writing, her desire to continually improve as a writer, and her interest to help her peers, she worked as a writing tutor in the final two years of her undergrad – from September 2014 to April 2016. In fact, Cooper was the first music student ever to be hired at the Writing Centre. She was also the first writing tutor to lead one of the Writing Centre’s Professional Development sessions. The topic, unsurprisingly, was on academic music writing.

Over the past two years, Cooper has become friends with her writing tutor peers. “I feel like my colleagues at the Writing Centre get me,” she said. For example, this like-minded group of writing tutors fully understands how one could come to love a citation style. In Cooper’s case, her affections run deep for The Chicago Manual of Style.

Cooper’s cheery, calm and empathetic demeanour enabled her to connect with students. “It can be scary bringing your work to the Writing Centre for somebody else to critique. A lot of students fear getting feedback. I’ve learned how to make them feel comfortable.” The teaching and tutoring skills that Cooper has developed as a writing tutor will no doubt be put to good use in the future. After her PhD studies at NYU, Cooper hopes to become a professor.

Cooper’s experience as a writing tutor has also helped her improve as a writer and academic. She has continued to use the Writing Centre as a student, booking appointments with other writing tutors as well as with her supervisors. “The Writing Centre is a great resource,” she said.

Ultimately, it’s this symbiosis between Cooper’s work as a tutor and as a student that has helped her develop in both areas. “Writing development doesn’t just happen instantly. It’s a long process. I always learn something whenever I come to the Writing Centre, then I can incorporate it into my own sessions with my students.”

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