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Writing Lab Celebrates 40 Years of Building Better Writers

40th Anniversary of the Writing Lab at the University of Indianapolis

Written by Troi Watts

The Writing Lab at the University of Indianapolis celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.

Founded in 1983 under the leadership of Richard M. Marshall, the Writing Lab supports UIndy students through individualized tutoring at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming topics to fine tuning a final draft. While a lot has changed since its inception, the goal of the Writing Lab remains the same: to produce better writers.

“We always need good writers,” said Rebecca McKanna, interim director of the Writing Lab. “Students may not realize how much room there is for them to grow as writers until they get into some of their college courses.”

“Writing is meant to be collaborative,” added Dawn Hershberger, associate director of the Writing Lab. “We always tell people it’s not like Stephen King pops out a book and it goes right on the shelf without going through editing and lots of other revisions. Writing is a process, no matter where you think your strengths lie, or don’t lie in that process. You can benefit from having another set of eyes on your work, and from talking about your writing. That’s really the Writing Lab’s main function.” 

Unlike other university writing centers, the Writing Lab at UIndy is staffed by tutors from a variety of programs in addition to English, including biology, nursing, and other STEM-related majors. This allows the Lab to support a wider variety of students working on a variety of writing projects. When requesting an appointment, students can select a tutor from their program or a similar program, to provide a more personalized tutoring experience.

“In the future, I hope that the Writing Lab can reach more students from STEM majors and that it becomes known to those students that we are here for them,” said tutor Annabelle Curylo ‘24 (Biology). “Just because you’re a biology student writing a biology paper doesn’t mean that the Writing Lab can’t help you. We’re not all English majors and you don’t have to come for an English paper.” 

The Writing Lab continues to honor its legacy while supporting its future with the establishment of the Richard M. Marshall Tutor of the Year Award. This award recognizes the Writing Lab tutor who went above and beyond to support the Writing Lab. Curylo was the inaugural recipient of this year’s award, presented at the Writing Lab’s 40th Anniversary Celebration. 

“Annabelle was always excited about stepping up to fill in for someone or represent the Writing Lab at an event,” said Hershberger. “She’s also one of our assistants to the director. She had more responsibilities than other tutors, and even then she would go above and beyond that. She was really invested in the success of the Writing Lab.”

Today, the Writing Lab proudly staffs 29 tutors, including graduate-level and faculty tutors, to support the campus community. Looking ahead, Hershberger and McKanna hope to continue expanding graduate-level offerings.

While its tutoring services are the primary focus of the Writing Lab, it has also expanded its offerings to build belonging amongst students on campus. For the past decade, the Writing Lab has hosted Conversation Circles, a program of regular meetings for students and community members to come together to practice their English.

“It’s an opportunity for our international students to be able to practice spoken English in a low-stakes situation,” explained Hershberger, who founded the program. “It also gives international students a way to meet other people on campus, and it gives everybody a chance for global exchange.”

In the spirit of collaboration and community building, the Writing Lab plans to partner with the Ron and Laura Strain Honors College to staff designated Honors tutors. These tutors will be Honors students themselves and will provide tutoring specifically for Honors-related projects, such as the required Honors thesis. 

These new initiatives highlight McKanna and Hershberger’s favorite part of leading the Writing Lab: working and connecting with their students. 

“Rick Marshall created a really special place,” said McKanna. “At the anniversary celebration, we heard from people who were tutors back when the Writing Lab first started, and it was so amazing to hear how it touched their lives.” 

You can help the Writing Lab expand its offerings and support even more writers. Give today at

Testimonial from Alrielle Viewegh, Writing Lab tutor from 2020 to 2023

Testimonial from Katie Wolfe Meguschar, Writing Lab tutor from 2013 to 2015

Testimonial from Sarah Holmes, PhD, RN, Writing Lab tutor from 2007 to 2011