New center aims to foster a culture of writing

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By Jason Hall

As a professor, John Burkett does not share his students’ obsession with better grades. He is, however, obsessed with students becoming better communicators and better writers.

To that end, Burkett is spearheading a distinctive new program at Southeastern aimed at “fostering a culture of writing” on the campus, in Burkett’s words — it’s called The Writing Center, and it will accomplish its mission primarily through one-on-one tutoring available for students from associate to doctoral levels and everyone in between.

“We hope to get people to focus in on the writing process,” said Burkett, an instructor of rhetoric and composition. “(The writing process) is what writers are concerned about. The writer is his own first reader.”

Here’s how it works: Students can make appointments to sit down with specially-trained Writing Center consultants and go over a paper or essay they have written and plan to turn in for a class. The consultant looks over the paper and coaches the student on how to improve in various ways; most importantly, helping them understand the process of invention, drafting, critique, revision and editing.

In short, students who come hoping to find a paper with fresh red marks that they can easily correct and turn in will be disappointed. Burkett’s goals run far deeper.

“We don’t ‘give Jack a fish,’ but we ‘teach Jack how to fish’ so that he becomes as independent as possible,” he said. “We help students to edit their own sentences and to become knowledgeable, proficient editors.”

By undertaking this process Burkett hopes to foster a “culture of writing” on campus that will lead to clearer thinking and clearer communication of the truths of God’s word. It is in this way, Burkett says, that The Writing Center contributes directly to Southeastern’s mission to “serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission.”

“As people become more interested in ideas, they become more interested in expressing those ideas,” he said. “There is a dialectic of thinking and writing for spiritual formation and ministry preparation.”

It is to this Great-Commission end, and not necessarily to the end of higher student grades, that The Writing Center will be dedicated. The Writing Center’s website can be accessed by going to

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