John Holzwarth, Director

BA, Political Science and English, Colgate University, 1993

PhD, Politics, Princeton University, 2004

Advice about writing:

Treat every assignment as if it were something you chose to do on your own.  If you don’t find it interesting at first, figure out why someone would.  This isn’t about doing homework – it’s about cultivating your own unique intellectual experience.  All the best work starts with that attitude, and even when the work goes badly, no one with that attitude ever came away empty-handed.


Peer Tutors


McKenna Daily ’22

Major: Hispanic Studies

Favorite authors: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Virginia Woolf, Eduardo Galeano, Jorge Luis Borges

Best advice about writing:

Speak your ideas out loud to yourself and focus on how you would try to explain what you’re talking about to a friend who doesn’t know anything about it. This helps me stay true to my voice and have clearer organization! Convince yourself or a friend that the topic is interesting then take that energy into your writing.





Lena Essak ’23

McKenna Finley ’23

Sophie Gauthier ’21

Fabian Guerrero ’23


Justin Howerton ’21

Majors: Computer Science/Math, English

Favorite authors: Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, Franz Kafka, Joan Didion, James Joyce, and Kurt Vonnegut

Best advice about writing:

Start writing. Your sentences don’t have to be lucid, clear, or argumentative. But by setting pen to paper, your mind begins to explore uncharted avenues of thought. Gradually, your prose and ideas will grow tighter and stronger as you begin to articulate your discoveries. You may be surprised at the ideas that can surface from a few provisional lines.


Noam Jacobs ’22


Aidan Kemp ’21

Major: English

A few favorite authors: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michael Ondaatje, Toni Morrison, Pablo Neruda, Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers.

Best advice about writing:  Write about what interests you! Writing should serve as a way for you to explore your own academic interests. No matter what subject or course the work is for, use your assigned work to research and analyze what you care about. Your enthusiasm will shine through in your writing, making the paper more enjoyable for you and your professor. If you write on topics that ignite your curiosity, the final product will be that much more rewarding.



Samantha Mueller ’21

Major: English

Ashley O’Leary ’22

Major: English

Favorite Authors: Toni Morrison, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Alice Walker, Min Jin Lee, Rachel Ingalls, Jane Austen, Carmen Maria Machado

Best advice about writing: There is no way your first draft is going to be perfect, and accepting this is a beautiful thing. Any convoluted string of words is infinitely less daunting than a blank page with a blinking cursor at the top. Give yourself enough time to write a messy, scrambled first draft that simply puts your ideas on paper. When you come back to it, there will be something to work with. Give yourself time — to complete writing assignments, and to improve as a writer.



Salma Preppernau ’21

Major: Political Science

Favorite authors: Salman Rushdie, Graham Greene, Leo Tolstoy, David James Duncan

Best advice about writing:

While you do have to write to your audience to a certain extent, it’s going to be a better paper if you allow a little bit of your voice in than if you strangle that voice and try to write a paper you think sounds academic. We’re here to learn to write formally, but there are plenty of formal papers that take little jabs at other authors or concepts they don’t like very much. So when I write, I try to let myself enjoy the process, and be strong-willed—and if it shows a little bit, I remind myself that it isn’t the end of the world.


Frances Schlageter ’23

Majors: German, History

A few favorite authors: Vladimir Nabokov, Mary Oliver, J.K. Rowling, Wilfred Owen, Erik Larson, Gabriel García Márquez

Writing advice: Read as much as you can! This seems like obvious advice, but nothing will teach you more about writing. If you struggle with grammar and sentence structure, reading will help you gain a better sense of the flow of language. Even if you have a busy schedule, you can almost always make a little time to pick up a book. Try reading a variety of different genres or authors to find what really interests you. Notice what stylistic choices appeal to you and what kind of writing you connect with.


Channing Stirrat ’21

Major: Biology

Favorite authors: Michael Pollan, Toni Morrison, Sy Montgomery, Tara Westover

Best advice about writing:

Ask yourself why you wrote what you wrote. How does this word or sentence or paragraph contribute to your argument? Would your argument be weaker if you removed it? Answering, or being unable to answer, similar questions help determine what you really want to say. If you can explain both what you’re trying say AND why you chose to say it that way, your writing will reflect it.



Edie Tavel ’23

Major: Sociology/Anthropology

A few favorite authors: Elena Ferrante, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Khaled Hosseini, Arundhati Roy, Naguib Mahfouz

Best advice about writing: If you’re having trouble figuring out what it is you want to say in an essay, get out a pencil and paper and begin to write by hand. Journaling at the beginning of the writing process not only takes off some of the pressure because you’re not working on a polished product, but also allows the various ideas circulating in your mind to take written form. I often find myself writing around a topic for a while until I finally arrive at my argument; Doing this by hand before delving into the essay itself allows me to sift through any excess thoughts/ideas that are useful to the thinking process, but may not be very useful to the essay itself.


Rose Thompson ’23

Major: Sociology/Anthropology

A few favorite authors: Gloria Anzaldúa, Haruki Murakami, bell hooks, Joey Comeau, Lemony Snicket, and Han Kang

Writing Advice: If you’re having trouble getting started, remember you don’t have to write your paper in order. It’s easy to get stuck trying to write the perfect introduction, so try writing your body paragraphs first and going back to your intro when you’re done. It often makes your introduction connect better to the paper and means you don’t have to wait around so long for inspiration to strike if you’re on a deadline.



Paige Underwood ’22

Majors: Computer Science/Math, Political Science

Favorite authors: Harper Lee, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Best advice about writing:

Be patient with yourself! Writing takes time, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Instead of focusing on writing the “perfect” essay or paper the first time, don’t be afraid to develop your ideas in small steps. If you find a process that works for you, your writing skills will naturally improve over time.




Kaes Vanderspek ’21