iC Dingbat

Q&A: Adan Hussain '11

Story by: Jenny Chen '13J

What prompted you to stay at Colby to work as assistant director of the Farnham Writers’ Center after you graduated?
It was kind of a last-minute decision. It was something I’d thought about since I was a tutor here as a sophomore but … I applied for it on a whim. ... I knew I wanted to teach, and I teach a tutoring writing class here as part of my job, so that’s what made this right.

Was it hard to make the transition from student to staff?
I wasn’t worried about feeling like a student again, because I’d be living off campus and doing my own thing. But for my first [tutoring] class I was so nervous. I went in and saw twenty students looking at me. But I left feeling more energized—I got home and couldn’t sleep.

So what does being assistant director actually entail?
In the morning I usually do administrative stuff, get the Writers’ Center ready for the rest of the day. Then I have a working lunch with Paula Harrington [English professor and director of the Writers’ Center], which can be either one hour or three hours. I love working with Paula—she’s set a really high standard for all my future bosses. We’ll be planning for various projects, like right now we’re planning the Maine Writing Center Gathering and we’re also doing work with the Hall School—they’re dedicating this month to writing. We’re working with Winslow for their Write Stuff contest, and we work with KVCC [Kennebec Valley Community College].

Which of these projects is your favorite?
Oh man, I have to pick just one? If I had to pick, I’d say KVCC, just because the demographic of people we work with there is completely different from here. There was one woman who came from China and has always been trying to go to school but never got the chance, and I was like, ’Wow, you deserve to go to school more than I did.’ You develop a whole new set of skills working with [KVCC students]. It forces you to be more creative in tutoring, because some of them learn differently than others; it makes you stronger as a tutor.

Why should students go to the Writers’ Center?
You get to have a conversation about the stuff you’re working on and it’s laid back. It really helps, because writing is such an essential part of communication and it all starts with conversation. You get a lot from bouncing off ideas.

What makes Colby’s Writers’ Center unique from other college writing centers?
We’re fairly large proportionally for our size of school. A lot of school writing centers only have two or three tutors, and we have about forty-two tutors, although some of them are abroad. We also are the only writing center with a social justice mission.

What is a social justice mission?
It’s just something that says we’re committed to providing equal treatment and respect for students who use the Writers’ Center and that we provide a safe space for tutors to engage in dialogue with each other. I think it’s nice because it really makes the Writer’s Center a community.

Do you see different types of students now that Colby is implementing new writing course requirements?
It’s hard to say that we get more of one major or another, because we tend to see a lot of first- years and they usually aren’t declared or change their major. I saw several students though, from GE115 [geology] and other similar 115's last semester, and I think that’s only going to increase next semester when the writing requirements are fully implemented. It's a little exciting to think that the more "sciencey" students will be more inclined to come to the Writers' Center, considering the amount of writing they will be doing. It's also exciting that Colby is doing this, since writing is such an important part of being a scholar or an expert in any field—especially in the sciences, even though a lot of people don’t think that.  

I’m guessing you’re still learning a lot here even though you’re no longer officially a student. How is learning as a professional different from learning as a student?
Learning as a professional there’s a higher level of responsibility. What you’re doing, it matters a lot more. There are very real consequences. It makes you more grounded and connected with what you’re doing. You learn more about yourself. It’s a very maturing experience.

Does your new role change your perspective on things?
Being on the staff side I see how hard the faculty and staff work to make this a good experience. They work really, really hard to organize and think really hard about how to make things work. It’s also really neat to see the students from this side. Some things seem kind of impossible when you’re a student, like when you have an essay due the next day that you can’t figure out and it’s kind of like when you’re in the forest and you can’t see the forest as a whole. I can see the process more now, and I can see that usually things just work themselves out.

If you could tell your student self one thing, what would it be?
That you’re going to be okay.




Jenny Chen '13J
North Potomac, Maryland
Majors: English, International Studies...