The Writing Center

What does the Writing Center do?

The Writing Center provides one-on-one writing consultations, both in person and online, for MSW and PhD students. Our mission is to empower students at the Columbia School of Social Work to become stronger, more confident writers in their coursework and beyond. As a student, you should feel free to visit us with any piece of writing, at any stage, for any writing concern. Writing consultants work together with you not only to improve a given assignment or draft, but to identify and develop transferable skills—how to investigate a topic, collaborate with others, and learn—that will help in any future writing or creative projects.

Where are you located, and what are your hours?

The CSSW Writing Center is offering a hybrid schedule, with three appointment options—in-person meetings, online meetings, and written feedback requests.

Staff marked as “Online & Room 402” are on site at CSSW and available for all three appointment options. Staff marked as “Online only” are working remotely, and are not available for in-person appointments at CSSW. Please check your appointment carefully to ensure that you have selected the desired appointment option, based on our schedule availability.

In-person meetings take place in CSSW Room 402 or 413, while online meetings are held through our online scheduler. See our handouts “How to make an online appointment with the Writing Center” and “How to Request Written Feedback” for instructions on making and/or joining online appointments.

See the Writing Center’s online scheduler for current hours and availability.

Who works at the Writing Center?

CHAYA BABU is a South Asian American writer and educator, recently relocated from New York to New Mexico. Her work focuses on power and oppression, cities, the body, foolishness, individual and collective healing, and more, and has been featured in or at Rowayat, Bellingham Review, The Margins, BuzzFeed, VICE, Open City, the Porter Gulch Review, GO HOME!, and Project for Empty Space, amongst others. She works part time at a Santa Fe art gallery, teaches journalism at the Institute of American Indian Arts, runs her own creative writing workshops, and is learning how to live and create in the beautiful southwest.

VALERIE BONDURA holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University and is the Director of Teaching and Learning at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she leads inclusive teaching efforts. Valerie also maintains research on heritage, land rights, and colonial processes in the Spanish-speaking world, and freelances as an editor and writer in New York City. She has worked in several university writing centers and taught writing seminars. She has particular experience supporting fellowship applications and academic research writing like theses and dissertations.

KARIN E. CHRISTIAENS is a Ph.D. candidate in Graeco-Roman archaeology at Columbia University. Her research analyzes how architectural spaces both shaped and were shaped by societal change. Karin has held fellowships with Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning and taught Art Humanities in the Core. After consulting for the Columbia Writing Center, she served as an inaugural fellow at the GSAS Writing Studio, piloting workshops, groups, retreats, and developing resources in support of dissertation writers. Karin enjoys working with writers to accurately represent their ideas in diverse genres, from personal statements and grants to more analytical or theoretical projects.

MISTEE DENSON is a 2018 graduate of Columbia School of Social Work and a current doctoral candidate at Tulane University. Her MSW concentration was in Advanced Generalist Practice and Programming with a focus on Contemporary Social Issues. She also obtained a minor in law and has worked extensively with justice involved individuals, which provided valuable experience in both legal research and writing.  In addition, she has conducted research, designed and facilitated trainings, and served on various committees regarding the issues of power, race, oppression, privilege, and diversity.  Through these activities, she gained extensive experience incorporating the PROP lens and concepts into various topics, assignments, and writings. 

ZEFYR LISOWSKI is a poet, interdisciplinary artist, and educator from North Carolina. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Hunter College and has been the recipient of fellowships from Tin House Writers Workshop, the Center for the Humanities’ Adjunct Incubator Grant, and more. Zefyr’s the author of the short poetry collection Blood Box (Black Lawrence Press, 2019) and is a poetry co-editor at Apogee Journal. She’s especially excited about trans and queer competency in higher education; de-colonial and anti-oppressive practices; writing across disciplines; and issues of accessibility in writing center spaces, among other topics.

ADAM PELLEGRINI directs the CSSW Writing Center. He developed his understanding of rhetoric and writing pedagogy from years teaching in the first-year classroom, writing centers and community workshops. He has a professional and scholarly interest in exploring the overlap between direct social work practice and student-centered teaching in writing centers. He regularly draws inspiration from CSSW students, colleagues and curriculum.

NATALIE ROSE RICHARDSON is a writer and MFA candidate at the NYU Creative Writing Program. She has degrees from the University of Chicago (BA) and Northwestern University (MA, MFA) and has taught courses in English Literature and creative writing. She has received numerous awards and fellowships and has had her work featured at BBC Radio London, Tedx, WBEZ Chicago, The British Royal Library, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Poetry Foundation, among others.

CHRISTIANA TAYLOR graduated from the Columbia School of Social Work in 2018 with a concentration in Advanced Generalist Practice and Programming. During her time at CSSW, she served as a PDSA Program Coordinator and Power, Race, Oppression, and Privilege (PROP) curriculum developer. She comes to the Writing Center with six years of program coordination, evaluation, and monitoring experience with an emphasis on advocacy and community organizing. She specializes in resume and cover letter reviews, advocacy writing, and research.

CHERRANDA SMITH is a CSSW Class of 2017 alumna from Athens, Georgia. She concentrated in Social Enterprise Administration while at CSSW and served as events coordinator for the Black Caucus. Cherranda has served as a Writing Consultant since Fall 2018 and has experience in digital media, social impact, and community relations. 

How often can I schedule appointments?

Students may schedule appointments as many as 21 days in advance, and up to the session start time using our online scheduler. This means that students will see available appointments for today and 20 days in the future. As the Writing Center is a busy service, we suggest you schedule appointments as far in advance as possible to secure your desired day/time; that said, please schedule responsibly, and if you need to cancel, do so as soon as possible to free up that appointment time for other students.

In addition, to help ensure the greatest opportunity for all students to utilize our services, please keep in mind the following Writing Center policies:

  • The Writing Center is currently operating on a hybrid schedule with three appointment options: in-person meetings, online meetings, and written feedback requests. Please check your appointment carefully to ensure that you have selected the desired appointment option, based on our schedule availability.
  • Each week (Monday – Sunday) students may schedule in advance TWO 50-minute appointments, and one appointment per day.
  • Appointments may be held as online meetings, or students may submit a document for written feedback.
  • Students may cancel or modify an appointment until the scheduled start time, and there is no limit or penalty for missed appointments.

NOTE: If this is your first time making an appointment, be sure to read our Writing Center Sign-Up Policies, which details sign-up policies and instructions on how to schedule appointments.

Can my group meet with the Writing Center online?

You’re welcome to meet the Writing Center online for a group meeting of three or more participants. Please request group meetings by email in advance, as our regular online platform supports only two participants (one staff and one writer).

To request an online meeting with three or more participants: schedule an appointment with the Writing Center using one participant’s account; then email to request a group meeting at least one day in advance if possible. We can create a Zoom meeting for your group, or you can send us information for a meeting you create through another accessible platform, such as Google Hangouts (supported by Lionmail).

NOTE: The student whose name appears on the schedule calendar for a given appointment must be present at that appointment. Also, consider creating group appointments for informal writing groups in addition to group writing projects for classes.

How do I schedule an appointment for an online session, and how do I join the session?

Basic instructions for making appointments for online sessions / joining the session:

  1. Sign into our online scheduler and click on an available appointment slot, marked in white, for ANY staff resource.
  2. In the appointment form pop-up, choose “Yes. Schedule Online appointment.” under meeting “Meet Online?”
  3. A few minutes before your session start time, sign back into the online scheduler, click on your appointment and, in the appointment form pop-up, click Start or Join Online Consultation.
  4. When prompted, click to ALLOW ACCESS to your video and audio. NOTE: Using Firefox (or Google Chrome) is required for the video chat function.
  5. Finally, if you have a Word document you are working on, upload it by clicking the arrows icon on the top right side of the screen. Alternatively, copy and paste your text into the whiteboard of your online meeting.

For more detailed instructions with visuals as well as tips for best use, please see our handout How to Make an Online Appointment at the CSSW Writing Center (PDF: 9 pages).

If you are having difficulty accessing your online meeting, email your staff resource at the Lionmail address listed at the top of your appointment form in the online scheduler (click your appointment to access).

The schedule is full—how do I join the waiting list?

The Writing Center schedule may be fully booked during peak times of the semester. That said, note that availability may change over the course of a day as students cancel or move appointments. Join our waiting list to receive notification for appointment times that become available.

*Please note: The "waiting list" is really a notification system, meaning that everyone who signs up for the waiting list for a given day receives the same notification email if/when an appointment time becomes available. Reserving available appointments is first come, first served.

Waiting-list Instructions

  • Sign into our online scheduler, find the day on which you wish to make an appointment, and click the waiting list link to the bottom right of that day’s schedule (on the right side of the screen). .
  • In the Add to Waiting List pop-up window, select resource and time restrictions as desired and click on the Add to Waiting List line at the bottom of the window to be notified via email or text when an opening for that day appears. (To receive notification by text message, update your profile.)
  • All students on the waiting list will receive an immediate email or text message when someone cancels an appointment for that day/time. The session will go to the first student to log in and sign up.

What can / should I bring to my appointment, and how should I prepare?

What to bring: Students may visit the Writing Center with any academic or professional writing project, whether it’s for class, fieldwork or applications.  Students may bring documents of any length but should expect to set session goals by the kinds and number of writing concerns presented, the draft stage of the project and the length of the appointment.  Having a completed draft, or any draft at all, is not a requirement, and we are happy to brainstorm, strategize and organize with students in the pre-writing phase.

Students meeting us in person with a printed draft are encouraged to bring two copies, though we are very happy to work from a screen.  All students, whether meeting us online or in person, should have the assignment instructions.  Any additional materials—including instructor feedback, class notes, referenced sources, previous drafts or a grading rubric—may be helpful to have on hand.

How to prepare: Our most productive sessions are often those in which students arrive on time with their materials organized and objectives thought out.  In advance of your session, consider:

  • rereading your draft
  • articulating your questions/concerns
  • highlighting moments to discuss in your draft or assignment sheet
  • choosing a section of a longer work you most want feedback on

This preparation likely becomes easier with practice, so we recommend scheduling an introductory session with the Writing Center early in the semester to become acquainted.

Of course, students are welcome to visit the Writing Center at any level of preparedness, and we can help you gain perspective on your draft and writing process.

What other resources does the Writing Center offer?

At the start of fall and spring semesters, the Writing Center offers an introduction to APA Style workshop covering basic tips on APA style. During fall and spring semesters, we also offer a series of interactive, skill-based writing workshops held online through Adobe Connect.

See our webinar schedule during fall and spring semesters linked under “Quick Links” on the right margin of this page for more information about our webinar offerings and how to RSVP. There are no Writing Center webinars offered during summer.

Past webinar recordings are also available upon request. Topics include: APA Style, Literature Reviews, Op-Eds, Reading Strategies, Advocacy Writing, Concision, Paraphrasing, Critique, & Flow, Mindfulness in Writing Practice, Executive Summaries, Cover Letter Moves (w/ Career Services) and Reading Difficult Texts (w/ SW Library). Email with Director Adam Pellegrini ( for links and materials.

How can I contact the Writing Center (last-minute)?

For general questions and concerns, contact Director Adam Pellegrini from 9 am – 5 pm weekdays at or 212-851-2232.

If you need to contact the Writing Center at the time of your appointment, please email, or find the Lionmail address for your Writing Center resource listed at the top of your appointment form in the online scheduling system.