PROFILE: Meet Dr. Jane Freeman, ELWS Director
Dr. Jane Freeman will be the first to tell you that no two grad students are alike in their communications needs. She should know: for over 15 years, she has been instrumental in developing — and leading — the Office of English Language & Writing Support (ELWS) at the School of Graduate Studies. These days, she divides her time between 704 Spadina Avenue, the temporary home of ELWS and its Writing Centre, and various locations on St. George campus where ELWS courses and workshops are held.
How can ELWS help you? The University of Toronto has many graduate students who speak two, three, four, or more languages, and ELWS recognizes the linguistic sophistication of these students. ELWS’s courses for non-native speakers of English start at an advanced (post-TOEFL) level, and aim to help students continue to develop their fluency and confidence in English. Jane describes the ELWS environment as a “safe space” where you can receive constructive feedback on your work without the pressure imposed by grades. Designed exclusively for U of T’s graduate students (and offered free of charge to those students!), ELWS offerings can help you in a wide range of ways such as the following: to become familiar with the demands of academic genres you may not have encountered before, from literature reviews and research papers to grant proposals; to learn how to express complex ideas more clearly to any audience; to become a better editor of your own work; and even to learn how to ask your supervisor better questions. ELWS courses attract graduate students from departments all across campus. In addition to making new connections within the U of T grad community, you can become more aware of your discipline’s assumptions regarding the varying styles and structures of academic writing.
ELWS offerings are modular, comprised of a range of 6-12 hour courses and 1.5-hour workshops. You decide what your own communications needs are, and the modular curriculum gives you control over what modules you choose to take and in what semesters to take them. Jane’s advice is to match your ELWS schedule to your actual deadlines. Do you have a major presentation coming up, or are you planning to apply for a SSHRC or OGS grant? If so, you might consider taking Oral Presentations Skills or Writing a SSHRC Proposal accordingly. You’ll be asked to bring your real-life assignments and tasks to class, so you’ll make real progress on the work you already have to do.
Jane recommends joining the ELWS listserv so you can receive updates on current and upcoming offerings. Courses, which require pre-registration, are scheduled five times per year starting in September, November, January, March and May. Workshops are held on a drop-in basis from September to June, and Writing Centre appointments, usually about 40 minutes long, can be scheduled during the same timeframe.
Jane’s final advice? Take advantage of the chance to improve your writing and speaking skills while you’re in grad school. Whether you pursue an academic career or choose another path after graduation, you will continue to rely on your communication skills for the rest of your professional life.
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