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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Avoid Procrastination and R.E.A.P. the Benefits of Proactivity

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For me, procrastination often stems from feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things I need to get done. That said, procrastination has a way of feeding off itself—the more a person procrastinates, the more things need to be added to a long list of to dos, Thus it becomes more stressful  to face those to dos  and, subsequently, the more one might procrastinate. While it might be difficult to change one’s emotional reasons for procrastination, it is possible to use strategies to help one move from procrastination to proactivity. In this blog, I will discuss some strategies to help you R.E.A.P the rewards of facing procrastination head on:


Avoid Procrastination to R.E.A.P. the Benefits of Proactivity: Ready Yourself by creating a to do list; Evaluate your to do list for priorities; Adapt your to do list as needed; Pamper yourself!
Ready Yourself by Creating a To Do List
To do lists can be a step towards proactivity since they force a person to think about and document what they need to do. It’s a good idea to create a to do list even for more mundane activities (like grocery shopping) if a person has a tight schedule, such as students who, in addition to working on their degrees, might also be working full-time and or have other responsibilities. However, many people who create to do lists might not actually follow through with them because, in creating the list, a person can feel overwhelmed, thus perpetuating procrastination thinking. While I used to create just one big list, I learned that I was less likely to get things done because I felt overwhelmed. So, I started to create daily lists.

Evaluate Your To Do List for Priorities
What I learned from creating daily to do lists is that it is equally important to prioritize the list according to high, medium, and low priorities to include how time consuming each task is within a given priority level. This way, smaller, less time consuming lower priorities don’t build up, and larger, more time consuming priorities are gradually worked on and not left for last. For instance, I usually take care of both high and low priority emails as they come since I can often quickly respond to them as needed, then I start working on larger projects that are both time sensitive as well as more time consuming.


Adapt Your To Do List When Necessary
While it is important to work towards completing everything on a to do list in a timely, daily, manner, it is also necessary to be flexible enough that you can adapt your to do list if and when necessary (such as when a new, immediate priority needs to be added to your list). It’s all about balance and continually working on tasks while making any necessary changes. So, maybe I don’t get to all of the low priority emails I wanted to in one day, but I will be able to add them to a new day as long as I keep working on my to do list and focusing on high priority tasks first (and do low priority tasks that are quick) so I stay on track in order to have time to delegate a low priority task that are time consuming

Pamper Yourself
People often underestimate or overlook pampering themselves with self-care as a high priority. Yet, providing enough “me” time helps ensure that a person stays on track because it helps reduce stress which is another important reason for to do lists—working on tasks and completing them in a timely manner means that when it is time to relax a person is not worrying about what they need to get done. Setting time aside for self-care is important for proactivity; however, many people might not set aside such time because they have a lot to do, which brings me back to my introductory point— stress can lead to procrastination and procrastination has a way of feeding off itself and creating more stress which is self-sabotaging for one’s proactivity.

So, I suggest creating a daily to do list, prioritize that list into time consuming and less time consuming high, medium, and low priorities, adapt the to do list when necessary, and always leave time for pampering yourself to feel good about all you have accomplished!


I hope you'll join in on the conversation and tell us: What are some tips you have for combating procrastination?


Veronica Oliver author pic

Veronica Oliver is a Writing Instructor in the Walden Writing Center. In her spare time she writes fiction, binge watches Netflix, and occasionally makes it to a 6am Bikram Yoga class.


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WriteCast Episode 44: Jeannie's First Residency

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Jeannie Croichy is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center, but she is also a student in the Walden Ed.D program. Like many of our students, Jeannie balances work, life, and her academic program. Also like many of our students, Jeannie attended an in-person residency, which provided her with a different type of academic experience. In this WriteCast episode, Jeannie shares some details from the residency she attended, including what it was like to meet other students in her program and the lessons she learned.

If you have never attended a residency, this episode can help prepare you and highlight the positives of working in-person with peers and Walden staff. If you have residency experience, you may find it nice to hear a fellow student's reflection.

Listen below by pressing the "play" button, or access the podcast transcript here.



A full list of WriteCast episodes and transcripts can be found here.


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The WriteCast Podcast  is produced by the staff of the Walden University Writing Center and delves into a different writing issue in each episode. In line with the mission of the Writing Center, WriteCast provides multi-modal, on demand writing instruction that enhances students' writing skill and ease. We hope you enjoy this episode and comment in the box below.


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Effective Use of Abbreviations In APA-Style Scholarly Writing

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One of the unique but very important choices you will make as a scholarly writer concerns whether you should abbreviate certain terminology in your writing. A general APA guideline (see Section 4.22 of the 6th edition manual) is that use of abbreviations should be limited. The reason is that use of abbreviations may make passages unclear and even undecipherable for readers who do not know how to interpret them.
Writing Tips from the Walden Writing Center

However, there is no proscription against using abbreviations in APA. Used appropriately, they may help to improve the flow and clarity of your writing, especially in longer documents such as capstone studies. Today, I want to share some general guidelines for the use of abbreviations in APA. I will share APA’s recommendations for when and when not to abbreviate terminology as well as the organization’s guidelines for how to correctly abbreviate such terminology (please see APA Publication Manual, sixth edition, p. 106-111 for a more extensive discussion).

First, consider the following example from p. 106 of the APA Publication Manual:

  • Sentence with abbreviations: “The advantage of the LH was clear from the RT data, which reflected high FP and FN rates for the RH.” 
  • Sentence without abbreviations: “The advantage of the left hand was clear from the reaction time data, which reflected high false-positive and false-negative rates for the right hand.”

Use of abbreviations definitely saves space and makes this sentence more compact. However, the sheer number of abbreviations makes the sentence harder to interpret. It would be better for readers, then, to avoid use of these abbreviations and, instead, write out the terms in full in this case.

According to APA, abbreviations should only be used when (a) the reader is already familiar with the abbreviation or (b) a writer can save a considerable amount of space or avoid significant repetition (e.g., in the case of inventories or other instruments with long names). Furthermore, a writer should only use an abbreviation if it will be used at least three times in a document after being introduced. If not, the term should be written out the term in full each time it is used. This guideline is particularly important for writers of long documents, including capstone studies, to consider. Will their readers be able to recall an abbreviation that is not familiar to them and is not used extensively in the document?

Provide the full name for a term that you will abbreviate the first time you use it. Follow with the abbreviation in parentheses. (Use brackets instead of parentheses when introducing an abbreviation inside a parenthetical citation, however.) Then, use the abbreviation throughout the rest of your document. Avoid switching back and forth as this defeats the purpose of using abbreviations and because it can be confusing for readers.

A few abbreviations (e.g., HIV, REM, and IQ) do not need to be introduced (see APA 4.24 for a list). Also, see APA 4.26, 4.27, and 4.28 for helpful guidance on use of Latin abbreviations (e.g., e.g., vs., e.g., and etc.); scientific abbreviations; and statistical abbreviations, respectively. APA 4.23, along with APA 5.12 and 5.16, has helpful information on use of abbreviations in tables and figures.

Lastly, note that abbreviations should not be used in headers, study titles, and reference entries.



Tara Kachgal is a dissertation editor in the Walden University Writing Center. She has a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and teaches for the School of Government's online MPA@UNC program. She resides in Chapel Hill and, in her spare time, serves as a mentor for her local running store's training program.


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WriteCast Episode 41: Meet Your Writing Instructor: Kacy Walz

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Kacy WalzNearly a year ago, the Walden University Writing Center welcomed two new writing instructors to our team. If you are a student with us at Walden, you may meet, or have already met, Kacy Walz through paper reviews, the blog, webinars, our newsletter, or the doctoral writing assessment.


Take some time to get to know Kacy better by listening to her interview on our podcast, WriteCast, where she reflects on what she learns as an instructor and shares writing tips that she follows herself.


Walden University Writing Center

The Writing Center employs professional writing instructors and editors to help with all parts of the writing process. We offer paper reviews, a blog, webinars, modules, live chat, and WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast.


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APA How-To: Formatting Dissertations in the References List

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A common question that often comes up from our Walden University student writers is about using dissertations as sources in course papers and capstone studies. While dissertations are not considered peer-reviewed literature, they do have a place in a dissertation. And if they are cited in the narrative, they must be cited in the reference list.

Text over a checklist. Text reads: Formatting Dissertations in the References List


The following list of four citation styles covers the patterns: the basic information, the style for dissertations that were not published, and the styles for two outlets: those published on an institutional database and those published on the web. As you can see from the examples, access to dissertations varies considerably. Hence the variation in citation styles.

These examples were taken from APA Style Guide to Electronic References (2012, p. 23). As part of a 5-year update from the 2007 edition, they favor uniformity and simplicity. But they’re still references and references are extremely fussy about things like the placement of periods, italics, and capitalization.

Basic Information
Author. (Year). Title of dissertation (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://xxxxx


Unpublished Dissertation
Patterson, G.W. (2003). Mathematical modeling and decision analysis for terrorism defense: Assessing chlorine truck attack consequence and countermeasure cost effectiveness (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://xxxxx

*Note from the APA electronic style guide: "Either the name of the database and the accession number or the URL of the dissertation or thesis is acceptable in the retrieval statement" (p. 23). 

From an Institutional Database
Patterson, G.W. (2003). A comparison of multi-year instructional programs (looping) and regular education program utilizing scale scores in reading (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://www.uf.edu/~asb/thesis/

From the Web
Rivers, J.H. (2008). The best dissertation that ever was written: An experimental study of graduate school. (Doctoral dissertation, institution). Retrieved from http://www.uf/edu/~asb/thesis/


Tim McIndoo author picture

Tim McIndoo is a Senior Dissertation Editor in the Walden Writing Center. He came to Walden University in 2007 with over 30 years of editorial experience, including work as translator and photographer. He lives in Minneapolis with four cats.


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November Webinar Preview

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It feels like October passed far too quickly! We hope that November slows down enough for everyone to enjoy the many services that our writing center has to offer. Why not start by registering to attend a webinar?

Webinar update

Here are the November webinars:

Date: Thursday, November 2, 2017
Time (Eastern): 3:00 - 4:00pm
Audience: All students

Date: Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Time (Eastern): 6:00 - 7:00pm
Audience: All students

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Time (Eastern): 12:00 - 1:00pm
Audience: All students

Date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Time (Eastern): 7:00 - 8:00pm
Audience: All students

The full list of November webinars can be found on this page. Should these dates and times not work for you, remember that we record all sessions. The webinar recording archive houses all past webinars. Happy webinar viewing!

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The Walden University Writing Center presents weekly webinars on a range of topics related to scholarly writing, APA style, and the writing process. In addition to webinars, the writing center offers paper reviews, live chat, and a podcast to support writers during all stages of their academic careers.


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A Dissertation Editor's Tips for Headings in the Capstone Document

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In this post, I want to address the issue of headings in doctoral capstone studies. Drawing from my experience in editing students’ capstone documents for form and style, I’d like to offer some notes about the nature and purpose of headings and subheadings in studies. Then, I’d like to share some information and resources for correctly formatting these headings in APA.
A title image for this blog post featuring a person, drinking tea, editing their Walden capstone document

Headings are a key way that writers help readers make sense of and navigate documents, especially long ones such as capstone studies. By looking at the text of a heading and its formatting, readers can more easily understand your study’s focus and follow your narrative.

In APA, five heading levels are possible. In a Walden doctoral capstone study, an additional heading level, Level 0, is used for main-level headings such as chapter and section titles. Most Walden capstone writers will use Level 0-3 (and possibly Level 4) headings in their documents. The different heading levels’ formatting varies in terms of whether they are centered or indented, bold or in plain text, in upper/lowercase or sentence case, or followed by a period. The Form and Style Checklist includes a helpful overview of the different APA levels used in Walden capstone documents.

The important thing to remember is that headings in APA are hierarchically structured in terms of their APA level. That is, a Level 1 heading is a subheading of a Level 0 heading whereas a Level 2 heading is a subheading of a Level 1 heading. The concept of nesting may be another way to think about this. By looking at the formatting of a heading, especially in relation to other surrounding headings, a reader should be able to glean important details about how content is related to other content (and, more broadly, how the document is structured).

Most headings in your capstone study are specified in your program template and/or checklist. When drafting the different sections of your study, you will want to make sure that the phrasing, ordering, and APA level of your headings match what is in these documents.

In some sections, especially long ones like the literature review, you may want to add additional subheadings (most probably, Level 3 and 4 ones) to help readers better follow the different strands of your narrative. When doing so, I recommend making your headings succinct yet sufficiently descriptive enough that a reader glancing only at the heading would have a good idea of the content that followed it. Definitely, heed the guidance of your committee members.

When using your program template, you can apply a pre-formatted style tag to each of your headings. The Styles section of the Home tab in Microsoft Word includes correctly-formatted tags for each of the APA heading levels. By tagging your headings rather than manually formatting them, you can more easily ensure that they are correctly formatted. Another advantage of using the style tags is that the Table of Contents can be automatically updated to include current Level 0-2 headings and corresponding page numbers. For an overview of how to work with your program template and apply style tags, please click play and watch the Template Demonstration Video embedded below. 



Hopefully with this post, I’ve provided some useful perspective on this aspect of capstone writing. In the Comments section, we’d love to hear your feedback.


Tara Kachgal
 is a dissertation editor in the Walden University Writing Center. She has a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and teaches for the School of Government's online MPA@UNC program. She resides in Chapel Hill and, in her spare time, serves as a mentor for her local running store's training program.


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Paraphrasing Series: An in-depth look at paraphrasing strategies

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Paraphrasing is an important part of academic writing. Writers rely on paraphrasing to help them use and integrate research into their writing. Paraphrasing also helps writers avoid plagiarism and merge varied research on a topic into one cohesive piece. Because paraphrasing is so valued, we have a four part series to look deeper into paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing: A four-part series

In this series, we look at how paraphrasing can help all students include research in their writing. If you need an overview of paraphrasing, please refer to our webpage on paraphrasing. We also have overviews of paraphrasing strategies and examples of poor paraphrases. All of this material can help provide background.

Ready to go? Here are the posts in our paraphrasing series:

  • Paraphrasing: An Introduction walks writers through how paraphrasing can be used to weave together multiple sources. Senior writing instructor Matt says this is how writers can tell a "story" about the research.
  • Paraphrasing Statistics tackles ways to paraphrase data. Numbers and statistics may seem difficult to repeat in new words, but our Manager of Multimedia Writing Resources, Beth, shares tips for paraphrasing statistics.
  • In Paraphrasing Enhances Learning, writing instructor Kacy lists the ways that paraphrasing can help not just the writing process, but the learning process as well. Discover how paraphrasing can help you master course material.
  • Paraphrasing to Avoid Plagiarism looks at how paraphrasing not only helps writers avoid overt copy-and-paste plagiarism, but how it can help writers avoid accidental plagiarism. Join Writing Instructor, Jes, as she shares her step-by-step paraphrasing process.


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The Walden Writing Center provides information and assistance to students with services like live chat, webinars, course visits, paper reviews, podcasts, modules, and the writing center webpages. The center supports students through all stages of the writing process and develops the writer as well as the writing.


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Student Spotlight: Lisa Whiteaker, Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership

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The Walden University Writing Center is privileged to work with talented students. In the Student Spotlight Series, we aim to support incredible work our students do, both in and out of the classroom. The goal of the Student Spotlight Series is to provide the Walden community with a place to build bridges and make connections by developing shared understanding of the diverse and varied student journey. Students share stories about their writing process, their efforts towards social change, and their motivations for pursuing higher education. We ask questions, and students generously answer.
This Student Spotlight features Lisa Whiteaker, student of the The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership. 



How would you describe your personality to someone just meeting you?
People often initially describe me as being a sweet, kind person. Upon further inspection, I am also organized, meticulous, and goal-oriented. There are aspects of my personality that people are generally surprised about. I am quiet and sometimes shy, but I love fast cars, the color red, and Bon Jovi!

What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies?
As a teacher, I am passionate about education and making an impact in the lives of children. I love learning  more so I can apply my knowledge to help a child learn. I am passionate about learning. I have always been a reader and hope I can teach my students to love learning as well. 

This is an image of Lisa standing in her backyard, smiling.
Here is Lisa in her backyard!
I live in Wyoming and, as such, I enjoy the mountains and the beauty of nature. I also love to bake. My favorite cookbook is The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show cookbook. I highly recommend this cookbook! The recipes for Strawberry Cream Cake and Classic Brownies are absolutely delicious. I love to spend time with my two children and my husband. We enjoy going to the park, watching movies, and reading together.

What is your educational background? 
My educational background is a combination of many experiences. I grew up in Wyoming, but moved to Kansas after graduation to be near my mom. In 1998, I completed one semester at Emporia State University. Then I attended a small Bible college for a few years in Missouri. After a long break from college, and after moving back to Wyoming with my husband and children, I went back to school at the age of 30 years old. I attended our local junior college, Casper College, to begin to finish up my degree. After Casper College, I transferred to the University of Wyoming at Casper. I really enjoyed every step of my journey and am thankful for all the teachers who made deposits in my life. My story shows that it is never too late to go back and pick up where you left off. It is never too late to make a decision to gain more education to better your life. 

How do you fuel yourself during the writing process?
I am not sure if anyone else feels this way, but, for me, the writing process is laborious. There is a definite cyclical process to writing, and I often feel as though I am slugging my way through it. I have found, though, the more time I invest in the process of collecting and organizing my thoughts and systematically relaying my ideas in my rough draft, the less time I have to invest in revising. To make it through the stages of writing, I definitely need something to keep me going. To fuel myself during the writing process, I turn to coffee, ice tea, and the occasional piece of dark chocolate. Also, gathering more information through academic journals and my own personal resource books fuels me. These sources help me to connect all the new information I have acquired with my own personal experiences, tying the entire writing process together.

What inspires you to write?
Currently, deadlines and due dates are my inspiration to write! Beyond what I must complete for the classes I am taking, I truly believe that becoming a proficient writer is an important life skill. Being able to communicate with others through words is a universal means of connecting. This in and of itself is inspiring to me.

What is one Writing Center service you would recommend to new students? 
The Writing Center service I would recommend to new students is having your paper reviewed. At first, it took me awhile to get my paper written long enough in advance that I could have time to have my paper reviewed. Once I got into the flow, it has not been difficult to get my papers finished in time for a review. I would strongly recommend that new students use this valuable resource. I would also recommend choosing one specific person to review your papers. It helps to have the same person looking over your writing because they can give you specific feedback on how you are growing as a writer.

Have you encountered any challenges while at Walden and how did you overcome those challenges? 
Someone once told me, “The process is part of the promise.” Challenges are a part of the process. I have taken this to mean that each valley and mountain I encounter along my journey is part of what makes me who I am. Each experience in my life gives me a skill or understanding that I can later share with others. There have definitely been challenges while I have been pursuing my master’s degree, and I have relied on my family, colleagues where I work, and colleagues in my classes to help give me the strength to get me through to the next phase. I have also relied on myself and I always remember that sometimes the best things in life are those which are difficult to obtain.

What does social change mean to you? How have you worked toward social change in your personal/professional life? 
Part of what drew me to Walden University was the strong view on positive social change, as this has always been important to me in my personal life. To me, being an agent of positive social change means making a difference in someone else’s life for the better. It means giving part of what I have or know to make the way more equitable or easier for someone else. My husband and I have always been people who have given to others. Though the ways in which we have given may be small, they were significant to those who were the recipients. My favorite quote is from The Little Princess by Francis H. Burnett. In the story, Sara, the main character, has lost everything she held dear. It was at this point she declared, “If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that—warm things, kind things, sweet things….”

This has always been my mantra and it guides me daily as I interact with and come across people who need a friend and a helping hand.




The Walden Writing Center provides information and assistance to students with services like live chat, webinars, course visits, paper reviews, podcasts, modules, and the writing center webpages. Through these services they provide students assistance with APA, scholarly writing, and help students gain skills and confidence to enhance their scholarly work.


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A Coda to GDS 2017: Writing Center Resources for Positive Social Change

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At this point of Global Days of Service 2017, Writing Center staff have already contributed volunteer hours to help organizations like Habitat for Humanity, presented webinars on service and social change, and have helped students express the ways in which their scholarly and professional work will enact social change. 

To continue this celebration of GDS 2017, we want to share some of the Writing Center's resources related to social change.

Global Days of Service 2017: Help make a difference

How to write for positive social change: This blog post helps students understand how to connect their work to social change.

Writing for social change webinars: We have an entire series of webinars related social change. These include topics like exploring differing perspectives to tips for communicating ideas in grant proposals.

Balance passion and objectivity: In this podcast, listen as we discuss ways to express our passion while remaining objective.

Social change and difficult situations: What do we do when we encounter different points of view related to social change? Writing Center instructors discuss this difficult situation in this episode of the podcast.

How do Walden students create social change: In our student spotlight series, you can read about the ways in which Walden students create positive social change. This link will take you to just one of the blog posts in the series. Feel free to search the "student spotlight" tag for more.

The Writing Center social change hub: Continue to explore the Writing Center's social change resources by starting on this webpage.

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The Walden University Writing Center
 supports students throughout all stages of the writing process, including the development of texts that help to create positive social change.


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Student Spotlight: Heather Graham, College of Health Sciences

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The Walden University Writing Center is privileged to work with talented students. In the Student Spotlight Series, we aim to support incredible work our students do, both in and out of the classroom. The goal of the Student Spotlight Series is to provide the Walden community with a place to build bridges and make connections by developing shared understanding of the diverse and varied student journey. Students share stories about their writing process, their efforts towards social change, and their motivations for pursuing higher education. We ask questions, and students generously answer.

This Student Spotlight features Heather Graham, student of the College of Health Sciences.




Why did you choose Walden? What drew you to pursue a degree at Walden?
I chose Walden because I was moving overseas. My husband is in the Air Force and stationed in the United Kingdom. I needed a school that could work with my living situation. Also the school offers a military discount and accepts the use of the Post 9-11 GI Bill. Living overseas has been difficult at times when trying to communicate with my teachers, however, they have all been wonderful in accommodating my needs.

This is a picture of Heather with her husband during their travels
Heather and her husband during their travels.

What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies?
I am passionate about helping others. I became a nurse for that reason. I am also passionate about my family, they mean everything to me. Soon my husband and I will be expanding ours in June. Hobbies, well before moving to the United Kingdom, I lived in Alaska. My hobbies included snowboarding, fishing, hunting, camping, and hiking. Mostly all the outdoors adventures. Since moving, my new hobbies include seeing the world! Since living in England I have traveled to Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Austria, Germany, Scotland, and Ireland. I look forward to seeing all that I can while living here. My husband and I also continue to snowboard, now our hobby is to ride all the European mountain ranges. So far we have completed Solden in Austria and Alpspitze and Zugspitze in Germany.
This is a picture of Heather and her husband skiing.
Heather and her husband on a ski trip

How have you created a community around yourself in your program? What do you do to interact with your classmates and colleagues?
After my first semester I learned that there were Facebook groups for each course I was enrolled in where students communicate with each other to help with the struggles we have in classes. We help each other by making assignments more clear or give ideas when we struggle with writing a paper. Some of the classmates I have personally friended on Facebook and we will talk about school and life. It is nice to communicate with others and relate to others in the program.

What are your strengths in writing? What are your greatest challenges?
Since using the writing center, I feel I have developed a strength in the flow of my papers. I have made improvements with my use of commas, semicolons, and colons. I still have a challenge with using passive voice, however, the writing center has been helping me identify and correct my errors. They give me samples and resources to help develop my writing skills.

What is one Writing Center service you would recommend to new students?
I highly recommend using the writing center to have your papers reviewed. I had been out of school for about 5 years and it was rough getting back into it. I had forgotten how to write in APA format and struggled with a few things. The people at the writing center would critique my papers and help give me pointers and resources to be a more developed writer.

How would you describe your personality to someone just meeting you?
Sometimes shy at first, but then very outgoing and friendly. I am an honest person and that can either make or break a friendship it seems. I like people to be open and honest with me and to tell me the truth. This has made it difficult moving to another country. I can be very blunt and honest, but I don’t mean harm. I look at it as constructive criticism. I want people to tell me the truth, even if they don’t think I would like it. However, once someone takes the time to get to know me, I can be the best friend they will know. I am loyal and care about my friends, and I will always have their backs.

How do you hope to apply the work you have done as a student to the work you will do after graduating?
If I have to write up policies or procedures for my nursing, I hope to use what I have learned to portray myself as a professional and produce professional work. I can use this experience to help me complete research and present it in a way that will be easily understood by others. 

This is a picture of Heather, with her arms raised, looking triumphant.
Heather on the steps of an ancient monument.
The Walden Writing Center provides information and assistance to students with services like live chat, webinars, course visits, paper reviews, podcasts, modules, and the writing center webpages. Through these services they provide students assistance with APA, scholarly writing, and help students gain skills and confidence to enhance their scholarly work.


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Inclusive Language Policy Announcement

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Earlier in the year, members of the Writing Center formed a working group around social change initiatives, both those sponsored by Walden University and those that we could spearhead on our own. One of our earliest discussions in that group was one around gender-neutral and gender-fluid pronouns, noting that while the American Psychological Association (APA) indeed supported the use of the singular they, APA did not raise awareness of pronouns being used by LGBTQ+ communities and subcommunities.

Inclusive Language Policies Announcement

We looked to address this discrepancy in the following gender-neutral pronouns policy, which we drafted over the summer and was approved by a number of Walden’s committees and academic advisory boards, including Walden’s Research Process Advisory Council, the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, and the Center for Social Change. The policy states:
Gender-Neutral Pronouns Policy: Walden University prides itself as an inclusive institution that serves a diverse population of students. Committed to broadening the university’s understanding of inclusivity and diversity, Walden will now accept gender-neutral pronouns in student writing. This practice acknowledges APA’s recent endorsement of the singular they and also embraces alternative pronouns currently in circulation (e.g., the nominatives xe, ve, ze/zir, ey, and zhe and their associated derivations). Walden recognizes that discussion around gender identity is ongoing. As such, the university will accept any pronoun in student writing so long as evidence can be provided that it is accepted as a respectful term by the community it represents.

Coincidentally, while we were drafting this policy, another opportunity to revisit our language policies arose. Members of the autistic community reached out to us after we had tweeted about APA’s preference for person-first language. We provided an example in our webpage on bias that labeled the phrase “autistic child” as bias and “child with autism” as preferred. What our followers told us, however, was that, as members of the community, this was not their preferred phrasing. In fact, organizations like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Identity-First Autistic had been arguing for identity-first language, and Walden’s director of disability services reported that some in the Deaf community were also moving in that direction. Again, our social change working group was reminded of the importance of language inclusivity. We drafted the following identify-first language policy, which was also reviewed and approved by Walden’s aforementioned institutional bodies:
Identity-First Language Policy: Walden University respects the evolving endorsements of communities and self-advocacy groups. As such, while the American Psychological Association (2010) recommends using people-first language when addressing persons with disabilities (e.g., children with ADHD; p. 76), Walden also recognizes that certain groups or subgroups thereof prefer identity-first language (e.g., autistic children). To this end, the university will accept people-first and identity-first language in student writing so long as evidence can be provided that it is accepted as a respectful term by the community it represents.

Discussions about identity-language inclusivity will assuredly continue, and we're excited to serve on the Writing Center’s Social Change Working Group, which will be partially responsible for uncovering and discovering these conversations. We recognize that language is powerful, that a continued effort toward precision should include an awareness of social advocacy, and that we can support our community of learners with the tools they need to represent themselves and the communities they write about with respect.

With that in mind, we invite you, the Walden community, and all of our readers to join us in this conversation below. An active and diverse community helps broaden these discussions and raises cultural awareness around identity. We welcome your thoughts and ideas. 


Walden University Writing Center Logo

The Walden University Writing Center reflects the social change mission of the university by supporting the research programs of its students. The Writing Center also reflects this mission by acknowledging that language itself has the power to contribute to positive social change by framing the way groups, individuals, and ideas are researched, written about, and discussed. Inclusive language can be the vehicle by which broader, longer-term social change is enacted. 


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Global Days of Service: Community Partnerships and Social Change

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Working with students, Writing Center Administrative Assistants and those I “see” through the Writing Center, provides me an opportunity to learn about the great work students do in the name of social change as part of their studies, career paths, and volunteer work. In fact, one aspect that drew me to Walden University as a Writing Instructor was Walden’s social change mission—social change is something that is both professionally and personally important to me.   
Global Days of Service Title Image

My own graduate studies were grounded in social change. As a community literacy scholar, studying and presenting how everyday people go public, social change meant helping to disseminate the voices of others—voices not often heard across communities—to wide, disparate, audiences, such as scholars, activists, and others who might find inspiration from these voices to enact their own social change mission. However, writing about communities and people when one is positioned as an outsider to that community is, well, complicated. Thus, as we kick off the Global Days of Service here at Walden University, I’m reminded that it’s important for those who enter a community with the goal of social change to do so ethically by understanding one’s own outsider status and keeping the community’s true needs in mind.

Luckily, as a discipline, community literacy provided me a foundation for facing this complicated situation of studying, writing about, and volunteering for communities I was an outsider to. For instance, I observed and interviewed community members of a group who were going public against the racial discrimination and sanctions they faced in relation to their immigration status. As someone whose race, immigration status, and subsequently, social and political experiences differed from this group, I was a community “outsider” in relation to their status as community “insiders.” That said, community literacy practices are grounded in changing the dynamics of this outsider-insider issue—not by pretending to close this gap, but by acknowledging it and respecting the various insider-outsider dynamics and differences at work. I quickly learned that these dynamics and differences are fluid, much like an individual’s intersecting identities (gender, race, class, etc.) are fluid.

So, while I was observing and interviewing community members, it was important that I considered my own outsider status to include how the group I was writing about was not static in terms of identity or social and political public position. One way to achieve this was to ensure that the group I studied co-created my research—their voices were always at the forefront of my work and they provided feedback on my notes and writing along the way. Thus, my work was not the result of passive, unreflective observation and interviewing group members, but the result of self-reflection and ethically fostered relationships and communications.

Equally important to ensuring that the voice of the community led my work was ensuring that I volunteered for the community for allowing me to study them and did so on their terms. More specifically, in exchange for allowing me to study the group, I provided some much-needed volunteer work—work that helped the group continue to meet and grow. In this case: babysitting.

Admittedly, babysitting was a less glamorous reality of volunteering and social change work than I expected. In my mind, I imagined myself more at the forefront—helping with organizing marches or discussing tactics for going public—after all, I had a background in public rhetoric. I might have requested to do something more “glamorous” as opposed to holding one end of a jump rope up or playing tag. However, I was an outsider to this community and this was not my social and political cause. That said, working with this group allowed me to reflect on my own understanding of what volunteer work means and how it should be driven by the needs of the community one is volunteering for.

If there is an overall “moral” to my volunteer work, it was that, no matter what your area of expertise is or what you think you should do to best support a community, volunteer work should be about what is most needed for that community at the time according to the community being volunteered for. Even the seemingly smallest tasks, such as babysitting, can have a huge, positive impact on a community. For instance, without babysitters, many community members would not have been able to meet with the group at all. Even the smallest task requested can prove to have an important outcome for a community.

When I volunteer during this year’s Global Days of Service,  I will keep in mind that acknowledging and respecting the voices, positions, and intersecting identities of others also means ensuring that the volunteer work I do is on the terms of the community I volunteer for. After all, social change is grounded in the need for people and communities to work together.


Veronica Oliver
 is a Writing Instructor in the Walden Writing Center. In her spare time she writes fiction, binge watches Netflix, and occasionally makes it to a 6am Bikram Yoga class.


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GDS 2017: Part of Something Larger

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Social change is at the center of Walden University’s mission and vision statements for each college. Walden students are often asked to reflect on how their academic work and future professional work can enact positive social change. This week, we want to celebrate the importance of social change here at Walden University.

Global Days of Service 2017 logo


The timing is perfect as well. Global Days of Service is kicking off this week. The Writing Center is always excited to get to take part in GDS and help support the vision for greater social change.

Explore Walden University’s commitment to social change:

Next week we’ll continue our celebration of GDS on this blog with posts that examine the idea of positive social change through action and language. As you learn more about social change at Walden, and how the Writing Center supports that commitment, we hope you'll join us.  

Walden University Writing Center

Walden University and the Writing Center provide a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can affect positive social change.


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