‘Special spice’ in writing center consultations

By Douglas Esser
The first time Gautam Kumar submitted a cybersecurity paper to a conference, it “failed spectacularly with all my reviewers giving me a reject.”

Gautam Kumar

Photo: Gautam Kumar (Marc Studer photo)

But with assistance from the University of Washington Bothell Writing and Communications Center, Kumar was able to sharpen his skills and successfully revise his research paper. It was accepted for presentation at the International Conference on Information Systems Security and Privacy, which he attended this past February in Portugal.

“The feedback that I got from the writing center was the special spice that I needed to improve my writing,” Kumar said.

The paper – written with his adviser, Assistant Professor Brent Lagesse – includes this acknowledgement: “The author would like to thank Victoria Wettmarshausen from UW Bothell’s Writing & Communication Center for her feedback on the structure and presentation of this paper.”

When asked about working with Kumar, Wettmarshausen, a peer consultant and graduate student liaison at the center, emphasized how the consulting process requires both parties to listen and learn.

Gautam Kumar

Photo: Kumar in Portugal (contributed photo)

“Gautam was a great collaborator and very motivated,” she said. “He patiently explained all the difficult computer science concepts to me that I needed to understand his paper and was open to receiving feedback on his writing from someone outside the discipline.”

The center employs 22 peer consultants to help students assess their work and consider changes in organization, style and mechanics. The staff handles about 6,300 consultations per academic year, said Director Karen Rosenberg.

Being able to present his paper on a “moving target” strategy to defend information in the cloud was a great experience, said Kumar, an international student from southern India who graduates in June with a master’s in computing and software systems.

“I met a lot of researchers from Europe and got their perspective on how computer science is done there,” he said

Shortly after he arrived at UW Bothell in the fall of 2015, Kumar won a job as a computer science research assistant with Professor Kelvin Sung. Together they have developed a college affordability computer model that graphically displays every factor in college finance on a computer screen. Colors and shapes change as variables are altered and can show how policies affect students.

“I feel like this can help a lot of people hopefully,” Kumar said. “It’s been a great learning experience – I get to build this software.”

Looking back, Kumar said that the choice to attend UW Bothell was “one of the best decisions I’ve made all my life. I’ve learned so much in the last two years.”

Kumar credits the support system, such as the writing center, with his success at UW Bothell. “The resources and the advisers here have been really good.”

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