Spotlight Tutor | Meet ELSO Tutor Sudan Kariuki

Who are the English Language Support Office tutors? Stop by 260 Caldwell Hall, and you'll meet friendly graduate student and professional tutors from across the disciplines who are eager to meet with full-time matriculated international graduate and professional students and all post-docs meeting and to talk with them about their writing, presentations, and pronunciation.

Meet Sudan Kariuki!

What is your name, major and year? And, how long have you been tutoring at the Cornell Writing Centers?

My name is Sudan Kariuki. I am a first year PhD student in the field of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I began tutoring at ELSO in September 2018.

What do you like most about tutoring/teaching writing?

I get really excited when I meet with a client and they return with an updated draft which clearly improves on weaknesses we previously discussed. When clients are engaged like this, they can learn strategies which are helpful, not just for the paper they’re writing now, but in future writing projects. It makes me feel really useful to serve as a resource for clients like this as they strengthen and develop their own writing style. 

How does your background influence your tutoring?

I’m originally from New York City, so my neighbors, friends, and teachers were from all over the world. In addition, my husband is from Kenya. These influences have encouraged me to never assume that one way of doing things works for everyone; my goal is to remain open to different work styles. This is why I always ask a lot of questions before recommending next steps. I also think it’s important for tutors to be encouraging. To this day, I still have self-doubt which stems from being in environments where others believed that I was inherently incapable of doing good science. The important thing to remember is that we all have skills. We just need to figure out how to apply those skills to our academic and professional writing. Therefore, I always remind clients that they already have everything they need to write an awesome paper. A little confidence can go a long way.

How has your own writing been affected by being a tutor/writing teacher? How has tutoring/teaching writing helped you grow as a writer?

I was a writing tutor in undergrad, but it has been years since then. Tutoring writing again has made my own writing much clearer. This is especially true for my scientific writing. I had been struggling with how to communicate the broader story of my research within the rigid structure of a scientific article. Now, I prioritize the needs of my reader (as I always tell my clients to do), which makes it much easier to decide where to elaborate on the methodological details and where to emphasize the main idea.

Do you write for fun? If so, what?

I write poetry for fun. In fact, when I graduated from high school, I was sure that I would be a professional poet. Someday I’ll publish an anthology of poetry.

What do you like about writing?

I like that, when done well, writing can allow a person to share so much more about themselves than they could ever comfortably share in conversation. Reading someone’s personal story can be a very intimate experience, allowing us to retroactively think another person’s thoughts, and feel and understand their emotions.

What is your favorite place to write on campus?

I love writing at the Big Red Barn. The atmosphere is informal enough where there’s not too much pressure to be productive. Because it’s a space specifically for graduate students, you can look around and know that you’re not the only one muddling through your paper one paragraph at a time. They also have free coffee every morning to help you get going.

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 Sudan Kariuki