Rebecca Shaw


Rebecca Shaw

Rebecca Shaw joined UBC in June 2017 as the new Program Manager at the Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication (CWSC), at the UBC Learning Commons. Prior to UBC, she worked in Student Services (Residence Life) as an Experiential Learning Coordinator at Simon Fraser University where she focused on developing co-curricular leadership programming. Shaw obtained her Master of Education in Adult Learning at UBC in the Department of Educational Studies.

Shaw is passionate about fostering student support, particularly in co-curricular settings with a focus on promoting life-long transformative learning outside of the classroom. During her studies at UBC, she worked as a graduate peer-writing consultant at the UBC Writing Centre and was a peer facilitator for Kaleidoscope, a student-led mental health support group at UBC. Participating in these programs was an impactful experience and inevitably directed her future career path, leading her back to the CWSC and her alma mater.

UBC Communications & Marketing had a chance to talk to Rebecca about her role at the CWSC and her future plans for the program.

You have worked extensively with students in the past; from your experience, what are some of the methods you’ve found to be successful?

A: It is really important to me that the writing consultants (peer mentors in the CWSC) and myself promote a sense of personal control and ownership. This means giving the writing consultants the tools and guidance they need to develop their own tutoring/mentorship style. I believe in creating a safe space for student writers to discuss their own needs and goals — our team at the CWSC help students see how they can take control of their own development as writers, no matter what stage they are at in their academic life.

While studying at UBC, you created and spearheaded the Wellness Writing Group at the CWSC. Can you talk about how this came to be and how the students benefited?

A: The Wellness Writing Group was actually a project I developed for a self-directed course to fulfill the requirements of my graduate degree. The project tapped into experiential, transformative, narrative and emotional learning theories and used expressive writing, ongoing personal reflection and feedback to promote confidence and reduce stress for a small group of graduate students who reported they were struggling with the ongoing pressures of academic life.

My motivation for developing the group arose from my own feelings of fear, anxiety and self-doubt that accelerated as a graduate student, specifically a graduate student returning to school after being in the workforce for several years and recovering from a mental health crisis. Even though I was an experienced and successful writer, I felt unsure and overwhelmed at the prospect of writing for graduate school. The joy I had previously experienced when I wrote seemed to disappear and I often felt stuck.

Realizing that I was likely not alone in this experience and that other students might be suffering and seeking connection, my main objectives for the writing group were to create a safe space where graduate students could connect and talk about their anxiety and feelings of isolation, to promote wellness through personal storytelling, and to approach writing as a positive tool for reflection, all in an attempt to create a healthier relationship with academic writing.

Why is mentorship important when it comes to writing? What should mentors remember when guiding a student in their learning?

A: In a peer mentorship environment, like the one we foster at the CWSC, both the student writer and the writing consultant learn from each other. For example, a student writer will receive guidance on writing strategies and feedback on specific types of writing, while the writing consultant will be confronted with new and unique writing challenges from different perspectives and will work to build those perspectives into their tutoring practice.

The key to successful peer mentorship is conversation and collaboration. The very nature of the relationship between student writer and writing consultant is different from the relationship of teacher and student. The power dynamic is mitigated in the peer mentorship environment and students will often feel more comfortable discussing their needs and goals and more open to admitting what challenges they are facing.

What do you look forward to accomplishing at CWSC in the future?

A: I’ve been here only for a month, so I’m still getting my bearings. My current focus is maintaining the CWSC one-on-one service by developing a strong team of writing consultants and working toward a year-long cycle of strategic training and professional development activities. We’re also re-launching our promotional strategy and web presence this September. I’m working closely with UBC Library Communications so that students are aware of our service and what to expect.

I am also connecting with campus partners to ensure that we are offering writing support, including workshops, classroom visits, and faculty consultations that fit the ongoing needs of students as the campus community continues to change and evolve. For example, I am part of a team that is looking at how to continue to offer Writing Across the Curriculum programming and support to faculty, post-docs and graduate students, an initiative that was spearheaded by my predecessor over the last two years.

This year we are also looking at expanding our graduate writing support including developing a series of workshops and self-directed learning resources. We have a number of initiatives being planned in collaboration with Graduate Pathways to Success and the UBC Library’s Research Commons, including the continuation of our Thesis Bootcamp series and connecting thesis formatting support with our writing support services.

Rebecca Shaw
What can students expect at the CWSC? How can they get involved?

A: Students can expect our writing consultants to look at their writing projects holistically, focusing on higher level writing issues first and then distilling down to more technical issues, if required. They can guide students at all stages of the writing process and give guidance on how to develop as writers beyond a single assignment. A writing consultation is conversation based, and often the writing consultant and writer will negotiate writing goals and strategies together. Students can expect to be asked questions about their writing. This is a technique that helps students to start developing a habit of asking themselves questions about their writing, such as “who is my audience?”, “what meaning am I trying to get across?”, “can I write this sentence or paragraph more concisely without sacrificing meaning?”, and so on.


Rebecca Shaw has only just begun as Program Manager at the Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication, but her return to UBC and the writing program feels meant to be. “Becoming the Program Manager will give me the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ as I strive to develop new student leaders,” she explains. Her combined passion for student wellbeing and her love for teaching and the written word serve her well as she encourages students to reach their full potential and overcome the challenges, anxieties and stresses that can come with academia.

Learn more about the CWSCand how you can get involved.

Story Credits

Special thanks to our story partner: Rebecca Shaw, Program Manager, Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication.

Story team: UBC Communications & Marketing — Cindy Connor, Online Producer; Margaret Doyle, Digital Storyteller; Paul Joseph, UBC Photographer; Lina Kang, Web Coordinator; Adrian Liem, Manager, Digital Communications; Mormei Zanke, Assistant Writer.

Published: September 2017