Get writing confidently: meet our Writing Coach

Anna Johnston
05.07.2019·5 min read

Worried about writing as part of your studies? We get it. Meet Kerry Conlan, Nexford’s Writing Coach, who’s here to help you find the right words

You want to progress academically, you’re keen to sign up for one of our programs, but there’s one thing putting you off. All that writing.

We know that not everyone is confident in writing up their studies. For every natural writer, there’s someone for whom turning out several thousand words is their worst nightmare. Which is exactly why we set up our specialized Writing Lab. It’s not something you’ll find anywhere else. As well as comprehensive resources, including videos and documents to help you solve your writing dilemmas, you’ll also get the option of personalized writing advice that fits around your schedule, from a real human being.

Meet Kerry: your Writing Coach

Kerry Conlan is Nexford’s Writing Coach, and she’s on call to help you with all your writing challenges. Whether you need to know how to cite your sources or craft a sentence to give it more impact, she’s here to guide you.

An educator with over 21 years of experience in the classroom, writing centers, and as an online professor, learners can schedule a call with Conlan, who’ll guide them through their writing challenges.

“The feedback is all positive which is wonderful,” says Conlan. “That’s my goal.”

“I feel like the biggest challenge for many learners is that they get nervous when they see something new, like the APA referencing system, and that scares them a bit.”

"What I do is I just break it down; what it is and why it’s here.”

Building your confidence

Whether you consider yourself a writer or not, academic writing is a specific skill that can seem complex and challenging if you’re new to it.

“For a variety of socio-cultural and political reasons, writers experience conflict as they attempt to negotiate traditional academic discourses,” admit Linda A Fernsten and Mary Reda, in their paper ‘Helping students meet the challenges of academic writing.’ Helping students meet the challenges of academic writing. In other words, not all of us come from the world of academia (and neither should we), but it can be hard to get to grips with the seemingly endless lists of rules and styles.

We know that many of our learners face second language and cultural challenges too as they learn to write in an academic style.

Ken Hyland gives an excellent example in his paper, ‘Authority and invisibility: authorial identity in academic writing’.

Hyland explains that while first-person pronouns lend writing authority and personality, many English second language writers aren’t comfortable using them precisely because of those connotations with authority, which might feel uncomfortably like bragging in their own cultures.

Giving you the skills to succeed

Conlan sees her role as helping learners efficiently build the skills they need to grow their writing confidence and capability. She explains:

"My goal is to set them up with the skills that they need to achieve what they can easily do."

“And they’re all capable. So when they come in – and this is all new to them – it’s not just about the instruction but the encouragement, so that they feel they can do it. So that they have the confidence to achieve their dreams. And every single learner that I’ve had has said to me ‘this is my dream, to get a degree.'”

“All I can say back is you can do this. And I’m here to help you achieve that.”

"Learner success is our success."

Your degree may be online, but the support you’ll receive from Conlan is personal. “Education and a passion for it runs in my family,” she says. “It’s something I grew up with; the want and the need to help others. It’s really big for me, and I’m very passionate about what I do. It’s a job, but it doesn’t feel like a job.”

Conlan recommends this read

They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, 4th edition. WW Norton, 2018

By Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein

She says, “it’s a phenomenal resource for decoding academic writing and understanding the voice behind the writer.”

Online learning, traditional teaching principles

Conlan has taught – and studied herself – in online and offline classrooms, and for her, the principles of education remain the same, whether her students are across the room or on the other side of the world.

“What’s the difference between teaching online and teaching inside the classroom? Truly I think the foundation is the same,” says Conlan.

"Technology can give you the same results as working next to a learner."

Online learning has a reputation for lacking in personalized support. But the writing coaching that’s available to you at Nexford is tailored to your learning style.

“Everyone has their own craft and their individual way of doing things,” Conlan admits. “I try and pick up on how someone learns best, whether they’re visual, and I need to share my screen when I’m working with them, or whether a learner wants just to listen and take notes.

“Every style is different. As well as the technical side of creating a clear and compelling academic piece of writing, it’s about the learner’s true voice.”

Conlan earned her Master of Education, with a major field in reading, from Dominican University. She holds a Bachelor of English and Education from St Joseph’s College. She is based in New York State, in the US.

About the Author

Anna Johnston

Anna is brand content lead at Nexford University. She’s fascinated by people, technology and the way we live our lives.

Anna has more than a decade’s experience. She’s a content strategist and creative who understands where ideas worth spreading fit in the digital world. She has written for the Financial Times, Forbes, Huffington Post, HR Magazine and Reuters, and some of the world’s greatest think tanks and consulting firms such as Accenture and McKinsey & Company.

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