This semester, I will be writing a series on some of Nazareth’s unique faculty members. Prospective students often hear from department leaders and admission representatives, but I find it important for students to get to know some of the faculty members they may not have been exposed to while visiting.
Mr. Steven Tolson is the director of The Charles Mills Writing Center at Nazareth and teaches college writing 101 and 102 for first year students. I talked with him for a mere twenty minutes, and it became quite clear to me how much Nazareth’s faculty has to offer.
Tolson has a unique story, one that brings value to the Nazareth campus which few may be fully aware of. Growing up, Tolson’s father was in the Navy, and he spent much of his childhood traveling. Over the first ten years of his life he moved from Maryland to Guam to Washington State, to Japan, and back to Maryland before eventually settling in Fultonville, NY, a small town near Albany, where he spent the majority of his adolescent years.
His higher education began at Fulton Montgomery Community College followed by a semester at SUNY Albany. He later received his undergraduate degree in English Literature at SUNY Potsdam. While studying in Potsdam, Steve spent a semester in Italy and encourages students who are able, to pursue such experiences. He attended graduate school at Kansas State University and earned a Master’s degree in English with a concentration in cultural studies. I asked Steve where his love for tutoring first occurred, and to my surprise, he was not involved in tutoring until after he completed his undergraduate degree.
Steve’s tutoring experience began with TRIO, a tutoring service offered to universities nationwide. Working with college students in a variety of subjects, he soon realized it was a path he enjoyed. I asked him what struck him most about tutoring and he told me, “I started to have these light bulb moments, where I was learning, and I was helping, and I didn’t feel like I was stuck at a desk, which I was terrified of.” Since then, he has worked in a variety of tutoring programs, such as the writing center at FMCC and Kansas State University. At KSU he also tutored for the Athletic Department and was the Coordinator of a first year tutoring program named PILOTS.
Having gotten to know Steve throughout the year, he is a person who loves helping people. He referenced one of his fonder professional memories to be when he was first starting his career as a tutor. It was a session with a student who had an assignment about html coding. While it is certainly not his area of expertise, he worked hard with the student and they laughed and struggled until they figured it out. Whatever the assignment may be, Steve is a person on campus who will do whatever he can do to provide students with the help they desire. Incoming students often worry about classes and workloads, and I asked Steve if he had any advice for those who may fear the writing process. He told me,
“What I have found to be most useful for someone who wants to improve regardless of where they’re at is to read and write on a regular basis. That’s really tough to do when it’s not an assignment, when you’re not used to doing it, but it’s like any other skill, the more you do it the more comfortable you become with it, and the more you pick up that you didn’t pick up the first time around.”
Based off personal experience, I can say that there is a learning curve with college classrooms, but Nazareth provides students adequate resources for those seeking improvement. The Writing Center in particular is a service available to the Nazareth community. Steve, and the rest of the Writing Center’s tutors, work to provide students with whatever assistance they seek. Steve says, “Sometimes you just need someone who’s on your side, and one thing that’s really cool about the writing center is that we’re not involved with the grading, we’re not involved with someone who’s going to judge you based on your quality.”
Writing can be a difficult task, and the transition for Nazareth’s freshman can be a tough one, but new students should not fret, as Nazareth provides them with the tools they need to succeed.
Read more of Packy’s Naz employee series here: