Tom Truesdell

He’s All Write


Tom Truesdell ’01 directs Northwestern’s Peer Learning Center (PLC) and teaches in the English department. In addition to a love of reading and writing, he also possesses a passion for music. When he’s not attending festivals or concerts, he plays lead guitar in Little Miss Sunshine, a band he formed with a few friends and fellow NWC alumni.

What led you to join Northwestern’s staff?
After graduating from NWC with an English degree, I worked for a local publishing company before moving to Chicago to attend graduate school at DePaul University. I was working at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, when a position in Northwestern’s English department became available. The opportunity to return to my alma mater and be a part of a Christian liberal arts college as excellent as Northwestern was too good to pass up. Thirteen years later, I’m still here and grateful to be a part of this place.

Which students are most likely to use the PLC?
Last year, 733 students met with a peer tutor at least once. We had approximately 7,200 appointments totaling 6,500 hours of tutoring. Underclassmen and upperclassmen use the PLC, as do students of all academic abilities. In fact, I would say our best students use the PLC most often because they grasp the value of collaborative learning.

What’s the advantage of students tutoring fellow students?
Tutors occupy a third space between faculty and students. They possess invaluable course and faculty knowledge—they understand the material well and know what respective faculty members expect. Simply stated, they know how to do well in the course. At the same time, they are peers who can connect with students in ways faculty can’t.

How are you teaching students to navigate written and oral communication in a society that is increasingly dependent on social media?
I focus on audience awareness and feedback. If students know who they are writing for and intentionally seek feedback—and revise accordingly—they usually produce good stuff. Additionally, it’s important for students to understand that language is always evolving. Many adults lament social media as a degradation of language, but complaints about how younger generations communicate have been around for centuries. Students today are writing more than ever before; it’s just that their writing looks different than writing did 10 years ago.

What do you enjoy most about your position at NWC?
The students. I love the energy they bring to life and learning. Just when I think I have this teaching thing figured out, they remind me I have much to learn.

What sparked your interest in writing?

Reading. As a child, books and newspapers were always a part of our household. I followed my dad’s example and read the Des Moines Register daily, and my mom continuously read me books until I could read on my own. These experiences showed me the power of the written word in informing, entertaining and moving others.

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