Writer alumna honed skills at New College

Lena Nowak-Laird ’14 and Jennifer Wells, Ph.D.
Lena Nowak-Laird ’14 and Jennifer Wells, Ph.D.

By Abby Weingarten

An editorial assistant for political science media at W. W. Norton & Company in New York City, alumna Lena Nowak-Laird ’14 consistently draws on her writing education at New College.

“The lessons I learned in the Writing Resource Center (WRC) have been the most impactful in my post-graduation life,” Nowak-Laird recently told her WRC mentors: Director of Writing Jennifer Wells, Ph.D. and Assistant Director of Writing Alexandra Maass. “I feel like I incorporate lessons from the WRC into my work on an almost daily basis.”

Nowak-Laird, who graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and was a Student Writing Assistant (SWA) for the WRC, has several roles in her current position. She has been with Norton since July 2019, and her editorial work involves collaborating with political scientists around the country to create materials (test banks, lecture PowerPoint presentations and instructor manuals). She also administratively manages projects for authors (she and her team are handling media packages for 12 books Norton is publishing in December alone).

“I often get comments from the professors I work with, saying that they appreciate both my communication skills and the editorial feedback I give,” Nowak-Laird said. “I have to say, I owe my skills in both of these domains to my work in the WRC; it helped me understand how to engage with people meaningfully about their ideas.”

As for the administrative side of the job, the writing tools and organizational expertise (like color-coding notes) Nowak-Laird learned as a SWA and WRC tutor have served her well.

“Working on so many books at one time is somewhat overwhelming, but having had the experience of completing my thesis, taking classes and working at the WRC all at the same time, I know how to break tasks down and focus on what’s important,” Nowak-Laird said. “Also, one of the reasons I’m successful in this position is because of my curiosity and desire to learn. New College did a wonderful job of fostering this in me, and it continues to be my favorite part of my job.”

Wells was thrilled to help nurture Nowak-Laird’s intellectual curiosity as an undergraduate. The two worked together from Nowak-Laird’s first year at New College, when she enrolled in Wells’ “Writing About Writing” course.

“I remember being so impressed by her ability to dive into an unfamiliar discipline, make sense of what she was reading, and respond to online and in-class discussions thoughtfully and incisively,” Wells said. “I wrote in her evaluation that the way she wrote about ‘Writing Studies’ was on par with what I would expect from professionals in my field.”

Nowak-Laird also took Wells’ “Pedagogy In Practice” class (a prerequisite for students applying to be SWAs).

“As a SWA, Lena was always genuinely interested in what other students were learning and thinking about. She always listened with a compassionate ear and was consistently kind but specific in her feedback,” Wells said. “And she took on numerous leadership roles inside the WRC, including independently creating supplemental materials to help reinforce writing strategies.”

She helped pilot the online “Transitions to College Writing” program by mentoring incoming students as they transitioned from Advanced Placement-style writing to college-level writing. Off campus, Nowak-Laird trained high school students to be peer tutors through New College’s partnership with The Out-Of-Door Academy.

Nowak-Laird also showcased her work at two national academic conferences in 2016. Her presentation topics included Challenging Hegemonic Frontiers and Moving Towards a Postcolonial Writing Center, and Mining the Creative Collective: An Idea-Generating Workshop, at the International Writing Centers Association conference; and Writing Center Advocacy: Creating Positive Reciprocity Between Students at the National Council of Teachers of English conference.

“I am so grateful that Lena shared her time and talent with us in the Writing Program at New College and with the students in the WRC,” Wells said. “I cannot wait to see where her journey takes her.”

Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.


Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is the state's only legislatively designated Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in liberal arts and sciences, a master’s degree program in data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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