What can we say about Jonathan? Jonathan Bramsen attests to the fact he didn’t use Clarkson’s Writing Center services in the first two years of his undergraduate experience and in retrospect, he wished he had. However, student journeys through academic preparation sometimes take a more winding, meandering path, and that is certainly the case with Jonathan. He shared with Writing Center director Courtney Woods on his first visit to the WC in his junior year that it took him more than two years to “really get his act together” and he wanted make the most of his Clarkson experience. A determined first-generation college student, this self-directed young man decided that what was needed was a solid plan with detailed goals, strategies, and detailed resources as a blueprint to getting him where he needed to be.
He focused first on time management and minimizing distractions and decided that he would treat his remaining two years as a serious job. Instead of returning to his room between classes, he instead left for campus early in the morning, ate both lunch and dinner on campus, and stayed until late evening, working on homework, labs, and assignments all day long. Television and social media became rare indulgences only when his work was done. He also focused on expanding his personal and professional networks, joining clubs, attending professional events, and taking advantage of services available on campus as a CUPO student as well as general offerings to all students.
That included us. The Clarkson Writing Center.
“I found Jonathan academically and creatively eccentric; that’s the only way I can describe him,” notes Woods of her regular meetings with him. “I thought there was something unique about him and the way he thinks and approaches problems,” she added. Bramsen came to see her to work on internship applications, essays, and assignments from time to time. In his senior year, Bramsen took advantage of CUPO’s summer research opportunities and presented at an academic conference held at SUNY Binghamton. It was there that a senior faculty member in the bio-engineering program approached him, suggesting he take a look at the university’s PhD program while noting a full-ride scholarship for students with tremendous promise.
“Jonathan was full-throttle Jonathan when he returned!,” noted Woods of his genuine astonishment over being recognized. “I never dreamed I could go to graduate school on a scholarship,” he shared with Woods when he asked her for help. His self-doubts and lack of confidence crept in, she notes, but he tackled that very comprehensive application process, bringing dinner and note paper and color coding stickers (“I said he was creatively eccentric, didn’t I?”) with him, working hours every night for nearly two weeks straight with Woods. In a short turn-around time, he prepared cover letters, a Vita, research and teaching statements, in-depth personal essays, and numerous application requirements. “He would dictate his thoughts as he paced the room, ” she said, noting his often emotional talking points tied to his appreciation for his opportunities in life. “This stage of the writing process is called invention; this is my strength in sessions with writers,” notes Woods who says many of her consultants on staff are far better at explaining grammar and mechanics than she is.
His work paid off. “I guess in some ways, our work paid off,” she says, noting also the immense resources and support the CUPO staff and program provides students, adding, “Several months later, he bounded into the Writing Center with the news. He was heading off to graduate school in pursuit of a PhD.” Woods says he gave her a bear hug with his appreciation, followed by a letter the following year explaining not only his work, but his immense thanks for making a difference.
This past summer Jonathan was on campus and dropped in unannounced. He had been asked short-notice to speak to CUPO students and had hoped Woods was on campus. He walked in to the center asking, “Remember me?” as she met him at the door returning the bear hug. “He explained his research at SUNY, his plans to enroll in medical school when the PhD was completed, and he said that I was one on a list of Clarkson faculty and staff who had been instrumental in where he was heading. He said I was a person to whom he would always be indebted.” Woods explains that although the accolades are kind, watching students excel and succeed are what are most important not only to her in her role as director of the Writing Center and a classroom instructor, “but also to our student writing consultants,” she notes, adding, “they take their work incredibly seriously and want their peers to reach their goals as well.”
As Bramsen headed out the door, Woods was even more convinced that his future would be bright. “He is just eccentric enough, just charismatic enough, just humble enough, and just bright enough to be the kind of person who discovers some cure for a disease or comes up with some medical innovation that will make a difference.” And although she credits Bramsen for his tenacity, she is proud she played a role for two weeks in getting him to the next stage in his academic and personal development.