The TRAC Writing Fellows Program has come a long way since its resurrection in 2008. With Gregory Skutches forging the peer-tutoring program, it has grown from a group of 15 fellows to now more than 90. After leading this program for the past 14 years, this will be Skutches’ final year at Lehigh.
TRAC stands for technology, research and communications. The fellowship consists of undergraduate students who are nominated to join the program by faculty members and current fellows each spring. Last year there were over 130 applications but only 30 were selected, Skutches said.
Once in the program, TRAC fellows take a 4-credit training course and are assigned to certain classes to work with groups of students on their classwork, Skutches said.
Trevor Ballingall, ‘23, a lead fellow, said his journey of working with a TRAC fellow as a freshman to running the TRAC 100 course has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of his Lehigh career.
“At its very core, TRAC is simply a bright spot at Lehigh, and being a part of the program has been the single greatest experience I’ve had as a student here,” Ballingall said. “Greg (Skutches) really is the backbone to all of it, and I attribute so much of my love for the program to him.”
The TRAC 100 course is run by some of the lead fellows, including Ballingall, and overseen by program director Skutches.
Students work in a Socratic manner, learning how to assist their peers in all phases of the writing process.
The lead fellows design the syllabi and lesson plans to center them on writing, reading and conferencing strategies, Ballingal said. Throughout the course they assist new fellows and help them understand their roles.
Skutches said he credits the peer-to-peer meetings with giving the TRAC program a quality different from a usual class. Because students are working with their peers, he said it becomes more of a conversation and less about students searching for answers on how to boost their grade.
Skutches said being a TRAC fellow is more than just being a good writer.
“We are looking for diligence, empathy, character, a sense of ethics and a desire to help others,” Skutches said. “All our TRAC fellows are growing as writers right along with the students they’re working with. We’re all after the same thing in the TRAC program — students developing a voice.”
TRAC fellow Marissa Argen, ‘25, said the fellows can assist students and work through any academic roadblocks just through a thoughtful conversation.
Argen said the TRAC 100 course is helping her find her voice in order to help others do the same.
“Since the class is more like a Socratic seminar, you learn how to make your voice heard in a big conversation,” Argen said. “That is not my typical style, but with Greg (Skutches) as an excellent observer and peers who support me, you adjust to the circumstances.”
Skutches said it is important that whoever takes over his role keeps TRAC’s student-centric approach.
“If you give Lehigh students both freedom and responsibility, they will amaze you,” Skutches said. “I have often been amazed.”