Easy for Tyrice to say. He’s always cool under pressure! The Marian E. Wright Writing Center is ecstatically proud of Tyrice Denson—if there is a stronger word than “ecstatic,” include that too. Tyrice was selected as one of this year’s 2019 graduating Maize and Blue Scholars. When I asked him how he felt about being selected, he said “It’s a great honor. The old saying about: ‘integrity is what you do when no one is watching,’ is true. I didn’t do it for the validation, but it means a lot.” Tyrice went on to say he hadn’t expected to be considered for the award since he was a transfer student. Even so, Tyrice is committed to serving and became heavily involved at the University of Michigan-Flint as a political science major, writing tutor, a member of student government, and many other campus activities in the two years he’s been here.
For those who don’t know Tyrice, he is one of the most humble, dedicated, patient, kind individuals you could ever meet. Last semester, the Writing Center was trying to balance tutoring and preparing to host a state-wide conference. Many of the tutors and I were feeling very stressed, but Tyrice stayed calm and steady. He’d look up from an e-tutoring appointment and simply say, “It’s all good. We’ve got this. Did you eat your lunch, yet?” His gentle reminders kept us all positive and encouraged. He reminded us to “breath, don’t panic.”
Tyrice has served in several key leadership roles in the Writing Center, including trapper keeper, online coordinator, English 109 small group facilitator, and mentor to many new in-coming tutors. I asked him what it’s like being a writing tutor. “I don’t think it matters whether you are an English major or not. I initially felt some pressure about whether an English major might have more answers, but I realized it was more about being a reader and providing good feedback. It’s about communicating.”
Tyrice is an excellent listener, which makes him an especially strong tutor. Students really appreciate his soft-spoken, relaxed tutoring style. He says to be a good tutor, “a tutor needs to be open-minded and take the time to really understand what the writer is trying to say. Usually, this puts students at ease.” He also adds that being a tutor was also helpful for him as a student. “Sometimes, I realized that during the most difficult times, it’s important to take a deep breath. I also saw the value in using the resources that are available and how to use them.”
As a Political Science major, he’s proof you don’t need to be an English major to be a fantastic tutor and create change in Writing Center scholarship. He presented about the effects of “white privilege” in writing centers and tutoring sessions at two major writing center conferences, the MiWCA and ECWCA. His sessions were very well attended by both writing center administrators and tutors.
He said, “Presenting at the MiWCA conference was one of my favorite moments as a tutor. The room was full, and the amount of people that came up to us after and thanked us for having the conversation about “white privilege” in the Writing Center reinforced that writing centers can address those issues and make positive changes for students and tutors.”
Tyrice plans on graduating this semester, then moving on to law school where he plans to be an attorney, specializing in civil rights. He says, “The small things you do can build up to larger things and have a bigger impact.” He’s certainly made an impact here at UM-Flint, serving as the Foreign Relations Officer for Student Government and initiating the creation of the “Tri-Campus” compact with Ann Arbor and Dearborn, which started out with a phone call from Tyrice about how the three campuses could support one another. As a result, he says, “a resolution was created” that will ensure the three campuses stay connected even after he graduates. He’s thrilled to be graduating, but has a few words of advice for success for students and tutors alike:
school: no matter what other things you have going on, make sure school is the
number one priority.
- Make connections. If those connections can’t be a direct source of help for you, they can at least make the experience better. Connect with everyone: students, faculty, and even administrators.
- Understand that there are going to be moments that you struggle but that shouldn’t invalidate you or make you feel that this isn’t possible.
And, lastly, “Just breathe. It’s all good.”
Congratulations, Tyrice! We are so proud of you and we are really going to miss you, but your adventure continues!