For those heading toward the Business Building’s second floor break room, it’s difficult not to notice Jeannie Waller. She’s the one sitting in an office with a large glass window in the middle of a hallway. If prospective students and their families happen to walk by as they tour the campus, Waller says she’ll sometimes give them a friendly wave.
“We call it the fishbowl,” she says.
Behind the giant glass pane, the director of the Writing Center at the Sam M. Walton College of Business can be seen helping students brush up on their grammar skills and other writing needs.
“I think students who want to succeed in business need to be really good at writing,” she says.
The quality of writing can affect how a business performs as well as its employees and shareholders, she says. For students, it can also affect a grade.
That’s where Waller comes in.
The Writing Center, established only last year, serves the business students, staff and faculty at the University of Arkansas by helping them with their writing needs. Students can schedule an appointment through the center’s website, http://waltoncollege.uark.edu/writingcenter/, or drop in, though those with appointments will get priority, Waller says. She says all who e-mail the center typically receive a response within a day.
The Writing Center also holds workshops for faculty members and helps them with questions about writing assignments or creating in-class presentations. “In order to help the students, we have to help everyone,” she says.
Waller says she would like to see the Writing Center eventually serve the community at large, such as those needing help with a resume or writing a complaint letter.
Born in the Arkansas town of Paris, Waller says she lived in Bakersfield, Calif., for 15 years before moving back to the state with her two children. She worked as a registered nurse, delivering babies. Then, one day, she was in a car accident involving a drunk driver. She recovered, but was no longer able to sustain the rigors of lifting and other duties that go along with nursing. In the back of her mind, she always toyed with the idea of getting a degree in English.
So she did it.
She went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith followed by a master’s degree in Comparative Literature/Cultural Studies at the University of Arkansas. She is now pursuing a doctorate while teaching composition and technical writing classes on campus – something she does beyond her Writing Center role.
Waller says she enjoys writing humorous short stories, usually about her family. “Because I write about them, they usually get mad at me,” she says.
She says she has also worked with writing programs throughout Arkansas. Waller has worked with teenagers in the Mississippi River Delta and helped with oral history projects. She has also volunteered with the Arkansas Literacy Council, a statewide nonprofit organization that helps adults read, write or speak English better.
There are also personal hobbies, such as cooking, sewing, spending time with her grandchildren and rescuing and aiding cats. Her husband, Kenneth, has been undergoing cornea implants, and the topic has become a personal issue for her as well.
Then, she’s back in her office with the large, glass window, helping all those concerned with proper comma placement and run-on sentences.
“We are like pit bulls,” she says. “We will not stop until they get it.”