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The director of the Naval War College’s (NWC) new Writing Center, Donna Connolly, has seen both the military and civilian sides of student work before. 

She taught with the Air Force Academy’s English Department twice during a 20-year Air Force career, and at more than a dozen civilian higher education facilities after her retirement from the military.

Among those were the University of Arizona and the University of Maryland, University College. She has taught writing and literature at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, has designed writing materials and workshops for graduate students, and currently serves as a member on dissertation committees.
The Writing Center director position is her first experience at NWC, and as the inaugural member of the Writing Center staff, her short-term goals revolve around giving students personal assessments of their writing.
“It’s going to someday be pretty close to a university writing center,” Connolly said, explaining that at conventional universities, writing centers act as support for students and a resource for faculty.
She recently moved to an office in Spruance Hall, after arriving at NWC on August 17. She is currently administering an assessment of students’ writing, which starts with a stack of 110 essays that will be graded individually, and she will read about 500 in an academic year. In addition to the writing assessment, she has handouts and provides one-on-one tutoring and workshops.
In the long term, Connolly plans to continue one-on-one mentoring and writing workshops and develop an online presence, and more resources. Eventually, the Writing Center will likely have programs with NWC’s College of Distance Education, which offers the NWC curriculum to thousands of students throughout the Navy, other military services, and civilian government employees like congressional staffers who are not able to attend the resident program.
“The provost and the dean would like me to be involved in as many areas as I can, to really reach as many students as I can,” Connolly said.
NWC students, while skilled officers, often have mathematical undergraduate backgrounds and are accustomed to a military writing style.  The Writing Center will help students write for an academic environment, which many have not done since they were in college.
“I hope I will be teaching a writing course at some point, but first things first,” Connolly said. Students and faculty members can reach her at 841-6499 or by emailing her at
Connolly holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Wheeling Jesuit University, a Master of Arts in English from the University of Tennessee, and a doctorate in English from the University of Notre Dame.

by Tyler Will, Naval War College Public Affairs